Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why buy a church building?

The congregation I serve rents meeting space. West Seattle is close to the beautiful waters of Puget Sound and is the home of the very, very best beach in the city. West Seattle has lovely sweeping views of the sound and both the Olympic mountains and the cascades, including Mt. Rainier. With that beauty comes a cost. Nothing here is cheap. So while our congregation has grown to 150 adult members and 80 some kids, we have not been able to even think about buying a building.

Until now.

There is a church for sale in a perfect location. It's big enough. And if you squint and tilt your head a little, it's affordable.

When I saw the photos of it, I cried. It's beautiful. There are classrooms, with WINDOWS and doors!

I've been asked to speak at our Congregational Meeting this Sunday following the service. Because it's a formal meeting with procedures that must be followed I get two minutes. TWO MINUTES! I've been lying awake at night trying to get the huge world of things I know about children and my faith into two minutes.

Here's what I've got:

We can talk about how this building would offer us safe space with emergency exits and rooms that we can furnish and make light and lovely. We can talk about how our babies and toddlers wouldn't have to have classes in rooms that one of the three-year-olds had dubbed "the bathroom-rooms" the lounges outside the ladies' room. We can talk about how our older children can meet in a room with windows and two ways out if there is a fire or an earthquake. We can talk about our younger ones and how they can have classes in rooms with walls and not hunkered down between felt dividers in a space that looks and feels like a gym.

But that's not really what matters. The biggest reason this congregation should buy this building comes down to what I see as the core theology of Unitarian Universalism. For me this is it. I think the core of what we teach in our congregation is that each person; you, me, everyone comes into this world holy. We don't need some divine finger to come from the heavens and choose us. The great teacher didn't need to die to save us. We don't even have to complete a set of good works to be enough. We're already saved, just because we exist. Each and every person is worthy.

When people know this, it changes their lives. They can get out of their own way and become who they really are. And when children grow up knowing this, when they grow up without shame or guilt or doubt, when they grow up steeped in love and the power of faith in their own worth and dignity,'s the most beautiful thing in the world. They grow up strong, and whole and ready to take on their lives.

When I began this work five years ago we had 23 children involved in our program. Now we have over 80. We've grown this much in completely inadequate space. I love the guys we rent from, they're great. But it's been a little like crashing on your brother's couch. There comes a point when you've got to grow up and move out. If we move to our own space with decent rooms and a freedom to meet when we need to we will grow even more and it will happen fast.

What that means is that more children will be given the gift of growing up Unitarian Universalist with a faith in themselves that cannot be matched. To me that's the core of our faith. It is a message of salvation, a message of being saved by right of simply being born.

OK, it's still more than two minutes long, but it's a start.

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