By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
When the Westside Unitarian Universalist Congregation closed the deal last April to buy the ex-Gatewood Baptist/Seattle International Church at California/Othello (map) – finally, a home of their own – they knew it was a fixer-upper.
What they didn’t know was just how much fixing up it eventually would need. But it’s almost done – done enough for the congregation to have its first service there tomorrow (Sunday) morning, right after a ribboncutting ceremony – the entire community’s invited – at 10:15 am.
We first toured the site last April with Rev. Peg Morgan, board president Paula vanHaagen, and congregation member Laura Matson, the day WSUU took possession. The same trio met us there this morning for a post-makeover tour, even as work continued inside and out – like final touches on the interior doors that rested atop sawhorses at midday, to be hung by day’s end:
They are taking great pride in the outside work as well as what’s inside – read on as our story continues with more photos:
“Our gardeners are phenomenal – putting the right plant in the right place,” vanHaagen enthuses. Like the sunflowers in the “children’s garden,” against a southwest-facing wall:
The gardens closest to the church’s south entrances were made over first – drab old shrubbery taken out, flowers and a stepping-stone path put in:
Congregation members crafted the stepping stones with Celtic symbols – one of several decorative touches in the church that honor many faiths, Rev. Morgan noted, including the Buddha she and vanHaagen posed with in the minister’s new upstairs office:
The top floor also features what’s now been dubbed the “Fireside Room”:
After it was given that name, the small “fireplace” appeared, said Matson, joking that if that trend could continue in other parts of the building, perhaps they should find a space to declare the “Spa Room.”
Relaxation and contemplation are being found there anyway, Rev. Morgan explained, recalling last Sunday, when congregation members were invited in for a pancake breakfast (drawing a turnout almost double what they had expected), and some lingered long afterward, both in the upstairs rooms and in the repainted, recarpeted sanctuary, where another donation just materialized one day, it was explained – a “larger than baby grand” piano, donated by a congregation member whose identity apparently still remains unknown. (They have a new music director, too, by the way, Bert Gulhaugen.)
Just about every room in the sprawling building has been overhauled – nursery, teen room, bathrooms, storage … But one of the shiniest rooms is the kitchen, which we recall as having been in worse shape than most of the rest of the building during that April tour. Today, it gleamed as volunteers set up a member-cooked/delivered lunch for the work crew – something that’s been a Saturday tradition for months:
Now that they’ve renovated a 60-year-old church, what’s next for the WSUUs? This adventure isn’t entirely over, we’re reminded – for one, the new building is being paid for in a 3-year capital campaign that hasn’t even finished its first year yet, and additional touches await funding, such as more disability accommodations – in particular, an elevator. For two, a preschool (Sweet Pea Cottage Preschool for the Arts) is expected to move in and share part of the facilities, and they’re waiting to see what if any additional work will be needed to facilitate that. For three, just about every room in the church will be available for community rentals, like the now-much-brighter social hall downstairs:
One event that’s coming up is the Chalice Palace on October 29th, a musical “open mike” of sorts that’s been a tradition for the Rainier Valley Unitarian Universalists, whose congregation is closing, with many members choosing to join the West Seattle church – the community will be welcome at that event. A few days before that, on October 24th, is a formal celebration/dedication of the new church, with dozens of UU leaders expected from other cities.
But first – the 10:15 am ribboncutting tomorrow, followed by the 10:30 am service, titled “Let This Be a House of Peace.” And maybe even a moment or two to stop and savor the occasion; Rev. Morgan observes, of the 10 months that have elapsed since they found the building, “Thinking about it, and experiencing it, are two very different things.”