Every Sunday, five or six of the 120 members of the Unitarian Universalists of Sterling had to set up church only to have to break it back down at the end of the hour-long service.
Church member Terry Dick noticed that her turn came up too “frequently.” “Members did this on a rotating schedule. It got burdensome,” she said about moving the chairs, podium and altar table before and after each service, items they had to keep in a storage closet and at members’ homes.
That will change Dec. 14 when Dick, Communications Committee chairman, and the other church members move into a permanent space a block and a half away from the Sterling Community Center Annex, the church’s original meeting spot. The church’s board of trustees decided on a rental space at 22135 Davis Drive in Sterling, a brand-new building the church began renting in July.
THE BUILDING has a dividing wall, so on Sunday, members used sledgehammers to take a few ceremonial swings at the wall that will be torn down this week to double the size of the church. The wall separates what will be the multipurpose room, an area for church activities and services with a 140-seat capacity. The removal and finishing work is scheduled for completion before the church’s Dec. 14 service.
“Over the last few months, we’ve all yearned to tear down the wall,” said Gary Joaquin, member of the board’s New Space Committee, adding that to finish the project, the church members have “torn down walls in our hearts and minds to build the church.”
“A lot of people have a stake in it, and they want to see this work. In a way, that strengthens our commitment. It represents a kind of investment in the church,” said Ashburn resident Scott Findley, who has been attending Unitarian Universalists of Sterling for the past year. “It represents a new beginning for the church and more possibilities for growth.”
The first beginning occurred nine years ago when 25 members of a Unitarian Universalist church in Reston wanted to establish a church closer to home. Over the years, the membership grew large enough to merit a new location to house an average of 80 people showing up at each service. “It was just getting crowded in the other place. We just had to get a bigger space of our own,” Dick said. “This is a step in the right direction.”
EVENTUALLY, THE CHURCH wants to move into its own building, a wish that requires a membership of 200 members to be able to afford the costs. In the meantime, the Davis Drive location will be used for religious and education service and includes the multi-purpose room, three Sunday school classrooms, a nursery, a gymnasium and two offices for the minister and the director of religious education.
“It’s something we can put ourselves into because at the other place, somebody owns it. We can’t decorate it and do some of things we can do here. It’s our home,” Findley said.
Dick agreed. “It will be our own space all of the time,” she said, adding that having a sign on the building and a permanent location will make the church more visible and improve its identity in the community.
The church provides services that are “welcoming and informal,” Dick said. The services typically include a sermon, spiritual reasons, music from pop to classical, and a session of joys and concerns that allows members to talk about what is happening in their lives. “It’s very participatory. … We appeal to people who are looking for a new spiritual experience that is not dogmatic.”
The individual church members search for their “own spirituality and meaning,” Dick said. “It’s our own personal quest for spirituality on an individual basis.”
Church members volunteer in the community, including supporting the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter and participating in food bank and highway cleanup programs. “Social action and outreach is one of the foundations of our religion,” Dick said.