Notes from a Founding Father, Paul Dunlap
Our first meeting to see if anyone was interested took place around June 1993. It attracted a surprising number of folks from the surrounding counties. Work began under Diane Stephenson’s leadership to locate a space and get support from the UUA. By the end of the summer they had rented a building at the end of 400, which has since been demolished. The building was designed to be a restaurant, lots of stone inside. It had a small upstairs space that was used as a board room and a nursery/RE space. The nursery did get moved to a room downstairs for a time.
We were officially chartered May 1994. We suffered some growing pains, had a disagreement about how money was spent and entered a really tough financial period as we lost half the membership. As we recovered and regained membership we were able to hire our first musician, Sarah Dan Jones for $25 a week. By 1997 our lease was discontinued. The owners had hopes of finding a business that would attract more traffic for all the smaller businesses we shared the complex with. We had to act fast and a number of us started looking within about a 30-mile radius of the end of 400.
In August of 1997 me, Frank, and Sarah Dan had a meeting to see a little building at the end of South Park Street that had been a church MANY years ago and had been a fuel company’s office for about 30 years — it was awful! But the energy felt amazing. We knew we had found our home.
It took tons of work to get the place ready. A bathroom had to be built, all the walls repaired and painted, new ceiling tiles and some really gross olive green carpet, stained with God only knows what had to come up. We worked for what seemed like around the clock.
While some members thought it was a death sentence for us because of it’s location, the majority wanted to move. And move we did. Because we were so pressed for time to get out of the old location, we decided that we would hold a “moving” church service — quite literally, we packed up the church and every car in the lot was used to move GMUUC belongings. We even had first-time visitors helping us, with two becoming long-term members!
We leased the space for a few years and eventually the owner, Jack Heard sold it to us for a steal and even owner-financed us for a few years.