Spiritual institutions of all kinds across the country have had to rethink how they serve their members and community. The Boulder Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (BVUUF) represents one of these close to home, as it navigated a stall of its biggest project to date and continues using its identity to help Boulder’s community.
March 2020 should have marked a celebration for the BVUUF; a building expansion more than a decade in the making would finally finish.
The congregation, displaced more than a year, finally had a new home to welcome more people while expanding its community outreach. Instead, with finishing touches complete, Covid-19 arrived.
The organization’s senior minister Reverend Lydia Ferrante-Rosenberry has been navigating that challenge.
BVUUF had a vision to expand 1241 Ceres Drive in Lafayette since buying the building in 2004.
Rev. Lydia arrived in 2007. “When I interviewed, they asked if I would do a capital campaign. I said please don’t do that my first year,” she recalled. “But no one expected it to take eight years to get there.”
In 2015, the church began its strategic direction, which would include expansion and a delineated focus for the entire organization. Small groups congregation-wide discussed this focus, and in 2016 the church stepped into its role as a “center for spiritual exploration and justice-making.” This quickly became embedded into its identity – a core of “inner depth and outer focus.”
“We feel they are woven together,” says Rev. Lydia. “One informs the other.”
This December, the congregation finalized justice initiatives for 2021, focusing on racial justice, with other efforts on immigration, climate justice, and mental health. Each has a UU theological underpinning, an understanding of current challenges, a collective commitment and vision for improvement, and a member leader to help others put their faith into action.
A recent campaign raised funds in partnership with RIP Medical Debt, an organization that buys $100 of medical debt for every $1 it receives. BVUUF’s $22,000 produced $2.2 million to help 900 families in Boulder, Broomfield, Weld, and Adams counties.
Meanwhile, back in 2015, the group hired an architect and began a capital campaign. “We thought we could raise $1 million, so we commissioned a plan,” Lydia tells BLDRfly. “What we got was uninspired. We knew that was not what we wanted, and we had to raise more funds and find an architect to create a space we love.”
Another delay happened in September 2018 when, eight days before they would move out, the final bid came in $800,000 higher than expected. That meant five more months of fundraising, and a new temporary home.
Spring 2020 brought warm weather, pavement, move-in excitement, and then the pandemic.
“It was awful,” says Rev. Lydia. “As an essential service back in March and April, we had to balance public safety and the safety of our members with the emotional state of not having a building.”
Lydia tells BLDRfly that the four themes that have served the congregation during construction and throughout the pandemic’s wild ride have remained generosity, graciousness with one another, flexibility, and trust.
Because of the extensive construction and not having a building for so long, the church had already begun to do many things virtually, but the lack of ability to meet in person for yet another indeterminate period led to finding ways to stay connected and impact the local community.
“It’s been hard for both our inner depth and outer focus,” says Rev. Lydia. “Our building would be a center, and without it, we needed to refocus. We have lots to offer the community, and our values ask us to be out doing that work. It was important for us to find ways to remain relevant and meet the needs of the community.”
While it has not been easy, that focus produced results in new areas while enabling other efforts to continue.
Along with its recent campaign with RIP Medical Debt which helped 900 families in Boulder, Broomfield, Weld, and Adams counties, BVUUF continues partnerships with Second Baptist Church and the local NAACP chapter, and members worked on civic engagement around the election.
Other social justice efforts include partnerships with ELPASO (Engaged Latino Parents Advancing School Outcomes) and a call for tutors to help children falling behind with the difficulties of online learning.
Right Relationship Boulder, a committee that Boulder citizens formed in March 2017 to work towards implementing the city’s 2016 Indigenous Peoples Day Resolution, led to a partnership working with Northern and Southern Arapaho and Northern and Southern Cheyenne indigenous tribes.
“I’ve compared expanding to having a baby,” reflects Rev. Lydia “All your focus goes there; everything else falls away for a while. To have that big shift and make all these things happen despite not being back home is important; and we are particularly called to that. We are a congregation beyond these walls – and that carried us through construction and now through Covid-19.”
Header Image: Rev. Lydia (right) signing a petition outside the church’s building during an event in which BVUUF collected signatures for Fair Tax CO – Initiative 271. Image: BVUUF.