The First Universalist Church (UU) of Lyons, OH is experiencing a revival in northwest Ohio. This small village (pop. 562) is just west of Greater Toledo, and the suburbs are steadily stretching out closer and closer to Lyons. The congregation’s new “G.O.D.” (Growth, Outreach, and Deeds) team has been a big part of the congregation’s recent revival, forming partnerships with local service organizations and engaged in intentional efforts of community outreach and service. The congregation has made quite a few changes to its Sunday service, with updates to worship and music. This revival also has a lot to do with the dedication of the congregation’s minister Rev. Larry Hutchison. The congregation could only afford to bring him on as a part-time minister, yet he does so much more on a volunteer basis. Things have been looking up for this very small but now growing congregation.
Then, all of a sudden, the congregation’s focus was jerked back to financial struggles and the basic operation of the church. A recent wind storm hit the aging and worn sanctuary roof with gusts up to 60 miles per hour. This was followed by heavy rains that led to a large ominous dripping wet spot with ceiling tiles stained and loosened. To keep the 149 year old church home from sustaining any more damage the members have had to scramble to raise the money to get the work underway as quickly as possible. The most economical bid for the replacement of the main part of the roof, just over the sanctuary, is $13,500.00. The insurance company has pledged $6000.00 to cover only what was damaged by wind, not the entire section of aging and compromised roofing.
The congregation now has a Faithify campaign to raise $5000.00, which leaves $2500.00 for them to cover with an unplanned and hurried capital campaign and from their modest financial safety net. Failure, however, is not an option. Failing to secure a roof on our beautiful yet fragile church home could result in not only ending this amazing revival but the closure of the church. After surviving the Great Depression, World Wars, a lightning strike, and a beam falling through the sanctuary ceiling, it would unthinkable that a worn roof would be the end.
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In the last year alone, the congregation…:
- Started a “little free library” in our modest village that no longer has a public library.
- Have marked out an area for our new community garden.
- Sponsored 3 “Christmas families,” with a house full of gifts and household necessities, when they would only have taken on one in prior years.
- Partnered with Sunnyside Peace and Justice Center in Adrian, Michigan to host a night of “Poetry, Tacos, and Music”.
- Sent durable church-made dresses to Malawi so that girls there can meet the sole requirement for enrolling in school, having a dress.
- Brought in quite a few guest speakers to bring insights about topics as diverse as solidarity with standing rock, NAACP, living as a Muslim-American, and overcoming addiction, to name a few.
- Handed out treats at the village’s Trick-or-treat night, which facilitated a lot of community questions about Unitarian Universalism, including one child, to the dismay of his parents, asking, “What kind of church passes out candy at Halloween?”
- Passed out free food and refreshments during the 120 mile yard sale on route 120.
- Entered a lit float into the village Christmas parade.
- Hosted movie nights. Some had a deep or intense message, others were just fun and for all ages.
- Continued an adopt-a-highway portion of route 120.
- Lots more…