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Letter from your Board of Trustees Discussing our Congregational Survey
Dear Valued Congregant,
As we enjoy the comforts and convenience of our beautiful new building, we find ourselves at a crossroads. While winding down our previous capital campaign, we are in need of some basic maintenance and repairs to the older parts of our campus. We would also like to consider expansion options. In order to further the mission of First Unitarian Church of Dallas, we are asking for your input on the opportunities ahead of us.
Firstly, we must acquaint ourselves with the realities: The final balloon payment on our debt comes due less than a year from now in April 2015. Specifically, we will need to raise approximately $1,000,000 in capital either from the congregation or through new financing to cover this debt maturity. Further, we have a number of facilities repairs and upgrades that are fairly urgent or even contractually required. These include a major fire sprinkler installation, repair of the lighting in our sanctuary, HVAC upgrades, and roof and plumbing repairs. We estimate the cost of these “necessary” facilities items to be approximately $500,000. The total capital we will need in the coming year to accommodate both our debt maturity and our “necessary” facilities expenditures is therefore approximately $1,500,000. While we are confident that we can obtain bank financing for most, if not all, of this, our operating budget currently has no room for the additional debt service burden.
Secondly, we need to consider whether this is an opportune time to invest in expanding our mission. As you know from visiting on Sundays, our activity within these walls is deep and wide. Additionally, we affect the community at large through the initiatives of our members and partner organizations outside the church. Our Chart and Compass vision included a Phase II expansion plan beyond the building we have already added to our campus. This involved removing Channing Hall and the old offices and replacing these with a new Fellowship Hall and a courtyard. We (very roughly) estimate this “discretionary” expansion to cost an additional $3,500,000. Thus the total combined debt retirement plus the “necessary” and “discretionary” funding requirement would be approximately $5 million.
Thirdly, our church is attracting people further and further from Dallas. Many of these areas do not have a UU presence. Some people drive more than 75 miles to join us on Sunday mornings. It’s exciting that we are reaching so far, but the distance hinders potential participation during the week and ultimately impacts member connection. We need to explore the opportunities presented by this phenomenon. Should we experiment with low-cost satellite opportunities to better serve our members as well as expand Unitarian Universalism?
Finally, we may wish to explore sustainable avenues toward the continuation and/or expansion of our mission using funding sources other than pledge revenues. With an eye toward entrepreneurial undertakings and a diversification of stewardship options, we are faced with the exciting prospect of increasing societal impact and generating income simultaneously. Ideas for such “social enterprises” might include a coffeehouse, a community center, a low-income housing development, a funeral home, or a number of other ideas that could serve our mission and benefit from our affiliation. We hope to access the various talents of our congregants to investigate and develop these concepts.
The following survey questions are designed to help us determine what excites you about our church and its future, and whether expansion either within the church, outside the building, or a combination of both would be the best path forward to support our future and our mission. Please respond thoughtfully and consider how YOU can play a role in the future of First Unitarian Church of Dallas, as we move well into our second century of fellowship and service!
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