So we began looking at the possibilities. We could try to buy a bigger church if one was for sale; we could explore expanding our current building; we could tear down our existing building and build a new one on the current site. There were advantages and disadvantages to each. As to building on the current site, we could have done it if the geologic site survey came back favorably; after all, we would be looking at sinking a considerably larger and heavier foundation structure. We were told by our architect that a new structure which contained all of the features for which we were looking would cost us between four and eight million dollars. Ouch.
Remodeling the current building to accommodate the larger congregation would have cost almost as much. After all, our current building was built to accommodate 120 people back when the congregation was about 65 members. To show that level of foresight with our current congregation, we would have to build a sanctuary that seated at least 750 people. Big. Cathedral stuff.
Then, lightning struck. We became aware of a beautiful old brick church downtown, in the heart of a severely depressed neighborhood, that had a capacity of 400+ but a current congregation of about 20 souls. We could purchase it for a relative song -- well under half a million dollars -- and actually do the social justice outreach and proverbial "good work" that we had always talked about doing but never had the wherewithal to accomplish, what with being out in the comfortable suburbs and all. Yes, the building needed considerable work, but it was in the right place at the right time, and all the money we would have spent on a new building could be put to work feeding and clothing the poor in the immediate neighborhood. We could start walking the walk instead of just talking the talk. Seemingly a no-brainer, right?
Unitarian churches are famous for one thing, if they're famous for anything, and that is their congregational polity. Meaning that we don't take orders from a higher organization, like, say, Rome. Each church pays its own bills, hires its own minister, does its own work, etc. Our church accomplishes this in an annual meeting. Our meeting was today. When the mere possibility of setting as a goal over the next five years holding our weekly services in the (gasp!) downtown church instead of in our too-small church in the 'burbs, the people who refuse to consider change went nuts. I left in disgust, and I now give you the apology I plan to share on the UCH website and Google group: