This house is for the ingathering of nature and of man in nature. It is a house of friendship, a haven in trouble, and open room for the encouragement of our struggle...This house is a cradle for our dreams and the workshop of our common endeavor. -- Kenneth Patton
At times it is difficult to love this house, the meetinghouse of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Grafton and Upton. It is old, it's barely weather tight, the roof leaks in places, repairs are always expensive if they are to be done right; no parking, no elevator for disabled and elderly members. We have steep stairs for the sake of steep stairs and they creak loudly, especially when you try to climb them discreetly.
The meeting house is an 1860s building designed to look much older, more colonial, more pure-it-tanical, less Church of England. I love its aggressive simplicity; it's overt restraint. I love its light and openness. In fact it is as open a space as a building can be and still retain it's structurally integrity given the building technologies of the time it was built.
I want to do everything I can to preserve its simplicity, because I recognize that it is an outward display of our hope for religion, that religion be pure and simple, without too much embellishment, free of too many theological flourishes and not overly heavy with tradition, doctrine and creed. Religion can fuel our excesses, and promise us more than is possible. This place doesn't allow for that.
Our meeting house is for a faith that is as open and unadorned and light, as the clear glass windows. But, because it is still a house built by human hands it is still framed by our principles (Currently seven of them) and culture (mostly White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant with some notable exceptions -- ME) and our lived experience (21st century North America). Our faith, much like our place, is not without a context and antecedents. We try to keep what is essential: Love and Service and Hope.
The openness of our meetinghouse reveals what is most important to us, nature and human nature. Our space is actually space for the Spirit to move and where the Spirit can move us, perhaps even transform us. It is a blank canvass inviting us to write the vision and make it plain, as ancient scripture reminds us. Our house is a place where dreams come to life, and where we become stronger for the work of healing our heartbroken world.
I'm glad for this place of search and discovery. It's a house of history and the future; cradle and workshop.