Unitarian church settling into new home

November 04, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

Now that the Unitarian Universalist Church of Hagerstown finally has a permanent new home, the congregation and its pastor can put their energies back into programs.

A few Sundays ago, the building at 13245 Cearfoss Pike was officially dedicated. Once a three-car garage behind the former Oliver Martin home, the building was transformed into a light and airy sanctuary complete with room to grow.

"It's a pleasure to hold our services here now," said the Rev. Valerie Wills, who became the first full-time pastor of the congregation in June 1999.


When Wills arrived, the congregation numbered between 13 and 20 adult members. Now that number is between 40 and 65 active adults.

The spacious brick home at the new site has been remodeled into the Christian education building and office complex. There is also a full kitchen there and room for meetings, seminars, storage and all kinds of activities.

From its humble beginnings in 1957, the congregation met at members' homes for 10 years before moving into the old Hagerstown YMCA. From there, the move was made to 465 N. Potomac St.

Not wishing to spend money on necessary repairs to that crowded building with paltry parking precipitated a two-year rental arrangement at Hagerstown Girls Inc. while property explorations were under way.

As exciting as the acquisition and remodeling were, Wills and her congregation are glad that now they can pick up the strands of their reason for existence - providing a forum for people to explore their beliefs.

Parenting programs are in the works, as is an exploration of the shadow, or dark side of our personalities, Wills said.

"We get ideas from the congregation and we explore them," Wills said.

She said worship at the UU church is better described as "worth" ship. "Our worship is a treasuring of humanity, challenging us to be and do our best," Wills said.

A major premise of Unitarianism is seeking to be respected and listened to. And, Wills said, it is important that people listen to each other.

"We want to find the worth in life and enhance it," Wills said. "Our members are encouraged to share their joys and their concerns."

The Bible is a tool used by Unitarians, as are poetry books and science texts.

"I've been a member for 19 years, along with my husband and two children," said Pam Reed. "We get a new perspective on old stories, as well as a different way of expressing ourselves."

For more information on the local congregation, call 301-797-5533.

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