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Sheltering the faith, Winter 2011

Brief news items about congregational building programs.
By Julia Angley
Winter 2011

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Solar panels have been added to the roof of the Mount Vernon Unitarian Church in Alexandria, Va. (Courtesy MVUC)

Virginia church completes innovative energy project

Leaders of Mount Vernon Unitarian Church in Alexandria, Va., recently threw the switch to make their new sustainable energy project fully operational. The project combines use of 110 high-output solar panels to generate electricity with four new geothermal heat pumps for heating and cooling the building.

Because the geothermal units will use much less energy than the conventional units they replaced—about as much as the panels contribute to the electrical grid—the building is expected to have “net-zero” energy consumption.

The project was made possible by an offer from the contractor, Shenandoah Sustainable Tech­nologies, to pay the entire cost of purchasing and installing the equipment. In return, for 20 years the church will pay SST a monthly fee of approximately what it had been paying for conventional energy.

Peoples Church has new home

Peoples Church Unitarian Universalist of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has relocated to the northwest side of the city after spending 140 years in its historic downtown building. The move comes as the church faced large repair costs to maintain its old building, which was growing mold and beginning to suffer structural damages. The new, larger building has the benefit of air conditioning as well as space for additions. To preserve its history, church members moved their chalice, banners, and even some stained glass windows and historic pews to the new site. The congregation’s last service in the old church was on July 10, 2011.

Silver sale funds renovation

First Church, Unitarian in Salem, Mass., began a $1.3 million project to renovate its historic church, built in 1836. The congregation was established in 1629 and boasts past members Nathaniel Hawthorne and Roger Williams. In 2007, the church capitalized on its legacy by selling historic silver pieces at auction to raise money for the renovations. The addition will include office space, storage space, and a new elevator, making the building fully accessible. Also, a gas heating system will replace the oil furnace the church currently uses, a move that aims to reduce the church’s carbon footprint by 40 percent. During the renovation, the congregation is sharing space and worshipping with the nearby First Universalist Society of Salem.

Tampa church completes space

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tampa, Fla., has completed construction on a new multipurpose building. The 3,755-square-foot building, set on seven acres of park behind two existing church buildings, began in November 2010 and was dedicated on Sept. 18. During the construction, the church took care to limit the destruction of trees on the property. The new building includes classrooms, storage, and large open spaces for church events. The church has undertaken a furniture drive to outfit the new space.

North Parish ‘Best in Show’

The North Parish Unitarian Universalist Church of North Andover, Mass., was honored at the Massachusetts State House in August for accessibility work on its 175-year-old meetinghouse. North Parish was named “Best in Show” for renovations and restorations by the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board and the Boston Society of Architects. Judges found that the project “provided an excellent solution to often-encountered historic entrances with stairs outside and inside.”


See sidebar for links to related resources. Send news about your congregation’s building initiatives to world@uua.org.

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