Keith Daigle
The Westside Unitarian Universalist Congregation formally dedicated their new home on Gatewood Hill on Sunday Oct. 24 with a gathering of hundreds of people including UUA President Rev. Peter Morales. CLICK THE PHOTO TO SEE MORE IMAGES

Westside Unitarian Universalists are dedicated

Almost six months to the day after purchasing the former Gatewood Baptist Church building, 7141 California SW at Othello, and 125 gallons of paint later, the Westside Unitarian Universalist Congregation held its Dedication Service October 24, at 7:00 PM. Their first official service was held Sept. 12.

Unitarian Universalist Association President, Rev. Peter Morales, who oversees nearly 1,000 congregations in this association, came in from Boston to give his sermon, “To Dream the Possible Dream.” In addition to the 200 congregational members, over 50 Pacific Northwest District Ministers and leadership from other congregations joined the celebration.

The Dedication Service also included greetings from Janine Larson, District Executive of the Pacific Northwest District of UUA; the Reverend Dr. Joanne Carlson-Brown, Minister of Tibbets United Methodist Church; Rabbi Zari Weiss, and other local clergy. Funds from the evening’s collection plate will be donated to the West Seattle and White Center Food Banks.

The congregation has been renting space at the Masonic Temple, 4736 40th Avenue SW for the past 20 years. They closed on the new building Thursday, April 22. The building is 13,312 square feet and sits on just shy of half an acre. The sanctuary seats 300.

Rev. Peg Boyle Morgan, Congregation President Paula vanHaagen, and Publicity Chair among many other things, Laura Matson, were thrilled to host Rev. Morales.

“I think he is very excited about growth in an urban setting, and an urban church being able to buy a building is a major deal,” said Rev. Morgan. “He is interested in growing our faith tradition. We’re getting bigger fast. There’s something catching fire here. About twice as many come in on Sunday now, about 200, than at the Masonic Temple.”

“The kids are happier now,” added Matson, whose name readers may recognize as she is with the South Seattle Community College Continuing Education Department. “Before, at the Masonic Hall we had classrooms in the bathroom, in small rooms separated by short curtains. Our new music director Bert Gulhaugen transformed the choir. He is phenomenal.”

Gulhaugen founded Seattle Glee Clubs in 1993.

“We now have a choir of 22 instead of 8 or 10, and the acoustics are really good,” said Rev. Morgan.

vanHaagen is quick to credit others involved in making the opening of the new church a success, but Matson and Rev. Boyle said that vanHaagen was instrumental in keeping it all together with her managerial skills, accounting, and organizing.

“Paula had left on a trip to Ireland and did not know we were close to closing on the new building,” said Matson. Matson said there was a lot of negotiating and other financial issues that complicated the sale.

“Paula comes back from Ireland and we were like, ‘By the way, we’re buying the church.’ She hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped.”

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