March 12, 2001
Vision + Action = New church home
by Jeanette Knutson
This isn't a story about a struggle between salmon and souls. It's not the story of an imposed moratorium on the building of new public and private schools and churches in rural areas.
It's the story of how a group of people banded together over the course of 10 years to grow in vitality and faith and to ultimately seek a home of their own in the form of a new church, the Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church.
Ten years ago, area and national church leaders determined Woodinville would be a great place to have a Unitarian Universalist Church. So with tutelage and monetary support from regional congregations and leadership from the organizing minister, the Rev. Barbara Wells, close to 100 congregants began meeting at the unrenovated Hollywood Schoolhouse.
"Some of the original members were from other congregations and it was understood that they would return to their congregations once the new congregation was seeded," said the current pastor, the Rev. Alan Taylor.
And the charm of the Hollywood Schoolhouse ‹ red bricks, paned windows, hardwood floors and all ‹ provided a fine first church home for the congregation. But it wasn't necessarily easy.
Children had religious education downstairs and were often quieted because their clear voices resounded up into the service area.
Laughing as he remembered how they made a schoolhouse into a church once a week, Bob Ditzler, church member and building contractor for the new church said, "We used to joke about having a church-in-a-box."
In and out of their cars and up and down the stairs congregants lugged boxes of worship and church school materials week after week.
But in less than a year the owners of the schoolhouse decided to remodel, and the church found its second home in downtown Woodinville, in office space behind the 175th Street Station complex. Dressing up the spartan building with curtains, a banner, ceiling flags and a faux stained-glass wall mural lent a certain appeal to what some members called "the warehouse." Nevertheless, the church community thrived in its new location where they held not only worship but concerts, Halloween parties, pancake breakfasts, dances and youth group overnights.
Unfortunately rent climbed to $8,000 a month and the group decided they couldn't afford it.
"For a church, that's a lot of money," said Taylor. They paid that amount for a couple months. "There was considerable commitment from the beginning," said Taylor. Yet it was about then that the members made up their minds to save for their own church rather than to merely rent.
In order to economize, congregants rented temporary lodgings from the Northshore United Church of Christ, just north of Mack's corner.
"To demonstrate what lovely hosts they are ... how deeply gracious they've been [to share their church with us] ... you have to know that our congregation is made up of Christians, non-Christians, Jews, pagans, agnostics, atheists ... and there was a large cross at the front of the church that made some of our people uncomfortable. [Our hosts] took down the cross and artists from both congregations made a huge 30-foot tall banner that wove symbols from both churches into one tapestry."
And for most of the year that banner graces the front of the church, a church two very different denominations share.
Taylor explained, "Ours is a values-based community, not a belief-based community. The question is not what do you believe, but rather, how do you live. We are welcoming and affirming of gays and lesbians, seeking to be inclusive, with the belief that gays and lesbians are just like anyone else. We affirm healthy relationships, heterosexual or homosexual."
And their congregation continues to grow ‹ in numbers and conviction. Over the past two years they have raised $900,000 and have purchased 5.7 wooded acres just west of the intersection of Woodinville-Duvall and Avondale roads, across from Cottage Lake Park. They have had building plans drawn by architect Carlos Sierra and are deep into the permitting process, a fact that apparently exempts them from the aforementioned Metropolitan King County Council ten-month moratorium on permits for new churches and schools in rural areas. Phase I of the congregation's building program will unfold with a 6,392-square-foot building, well-situated on their wooded site. It will contain a large foyer, a Sanctuary seating 175, three classrooms, a kitchen, administrative offices and a library/classroom. As they continue to grow, additions to the church will meet increased needs. Phase II ‹ which will be built when congregants deem it necessary, according to Taylor ‹ will add 2,253 square feet to the building, with three permanent and larger religious education rooms. Space two rooms took from the Sanctuary during original construction will then be available to enlarge the Sanctuary so that it will seat 250.
"We place a high focus on social reform," added Taylor. "We believe in making this world a better place to live. We have more faith in living with integrity and making a difference in the world than in affirming a particular creed or theological statement."
But Taylor admitted the church has taken a more spiritual bent in the last 20 to 25 years.
"Our faith tradition does a good job 'feeding the head,' he said. "Our growing edge is to also feed the heart and soul."
And even though this 126-member community-minded congregation meets on Sunday evenings at 5 p.m., they have somehow managed to grow.
Their hope is to accomplish all the more in their new home - once the permitting procedure is complete.
Famous Unitarians and Universalists
Principles of Unitarian Universalism