We sing a hymn with words by Louis Untermeyer that speak to the symbolic virtues of the structures that house our religious communities. Rafters that “withstand the battering of the storm.” Windows about which “the roar and rain go by.” Sheltering walls, strong enough to “keep hate out and hold love in.”
I have thought of that hymn repeatedly as we have begun to lay the foundation for this capital campaign. (Untermeyer wrote no verses about a roof, but ours might have provided inspiration.) Our roof’s days are numbered, and this requires our membership to take prompt action as stewards of this wonderful building. And yet, the roof is also a well-suited metaphor for something more than a skillful arrangement of shingles, tar paper, and nails.
A solid roof over our heads makes everything underneath it possible. It is more than a shelter. It creates a sanctuary – a place of gathering, a place of reverence, a place of safety. And in our Unitarian Universalist heritage it offers those things to everyone who seeks them. Generation after generation of members have found in this place a home for their hungering spirits to be nurtured. In their time, they made the sacrifices required of them to keep a solid roof above them. Those of us who are the current congregational inhabitants of 3 ½ East Main Street treasure the heritage we have inherited and the home we are creating together. We are also blessed to be the keepers of what our Universalist ancestors called, “the larger hope.” A hope for something greater than our own personal salvation, but for the healing of a world divided by faith, wealth, class, and injustice. That fragile, yet durable, hope remains with us.
There are goals other than a new roof for this project. Some are the inevitable result of having a building “worn out” by people making good use of it. (I’d rather the church’s carpet get worn out in ten years of heavy traffic than be preserved for fifty for lack of foot fall.) Some are in response to advances in technology, allowing us to make better use of electronic media/resources in the sanctuary for worship and educational purposes. Some are focused on better serving our congregational demographic with more adequate and reliable sound projection and hearing assistance. Some resources will be directed to making the kitchen more functional for the frequent social functions that call us together in community. Some upgrades require attention for the simple reason that the building is 116 years old.
Untermeyer’s words come from a poem called “Prayer for this House.” Our financial pledges of support to the “Under One Roof” campaign are a measure of our own devotion and dedication to this church and its congregation. Some of us were here 16 years ago for the Second Century Campaign when we added space and revitalized the Religious Education space. The day will come when others will be asked to do their part in tending to this treasured place. But now it is our turn to preserve our heritage, to maintain our home, and to sustain our hope.
The proposal for a capital campaign to address urgent and strategic building issues received unanimous approval from the congregation on January 22, 2012. Based on discussion with church leaders and committee chairs, four major areas have been identified for attention in the next one to three years: replacement/repair of the roof, sanctuary refurbishments and improvements, improvements to the kitchen, contribution to the Capital Reserve Fund.