(Part three in a series about the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Fort Wayne. Written by Sandra Maze.)
In the late 1990’s the growth of our church came into the forefront. The issues that needed to be addressed were handicap accessible restrooms, a kitchen remodel, and Religious Education and meeting space. On January 9, 1996, the Building Futures Task Force, headed by Rachel McNett, met for the first time. They started by collecting information from the UUA and other congregations who had undertaken a building project such as the one our congregation was considering. We were on our way!
In her article, in the February 11, 1996 newsletter, the Rev. Dr. Laurie Proctor wrote about the process the church was embarking on for the new building. She also expressed her dreams for the new space. She wrote,
“I dream of religious education space that is bright and big enough to hold all of the children at once and allows each group to concentrate without hearing every other teacher and child in the place. And I imagine a social hall where we can move around without bumping into one another and where we can pull up chairs for a Quiet tête-à-tête - a place where we can share meals together and with lots of bulletin boards where we hang information about who we are and the great things we’re doing. And a library—a room for small meeting and thinking.
We are in the process of building a building, but, most importantly, we are creating our religious home, “The cradle for our dreams, the workshop of our common endeavor” a place large enough to welcome in all those Unitarian Universalists who don’t yet know about us. In regard to the latter, I was told by another colleague that once a congregation commits to building, people start coming because they know there will be a place for them.”
This building was finally built with some ups and downs. You will notice that the new addition is raised above the original structure. This is because we are in a flood plain. Many of Laurie’s dreams were realized upon completion of the project. We have a dedicated Sanctuary with upholstered chairs, which came much later, but we have them now. We have been using the Social Hall for potluck dinners and wedding receptions and meetings. The Bhajan Society also uses this space to worship, building their own altar in 2004. The RE now has space for several grades and a nursery, as well as adult religious space. The choir also has a space to practice.
On June 3, 2001, our new building was dedicated. There was also an Act of Rededication of the Meetinghouse as a whole. The music was composed for this celebration by Anne Littlefield. She wrote music to the poem To the New Roof Line written by Nano Honeck Coffman in 1960. The poem was written in honor to the Meetinghouse in 1960. Anne renamed her piece “Ode to a Roofline”. She composed two original pieces, “For Our Forebears” and “New Space”. It was a beautiful and wonderful service, one in which I was pleased to be a part of as a member of the choir.
The following was written by Dodd. M. Kattman, the architect for our new space.
A celebration of the circle of life! The expansion to the Meetinghouse respects and applauds the energy and ideas dedicated to the original structure while providing meaningful space to gather, work and learn. The connection of the new and old allows both to accept one another absent of competition and ego. The addition opens its arms to a comfortable entry sequence and provides for a future meditative outdoor garden. The newly created lobby is flooded with daylight and emits a warm, welcoming glow at night.
I hope that visitors will be well served by the new space and develop renewed a relationship with an old friend.