Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Remarks to the Sacramento County Planning Commission


On our UUSS Master Plan and request for

a use permit for phase 1a of the building project

By Rev. Roger Jones
Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento

Monday evening, August 12, 2013

[Following presentation by Jeff Gold, Architect]


Good evening, and thank you for your service.

My name is Roger Jones and I having been serving as a minister to this congregation since 2008.  Currently I serve as the acting senior minister.

Our church was founded in 1868 by 17 families in Sacramento.  Now we are a community of more than 400 adults, children and youth.

In the late 1950s, when we bought our current property on Sierra Boulevard, that parcel and those around it were farmland, with a few houses.  We built our main meeting hall in 1960 and added an education wing a few years later.  Except for those few homes that already stood on large parcels, the neighborhood grew up around us.

The master plan that you are considering today would be our first major improvement and renovation in a half century.  We are excited about it.  Last year, members and friends of the church committed $1.3 million in a capital fundraising campaign for the project.  Gifts ranged from $100 to over $100 thousand.

From the outside, nearly every house of worship can seem like an institution that exists only for its members, with a focus on what goes on inside.  While we do have a caring community in the church, we are also committed members of the larger community.

Many of our local neighbors come over to our wooded campus for a brisk walk or a stroll away from the street.  Some neighbors walk their dogs, push their babies in strollers, or help their kids learn to ride a bike with training wheels on our parking lot.





Several not-for-profit organizations hold monthly meetings in our classrooms.  Often we’re the site for funerals or memorial services for leaders from the local community and other folks who may not have had their own house of worship.

In the 1960s, our church founded a community theater, which continues to stage two productions every year in our main hall, with good attendance from the larger community.

One thing I’m very proud of is this:

At every Sunday morning service we give away half of the freewill donations in the offering basket to local charities.  This is above and beyond what members pledge to the church operations.  In this last fiscal year we contributed $25,000 to 13 not-for-profit organizations through the Shared Sunday Offering and Christmas Eve giving.

During the holiday season we also collect food, clothing, toys and money for local charities.

Along with several other houses of worship, we are a host for Family Promise.  Four times a year we welcome homeless families with children for a week of dinners and overnight accommodations on our classroom floors.  During the day they attend support programs or school downtown.

Personally, I participate in Sheriff Jones’s Community and Faith-Based Advisory Board meetings, and in my first year on the job I attended the District Attorney’s Citizens’ Academy program.

Our annual budget supports 15 full-time or part-time staff members, all of whom are county residents.  A number of our employees live just walking distance from the church, and several families from our congregation are homeowners in the neighborhood.

Our vision of an improved and renewed church campus is a strong statement of our commitment to be involved citizens, responsible stewards, and good neighbors.

Thank you for your consideration of this vision.



The Master Plan Is Done! Q & A Sunday, Feb. 5. Vote on it Feb. 12

This means the church’s architectural master plan.  Read the UUMPFs Blog at

Family Minister Goes to Sunday School–Junior High Youth Group

Last Sunday I was the guest presenter in JHYG, the Junior High Youth Group (grades 6-8).   Ginny, one of the amazing lead teachers, was my host.  Taylor, one of the amazing church dads and leaders here, was a guest teacher.  Ginny’s check in question was “one thing that you appreciate from this past week.”

We talked about sacred space and sacred places, and what makes them sacred or special.  I asked them to take a minute of silence and think about examples of sacred spaces for themselves.  Most folks had something to say.  Taylor talked about sacred places in nature.  Ginny introduced Stonehenge and showed some pictures.

We looked at two posters with lots of pictures of houses of worship from different work religions.  We looked at three posters with color photographs of various UU church buildings around North America.  Most looked vintage post-World War II (like ours, built for the baby boom kids and families), but some dated to the 1800s and King’s Chapel dates to the 1600s (Unitarian since the late 1700s).

I showed them diagrams the size of place mats (and laminated too) showing the whole 6-acre campus.  Made by our Grasshoppers (the volunteers who mow and trim the grass, etc.), the diagram shows the names of all the sections of the campus:  oak grove, memorial garden, patio lawn, minister’s office lawn, preschool playground, main playground, volleyball area, rose bed, etc.  The most intriguing was “twilight zone.”  I passed out the “place mats” and they studied them in small groups.

Then we went on a walking meditation, further delaying enjoyment of Ginny’s homemade cookies.  It was to  be a silent meditation. Before we left, the adults told them about the wildlife that lives here or passes by: squirrels (lots), crows, opossums, wild turkeys, and at least one pair of big bushy-tailed skunks.

I led, and Taylor followed the group at the rear.  We walked by the community garden (UURTHSONG), and down the length of our parking lot, along chain-link fence that separates us from the many two-story apartment buildings.  We walked by the trees and wrought-iron fence separating UUSS from the enormous Woodside Sierra condo complex.  We walked by the rose bed, the oak grove (and looked at the “mini oak trees,” as someone called them later.  The senior high group had planted them in summer with Taylor’s oversight), the big evergreen trees, through the twilight zone to the meorial garden.  We walked by the Ben Franklin Thinking Bench and a few small stones with another former member’s names on them.  Esther Franklin was in the sanctuary with a photo of Ben for our Dia de los Muertos altar.  He died 20 years ago.)

We walked by the creek (drainage ditch between the church and the duplex apartments we own) and then behind the sanctuary exterior and by the two green Dumpsters.  We heard the congregation singing the closing hymn (a bit early!) and then crossed the patio and went back for cookies.

I asked them to pause in silence for a minute and think about what they had noticed.  The responses were varied.  I had noticed two youth giggling now and then.  One noticed another’s squeaky sneakers.  One noticed a pile of paving stones behind the church.  One mentioned a squirrel that didn’t fun from us.

I also noticed how easy it is to take all the different aspects of the campus for granted when one is rushing in and out, or shuttling between two offices.  It certainly shifts your perspective to approach the familiar on foot, and from a different direction.

Then I showed them the new UUSS Master Plan–the recent architectural drawings by Jeff Gold.  I pointed out the classroom building we were in and the additions and changes proposed, and the main hall, with walls to be expanded so it’s a larger space (seating up to 375), and the new restrooms, meeting rooms, storage rooms, AND an all-purpose room (chapel or fellowship room, holding 125 seated).  The main entry for worship would be on the opposite side of the building from where it is now.

Also proposed was a new office building, which would be at the tip of a triangle if you had the base line be the line between the current main office and the minister’s study.  Hence: out in the parking lot, an obvious stopping or welcome place for someone coming during the week to visit the main office, minister or other staff.  This means all offices would be in the same building, and the classrooms in another building, and meeting rooms would be in the worship/fellowship building.

I did show them the “later” plans, which would include a new sanctuary building in the large area where some of the trees are now.  That area was intended for a sanctuary building back in the 1960s.  The hall we have been using for 50 years was built to be the fellowship hall, and it was assumed that a sanctuary would be built separately some time later.

I handed out the architect’s printed plans and the youth studied them together as they sat on their cushions on the floor and ate cookies.  They seemed interested, but not overawed by the prospects for our future. Yet they did not strain to see their parents waiting for them outside the room.  Ginny passed out registration forms for the Middle School UU Gathering (MUUGs) for the current weekend, to take place at a UU church high on a hill in Marin County.  I told those who are going to notice that sacred space, and maybe take a few pictures to show on a future Sunday.

I think that more middle schoolers here have studied the master plan than grown ups.  Some of them will no doubt be enjoying the refurbished, expanded and new spaces in coming decades, and maybe their kids will be eating cookies baked with love by a silver-haired volunteer from their church.

The Next 50 Years at UUSS! Master Planning–architectural drawings, questions, ideas

Momentum for the UUSS Master Plan continues to build as collaborative work continues between our architect Jeff Gold, the master plan facilitators, the congregation, and the focus groups. Newly revised drawings based on ongoing conversations are springing up regularly, many of which will be up for display on Sundays.  In addition to meetings with the congregation peppered throughout the fall, there is also opportunity to leave comments and share in dialogue on our blog, ‘Planituurth’:    Your comments are most welcome and this blog site is also easily reached via a link on our website!