Brief news items about congregational building programs.
On October 28, the congregation of Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church, in the metro Kansas City area, held its first service in the former full-size elementary school that is its new home. The school’s large gymnasium was converted into a sanctuary. The adjoining library has become a fellowship hall for coffee hour and other events. One wing of classrooms has become religious education classrooms for children and youth. Another wing now houses staff offices and adult education rooms. With the move the congregation goes from 15,000 square feet in three buildings to 52,000 in one, and moves from Overland Park, Kans., to Lenexa, Kans. The congregation has 310 members.
The Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colo., has become a “church for all seasons” with the addition of a new cooling system. After evaluating many different technologies for cooling, it installed sustainable direct/ indirect evaporative cooling technology. It is designed for a low-humidity climate and is more efficient and greener than air conditioning.
“Heat drives people away from our sanctuaries and reduces our ability to get out our message and to transform the world,” said Mark Baker, president of the JUC Board of Trustees. “The world needs our UU message now more than ever, but this is a tough mission if our buildings are closed due to heat for several months each year.” The cooling system will allow extra year-round programs and increase summer participation.
The UU Church of Davis is celebrating the opening of a newly constructed, 4,300-square-foot social hall. The hall is a grand central space with natural lighting that connects to the church’s adjoining sanctuary, meeting room, and kitchen.
The congregation was founded by lay leaders in 1954. Built in 1968, the distinctive sanctuary has the shape of an upside-down arc. Members hope the larger space can serve the community as well as the church. The Rev. Elizabeth Banks, the church’s minister, said, “We’ll experience something increasingly precious in our society where groups coalesce, creative ideas bubble up, and new movements are born.”
According to a statement from the church, 20,000 work hours went into the project, “employing 15 full-time construction workers, putting food on their tables and a roof overhead for many families.”
This article appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of UU World (pages 44–45). Photograph (above) of the Shawnee Mission UU Church in Lenexa, Kans., by Donald E. Skinner.
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Allison Bennett was a UU World editorial intern in the fall and winter of 2012. She is a recent graduate of Westfield State University and grew up in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Reading, Massachusetts.