In 1988, we moved back to the Tidewater area of Virginia where we were originally from. After I read a description of Unitarian Universalism in the book Religions of America by Leo Rosten at the Virginia Beach library, we decided to visit the Unitarian Church of Norfolk. We liked what we saw. Regular attendance and joining ensued. It turned out to be for only a few months as we soon moved to another area and began an association with other UU churches over the years in various localities. Despite returning to the Tidewater area numerous times over the years due to family there, we never went back to UCN. That changed in November when we vacationed in Virginia Beach for a week. For the first time in nearly 28 years, we attended the Sunday morning service at the church where it all began.
Unitarianism and Universalism in the Norfolk area goes back to the early 1800's. A Universalist church began in 1887 and a Unitarian church in 1912. For various reasons, these died out over the years until the current UCN was founded in 1956. In 1972, they moved into the current building, a former Presbyterian church. Sounds like a fairly well anchored congregation. But, that's all about to change. They have bought a (above) Unitarian Church of Norfolk
new building and will be moving in 2018 after doing extensive renovation to a former office building. Moving to a new building isn't unusual for churches. Oak Ridge UUC did that a few years ago. Westside used to be in other facilities. UCN is taking the change a little further. Their new facility is located quite a few miles away, and is actually in the city of Virginia Beach. Although their membership is only around 200, UCN is currently the only UU church in the entire South Hampton Roads area, which has a population of over one million people. Possibly to appeal to a larger audience, they are going to change their name. The new name has not yet been determined. I'd say between the location move and the new name, that's a lot of change for any church.
Over the years, Westside has undergone changes, although not to this extent. In addition to the aforementioned site move, we've had minister and other staff changes, as well as many congregants having come and gone. Lately, we've been experimenting with some changes in Sunday services, which I have addressed here in previous months. In addition to format alterations and the addition of adult RE, there's been some interest expressed about possibly starting earlier. There's been a few suggestions that RE take place before the service. Of course, there are also those who say what we've done in the past is fine; leave it alone. I'm sure there's no way to please everyone in any church, especially a UU one, but that doesn't mean we can't do our best to try. In January, the Board of Trustees and Committee on Ministry will put out a short survey to get an idea of the congregation's preferences for various options involving different aspects of the Sunday service. Afterward, there will be congregational meetings to discuss these issues further, and as always, you can talk with any of the members of the above referenced bodies as well as Reverend Carol.
What will Westside look like in 28 years? Will the membership have doubled? Tripled? Will it have a new addition that was planned for in the original plans? Will it still be on Fretz Road? We don't have a crystal ball to show us. We'll just have to feel our way along and hope for the best. Be sure you're part of that process.