Last year’s Strategic Plan Committee conducted a congregational survey and asked:
What is most important to you in terms of the long-term sustainability of our congregation?
Forty-eight per cent of the respondents said developing options evaluating choices and consequences of current location vs other location(s) is their lowest priority, (But 18% said it was their top priority.)
The comments below are from a total of 35 comments made by the 92 respondents to the Strategic Plan’s survey. The comments fell into three categories don’t move; exercise caution; and be prepared to move.)
— “I have a deep and emotional connection to this church building and property. My husband and I, along with numerous others, have invested an incalculable number of hours and financial resources to insure that this location is and will remain a centre for Unitarian values. It is where many of our deceased members (including my husband) are memorialized and ashes have been spread. I find it difficult, if not impossible to imagine our church community finding a superior location for its mission.”
— “I highly value the current location of our church. Every Sunday morning, it feels like arriving at a spiritual retreat. I don’t feel that a downtown location is required to be involved in social action work, unless we are planning to have our own shelter, food bank etc. Members can easily access any areas of social justice involvement without having the church located in the city core. I understand that the option of selling our property & renting might be explored, to which I would be strongly opposed. I lived through the years when we were in transition between Superior & West Saanich, which was a logistical nightmare!”
— “I hear talk about selling our church and relocating to the Western communities, downtown or renting. This distresses me a lot. I believe our current location is a spiritual place and a lot of thought and consultation went into designing and funding our beautiful sanctuary. I think it is a fallacy to focus on the cost of maintaining our church premises. Our major cost is personnel, as it should be. The issue of selling our current property has the potential to create deep divisions in the congregation and must be handled with great sensitivity and skill or it will destroy the strong unity we have built. Deciding on which tapestry to hang in the sanctuary is nothing compared to this topic.”
— “Survey is useful. Would like to see, if possible, a detailed map of where everyone lives including how many at each ‘home’. Would help future discussions regarding where the ‘church’ should be. Drive time is part of this info.”
— “Why does there not seem to be an interest in aesthetics? The landscape, the visual art, the attractiveness of the sanctuary and other rooms. They may be an important part of spiritual development.”
— “Somewhere along the line I heard of considering moving the church closer to town. I remember when we were moving from Superior street and trying to find a facility in town that was big enough to accommodate us, had decent parking and affordable. At that time there was little (or nothing) on the market that met these criteria. I doubt that this has changed, especially the parking issue.”
Be Prepared for Change
— “Distance to church is of critical importance. It becomes an obstacle to participation in activities if they require travel to the physical site. Doing the distance once per week for the worship service is worth doing – but to activities other days of the week, not so much. E.g., Community dinner: travel both ways takes one hour total; a meal that is served, eaten and cleaned up in less than one hour hardly seems a reasonable expenditure of time.
I suggest satellite groups on West Shore and in Victoria proper with digital visual and auditory hook-ups, 2-way. Once travel is no longer an issue, then participation by families could increase. And connection and commitment to the church, both in service given and $$ would increase.
Suggest: do periodic exchanges with churches (or other physical buildings of the religious) to enhance ecumenical connections. And increase downtown alternatives for FUCV (eg, with Jewish congregations whose sabbath is on Saturday, and presumably have a synagogue empty on Sundays”
— “I feel we do most things quite well. I think the location of the church is quite difficult for many. Older people that can no longer drive. Families who are short on time and a chance to be a family. Many others think twice about attending the church because of the distance. We would give up a lot to move but could gain a lot too. Increased membership, increased numbers of families attending. I think families need our church. We have so much to offer. They are the future of the church, the world etc. (We need families to attend in order to encourage other families to benefit . It can be a snowball affect.) How do we do this???”
— “The #1 limitation to my involvement is the 30 minute drive to the sanctuary. Moving may not be feasible but should be considered every 5 years or so in case the situation changes.”
More comments about location from the Strategic Plan Survey
• We need a task force to look at all the ramifications of our location. We are in an ALR … with no good natural draw. Public transit will only happen if there is a significant population shift and that won’t easily happen in an ALR (Ed. Note: Our property is NOT in the ALR.)
• Our location: it’s a barrier. Unless or until we can be more central to growing demographics. I was a choir member at our old church I dropped out because it was too far from home and did not want to drive in the dark or inclement weather
• We undervalue, underutilize the potential of the property in this location — “nature” as religion is prevalent in many cultures — our own indigenous people are willing to share and have much to teach about “forest bathing” “wilding”, “foraging”
• What is missing for me is connection with the greater community — relating to different aspects such as environmental, artistic, musical I guess more outreach but also more exciting use of our property that will give people a reason to be here and be involved
• Developing property for gardeners
• Satellite churches
• Anything we do is interim, ultimately sell this place, rent or buy or share near where the people are and where transit is … the only question is when.
• Hold activities outside of our church in the community
• Rent a room in a library and present a topic (such as adult education) that would run over 6 weeks
• Rent a room in a library and have a service on any day but a Sunday