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Sheltering the faith

Brief news items about congregational building programs.
By Michelle Bates Deakin
Summer 2012 5.15.12

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The Westminster Unitarian Church in East Greenwich, R.I., has completed its new parish house, which will be dedicated in June.

R.I. church completes new parish house

Westminster Unitarian Church in East Green­wich, R.I., has completed a new 8,100-square-foot, $2 million parish house. The congregation held services in a nearby vacant church during construction, but has moved back into its sanctuary and new hall, which will be dedicated on June 10, 2012.

The new parish house contains a fellowship hall with a cathedral ceiling and natural light from windows on three sides. A kitchen, offices, meeting room, nursery, library, and minister’s office complete the first floor. The second floor is devoted to church school rooms and a chapel that look out over the treetops from the highest spot in East Greenwich. It also houses the church’s Sharing Locker, a non-food pantry, which serves over 100 households from several nearby communities. Plantings around the new building are native to Rhode Island or southern New England and include lowbush blueberries, spreading juniper, mountain laurel, and birch trees.

Churches install solar panels

First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, N.Mex., has won the $1,000 National 2011 Interfaith Power & Light (IPL) Cool Congregations Challenge award in the category of renewable energy.

“We are thrilled that First Uni­tarian won this award, because they model what it means to put faith to action by caring for creation,” said Joan Brown, executive director of New Mexico Interfaith Power & Light. “Not only are they the first New Mexico house of worship to install solar panels, they are also engaged with gardens and ongoing educational and social programs that offer a strong witness and inspiration to all people in Albuquerque and throughout New Mexico.”

The solar project was activated in June 2011 and financed through a power-to-purchase agreement. Installed on several roofs, the system cost about $353,000. It supplies 75 percent of the church’s power needs.

First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, Utah, is installing solar panels as part of Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky renewable energy program. The church is installing an 87-module, 20-kilowatt solar array as part of its larger campaign to remodel and improve the facilities. First Unitarian’s goal is to ultimately achieve a zero carbon footprint and educate the community about renewable energy through a monitoring display.

The Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill, N.J., is also going solar, installing more than 400 solar panels on its grounds and buildings. The panels are expected to reduce the church’s electricity consumption by 95 percent.

“In keeping with one of our fundamental principles—‘respect for the interdependent web of existence of which we are a part’—solar energy reduces our carbon footprint and proves our commitment to the environment,” says Greg Newcomer, who leads the church’s Solar Energy Task Force. On Feb. 26, the Rev. Manish Mishra-Marzetti conducted a blessing of the panels as they were switched on.

Lancaster church installs organ for Easter

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Lancaster, Pa., has found a venerable replacement for its broken electronic organ. After a complex installation process, a pipe organ—a 1932, eight-rank Whitelegg Moller Organ with 600 pipes and chimes—resounded at the church’s Easter Sunday service in April.

Thomas Busteed, a member of the church and a student at Lancaster Theological Seminary, played the organ at its Easter debut, closing both services with Charles-Marie Widor’s Toccata, from his Symphony for Organ No. 5. “You’re not going to find organs that sound like this today,” Busteed told the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal (Apr. 6, 2012).

The newly installed organ hadn’t been used in a church since 1960, when it was purchased by Ivan Moyer, who later built a home in the Poconos around the instrument. Moyer, who was selling his house and the organ as he moved into retirement housing, attended one of the Easter services.

Watch Busteed playing the organ and talking about its acquisition here.


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