Unitarian Universalist Fellowship relocates

The move was needed.

The house on Double Churches Road had gotten too small for the membership of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus and the location had gotten dangerous.

"We have some older people and they were having to park their cars across the street because we didn't have the space. Traffic has really increased the last few years. We were afraid somebody might get killed," said Hal Midgette, a congregation member.

Space has always been an issue. For several years, members have parked in a liquor store lot for their Sunday service. Then that became more difficult when Sunday alcohol sales started.

With the congregation having reached 65 -- its largest membership ever -- it was time to go.

Recently, the congregation decided to leave the place it had been since 1991 and purchased the former Fraternal Order of Police Lodge at 8827 Heiferhorn Way. It is called the Grace Fellowship Hall, named after longtime member Grace Jordan.

Before it bought the Double Churches building, the congregation met in various places, including a private school, art gallery and motels.

Since the new location is at the finish of a dead end street in an upscale neighborhood, heavy traffic won't be a problem. But a lack of traffic might be.

Member Bill Harlan said the area is very peaceful, but, at the same time, the location is not very visible to the public and could hurt the chances of gaining new members.

A criticism Midgette had of the Double Churches building was it did not impress visitors.

"We had warm people, but the building just was not inviting," she said.

The two-story building is more than double the size of what the congregation had.

Some, including Midgette, thought it might be too big, but a vote was taken by the members and the purchase was approved.

"We had been thinking about moving for about four or five years," said Connie Ussery a congregation member. "The last couple of years we got more serious. We toured several places."

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship has no regular minister and members take turns planning Sunday programs.

Dave Walker, the president of the board, said the new home is what the congregation needs.

"It is a much bigger space for people to come and share knowledge," he said. "Nothing has changed fundamentally."

Harlan mentioned the upstairs will be perfect for classrooms and offices.

Though they have three services held there, considerable work still needs to be done, including painting interior and exterior walls and landscaping.

Handrails have been added to stairs. A former swimming pool had been filled in and Midgette said two dump trucks of sand were needed to make it right. A garden is planned for that spot. A picnic shed by a stream needs fixing. A children's playground needs to be assembled.

Movable divider walls, made of plywood, are being built to cut sanctuary size.

"This is a very exciting time for us," Ussery said.

A sign has already been hung behind the pulpit that reads "Reason, Freedom, Tolerance."

When people visit and show interest in the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Columbus, they are given information written by Walker explaining the faith that is organized around seven principles that outline the process by which members work individually and collectively toward living a moral and ethical life and in advancing these qualities in society.

Walker writes, that in this process, people will find members draw from the stories of many of the world's faith traditions such as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam and Earth-centered faiths. There is also a strong voice from philosophical traditions such as humanism, as well, as an emphasis on science and reason. The congregation is home to members who identify with specific faith traditions, as well as individuals who are atheist or agnostic. What is shared is a belief in community, respect and dialogue.

The seven principles are: the inherent worth and dignity of every human being, justice, equity and compassion in human relations, acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations, a free and responsible search for truth and meaning, the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations, the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all, and respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

"It is all about tolerance here. There is no dogma. There is no particular way of seeing things," Midgette said.

"We are a liberal religion but we are not all liberals," Harlan said.

Ussery said the congregation already has some wonderful programs but with this special building. "We'll be able to do so much more."