Kate Gridley

When Donald Trump got elected President, I said I would build a bigger table.

When I think of CVUUS, I dream that we will build a bigger tent, a bigger roof, a bigger something that we will shelter beneath and from which we will welcome new folks in…

The roof is metaphorical, but what we do now beneath the roof we already have is not.

We just fell short on our annual canvass. There are all kinds of possible reasons for this, which I am not going to parse – that is for others to do.

Here’s what I know: the shortfall says to me that the need to build out our lower level now is more critical than ever.  We are changing. Our church community is changing. Life in Vermont is changing. The culture in America is changing. CVUUS ten years or twenty years from now will not resemble CVUUS today.

Will we have Sunday services? Will we have a latch key program for afterschool kids, or a soup kitchen, or a shelter for asylum seekers? Will we offer adult education classes to the community, provide the location for a UU singles group, or support a family choir for folks of all ages with childcare? Will we be cooking for HOPE, running a lunch program, running a nursery school, running a care center for the elderly, or hosting a meditation center?

Who knows?

To respond to what might be the needs of the future – and there are going to be needs – we must be flexible, nimble, smart, and open minded NOW. To stay relevant in the future CVUUS needs to have a space that is nimble, smart, and open ended – one that gives us options.

I have been working on both the capital campaign and also on details of the design and construction of the build-out. Part of our work has been to cut costs wherever possible while maintaining potential for spaces that will function in multiple ways: including hopefully a kitchen for feeding large groups of people; a fellowship hall; bathrooms and a shower for housing people if need be; a multipurpose room for meetings or classrooms; increased handicap accessibility; an elevator; a more developed audio-visual system.  And so on.

Some of the work – the parts you can’t see but which are necessary – are what my friend Steve – who has been leading us — calls “boring”.

My word, however, for all the hidden parts is not “boring,” it’s “unsexy”….

Unsexy things are things like wiring, pipes, drains, air filters, each thing up to the latest code and so on – you know, the hidden systems inside walls, ceilings and floors. It’s important they are there, and that they are done right and it costs a lot to do them right (and for some folks, the hidden parts actually are “sexy,” just not for me).

AND they have to be done first so in the end, by and large, you can’t see them.

Things like beautiful windows, good lighting, LED screens, hot showers, a dishwasher that can actually handle meals for 120 people, walls for children’s artwork – those things are sexy! Right?

So all this talk about sex in our construction meetings led me to a thought that I want to try out on you.

I used to teach OWL here – with John and Margy and Jordan and others.

For those of you who do not know it, OWL – Our Whole Lives – is a sex- ed curriculum and it is actually the reason that John and I joined CVUUS. That’s right, we joined a faith community for sex-ed.

We wanted our boys to have access to this healthy down to earth reproductive health curriculum that is primarily about relationships, good communication, listening skills, media literacy…. (and plumbing).

OWL not only focuses on our first principle: To affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person,

But also our second principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.

Plus it teaches communications skills and principals such as we have in our communications covenant when we ask:

Are my words true, are they kind, are they necessary?

OWL is a life span curriculum, with courses starting in nursery school all the way up to courses for folks over fifty. Let’s face it: people grow and change, bodies grow and change, needs grow and change, societies grow and change and we all need ways to get to the heart of the matter which is: what does it mean to be in right relationship with ourselves and each other — and our community and the world.  What are our beliefs, our values – and are we free to declare them — and, more important, how do we LIVE them?

How do we show love?

So… I have found myself calling the phase of completing the lower level

O W L L.

Our Whole Lower Level.

It’s about building more love and more space, literal and metaphorical. It’s about CVUUS staying relevant to all kinds of people at all kinds of ages.

Here’s one example of a newish program of ours that I think of as a multi-age program, a life span program as it were.

Thursday Night Out.

During the dark months of the year, on the first and third Thursday nights of each month, a group of 60-somethings (who all have grandparent envy, I think) cares for the young children of the under 45-somethings (many of whom find that today’s wages, and the complexities of holding multiple jobs and juggling diverse schedules, make a simple evening out prohibitively expensive and complicated).

There’s an active play room, a homework room, a quiet activity room. There’s dinner and snacks, and quiet reading.  And the dinner and snacks  — this is important – the nourishment for ALL participants –is provided by folks who are, in general, 65 and up.

Results? Our youngest members now have friendships of their own  – relationships — with a whole group of older folks at CVUUS. Their parents are getting an occasional needed night off. The caregivers are connecting with each other in new ways in addition to connecting with the kids and the cooks. And the cooks are making the whole thing possible.

That’s under one roof.

There’s so much more we can build by caring for each other and for those of us we haven’t even met yet.

Dare we dream? Dare we build?

Dare we embark on a relationship with the future, a partnership?

I think we must.