In 2014, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Belfast proudly celebrated its 20th Anniversary! It seems like only yesterday (1994) that a small group of 22 people came together in a private home to explore the idea of creating a church. Since then, we have purchased a church building, hired a full-time settled minister, Reverend Deane Perkins, and developed a wide array of powerful programs–we continue to grow! This fall, our congregation overwhelmingly voted to extensively renovate our old building. We will reclaim upstairs sanctuary and redesign downstairs space to equip the building for our 21st century mission.
On the 15th anniversary of the UUCB, one of our founding members gave a brief accounting of our beginnings as the children’s story for that Sunday’s service:
…He brought in 14 very large pieces of thick cardboard cut out and neatly trimmed that, when assembled, formed a classic New England church…four walls, four sides to the belfry and the steeple above and two big shapes for the roof.
He handed one of the children a thick book of instructions titled “How to Build a Church” and asked the kids to assemble it while he told our story. He had no sooner started when the child with the instructions interrupted and informed him that all the pages were blank. He nodded sympathetically and noted that the same thing happened when he and his friends started building their church 15 years ago, and then went on with his story.
The kids were soon all holding a wall or a roof or a steeple piece but it was shaky. There were no tabs that inserted anywhere or ways that the pieces locked together. No handholds. No duct tape! One little girl said she was tired of holding her piece up and our storyteller told her that she could ask somebody else to hold her piece…either a new person who wasn’t doing anything or somebody who was already supporting a piece. Or she could just let go. She sighed deeply and held on. A few of the kids were interested enough in what was going on but didn’t offer to help. And that, too, happens.
When the whole church came together with all the children holding their parts in place and grinning ear to ear, the congregation applauded because we recognized in their faces the joy of our own journey building a church piece by piece, and holding it together, together.
This story not only illustrates our beginnings, but is a powerful example of how we continue to work together collaboratively to ensure that our church members provide support and spiritual sustenance as we reach outward to make increasingly more powerful contributions to our world.
Our first ad, Nov. 1994: