The lay-led Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of New Bern, North Carolina, met in rented space for years. They wanted a building of their own, but they also wanted to stay in the city of New Bern, where new construction opportunities are limited. So when a former dry-cleaning plant in the center of town became available in October 2006, the fellowship jumped on it.
In February 2008, they moved in. The 3,000-square-foot space includes a worship area with seating for one hundred, a large fellowship area, a small kitchen, and an office.
The original plan was to do much of the construction work themselves, said Gerard Mackle, former fellowship president and co-chair of the building search committee. But according to city regulations the renovation work had to be done under the auspices of a professional contractor. The contractor, however, was willing to hire several Burmese Karen refugees, a group that the fellowship has been supporting for several years. “It worked out well for everyone,” Mackle said. The cost of the property was $115,000, and the cost of renovation was $136,000.
The sixty-member congregation may be a victim of its own success: The new building may not be big enough to house a growing congregation, especially now that families with children have started to attend. “We’re already thinking about the next building,” Mackle said.
Photograph by Gerard Mackle.