Nurturing the Spirit in a Permanent Home
On June 12, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Upper Valley held a dedication ceremony for their new sanctuary and renovated 19th century meetinghouse on Route 5 South in Norwich.
Over the years, the core strength of the UUCUV has been its persistent sense of becoming the congregation we aspired to be. Our current congregation was incorporated in 1984 as the UUCUV. We have held Sunday services in members’ homes, Rollins Chapel, the Howe Library, the Hanover Community Center, the Marion Cross School, and the United Methodist Church of Lebanon. But in all the years of our Unitarian Universalist presence in the Upper Valley, we never had a spiritual home of our own that held all of us while signaling our presence to the world. Previous efforts to build such a home were not successful, but we never gave up. Instead, we not only overcame, but learned from hard times, adversity, and conflict.
In May 2014, the congregation empowered a three-person steering committee to hire an architect, contractor, and project manager to explore the possibility of building a new sanctuary. By December 2014, enough information had been gathered for the congregation (at that time consisting of approximately eighty members) to vote unanimously to embark on a capital campaign. In record time, $1.1 million had been raised or pledged.
Project manager Shawn Donovan, Norwich architect Andrew Garthwaite, and contractor Estes & Gallup were asked to put together final construction plans and cost estimates. In March, the congregation again unanimously voted to proceed. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on May 31, 2015. Site work started the very next day. After holding services in the Richard Black Center in Hanover during the summer and fall, the congregation held its first service in the new sanctuary on December 6, 2015, only seven months after the groundbreaking ceremony.
As one church member said of the dedication ceremony, "It's not just the dedication of a building; it is the congregation re-dedicating itself to our Unitarian Universalist values and how we carry those into the larger community."
Led by current minister Rev. Dr. Patience Stoddard, the June dedication ceremony included participation by the UUCUV’s former minister, Rev. Dr. Nancy Crumbine, Rev. Paul S. Sawyer from the First Universalist Society of Hartland, VT, as well as Joe Sullivan of the Leadership Team, New England Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
This past spring, Congregation president Cappy Nunlist and Rev. Dr. Patience Stoddard gave part of the keynote address at the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Northern New England District annual meeting, explaining the success UUCUV has had these past couple years in achieving its goals. They later shared their speech with the congregation. Lessons learned included: 1.) Ask members and friends to share their dreams for their congregation, but also ask what they are willing to do now to help achieve those dreams. 2.) Create systems that make serving the congregation fun and rewarding. 3.) Practice collaborative leadership, from ministry to fundraising to community service. 4.) Have high expectations. 5.) Don’t be afraid to try new things, to take risks, even to fail. 6.) Create an environment that is safe and welcoming: listen to each other, respect other viewpoints, and don’t sweat the small stuff. 7.) Finally, whenever possible have fun. Laughter is a spiritual practice.
The UUCUV mission is: We strive to be a joyful, inclusive congregation that nurtures spiritual and intellectual growth for everyone while encouraging lives of service and integrity.
We hope that our new home will facilitate fulfillment of our mission.