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MSTF: What We Are Hearing

Synthesis of WHAT WE HEARD:

The following is an attempt to summarize a vast amount of input from the small group meetings held on April 3, April 10, and April 11.  If you would like to look at the actual comments, you can view our notes for each meeting.  (Note that some meetings have more than one set of notes).  Many of the concerns we hope will be addressed through other parts of this website, including the ANSWERS to frequently asked questions, STATISTICS AND DATA, WHAT IS GTS, and other information available here.  

The desirability of UCH’s management of two campuses was questioned by some, and affirmed by others.  Opinions ranged from “Selling MS, even at a loss, would save having to pay for maintenance and upkeep” to “We MUST keep our MS location.”  Some questioned the need for two buildings given our reduced membership, and asked whether UCH should consolidate at Clover Lane, or questioned whether the congregation has the will to maintain two locations.  Others asserted the spiritual value of the Market Street location, both to the neighborhood that is served by GTS, and to UCH members for whom our Market Street site provides a way to live our values.  A few members also wondered whether UCH had not already in practice become two separate congregations, one located at each site.  

The split in opinion was also reflected in a number of comments that called for further healing in the congregation.  Congregants articulated both the need to “investigate feelings about past conflicts” and to proactively guard against conflict so that “This cannot happen again.”

Reactions varied widely to the proposal of the Multi-Site Task Force (to create a “Chalice Center” at our Market Street location that would invite the partnership of other organizations in developing a center for service and worship in the Allison Hill neighborhood). Creating an approximate scale from “It won’t work” (strong skepticism about the proposal) to “This is a good start” and “Will need re-assessment” (neutral) to “The idea is promising” and “The Chalice Center is brilliant!” (favorable), we tried to gauge the sentiment of those directly responding to the proposal in this sample of congregants.  Favorable comments outpaced directly skeptical ones by a factor of about two to three times.  There were about a third more favorable comments than neutral ones.  (This does NOT count the many questions about the workability of the plan, but ONLY comments which concerned the idea as a whole.) There were also questions about the process we will follow in order to make a decision about this proposal (see ‘process’ section of front matter).  Some people wondered how we would achieve broad buy-in by the congregation as a whole.  Some would like to see the mission of the Chalice Center articulated.  Others made a number of concrete suggestions, including names of people who would be useful resources.

Some congregants were unsure of what Gather the Spirit (GTS) is, and what its relation to UCH is (see WHAT IS GTS?).

A number of questions concerned the viability of maintaining two properties in general, and the Chalice Center in particular.  Several people pointed to the maintenance issues we face at Market Street, including parking, accessibility, and heating.  Regarding the Chalice Center plan, several questions arose as to whether the establishment of a worship and community center would duplicate other services available in Allison Hill.  Some questioned who, whether, and how renters would be found to partner with us, and what vetting procedures would be in place.  

Major concerns about financing were raised, and more information was requested.  (See STATISTICS AND DATA). Some congregants wanted to know what the costs of maintaining the two buildings would be, and worried that our pared-down staff would be spread too thin if UCH maintained operations in both buildings.  Some congregants worried that the financial burden of supporting two locations would “sink” the entire church.  

The question of worship at Market Street was repeatedly raised, along with the attendant issues of staffing, service times, service style (whether services could be alternative to those held at Clover Lane), and the provision of RGL.  
Some congregants tried to figure out whether the Chalice Center would be good for growth of the congregation.  Some expressed frustration that without a settled minister and with so much disruption in our ability to make plans, the congregation was not growing; some congregants felt personally that their spiritual needs were not being met.  
Many comments were aimed toward the future—particularly the details of a business plan should UCH begin to organize the Chalice Center.  Congregants wanted to know exactly how space rental would work between UCH and other organizations including: storage spaces; scheduling; and necessary administrative actions (such as insurance, property management, etc).  A number of people suggested that benchmarks be set up, that periodic re-assessment will need to be made, and that some sort of limit be set up in order to know whether the project should be considered to have failed.  
Some people wanted to know what would happen if the proposal fails.


Many participants were concerned about the preservation of a spiritual home at Market Street, as well as the relationship of the Church with the Allison Hill neighborhood.
Anxiety about the relationship between the two campuses of the Church was a prominent theme.  Participants mentioned the possibility of splitting the Church or consolidating at Market Street by selling the Clover Lane campus. Another opinion was that neither campus could survive on its own. One congregant personally felt more connected and loyal to the Allison Hill neighborhood than to UCH. Another participant worried that establishing Market Street as a center for “outreach” would further marginalize Market Street, and believes that this campus has not been a priority for UCH. Others spoke about a need for community among congregants across campuses.  Some suggested that “Second Sunday in the City” be re-established as a way to bring the entire congregation together.  Another congregant noted that Church-wide meetings had not generally taken place at Market Street, but are held at Clover Lane. 
Another thought we needed occasions to gather all together that would promote joy.
Some participants liked the plan to develop a Chalice Center, and saw it as a way to build interfaith alliances and “communities across communities.”  Others cautioned that while the plan was good, it would depend on the will of members to support it.  An idea to make the Center a place where more systematic approach to social justice could be pursued—organization of advocacy with a progressive religious voice—was floated. Another member thought that the advantage of the Chalice Center would be to share, rather than increase, efforts in social justice work.  There were also a variety of concerns related to the workability of the Chalice Center, including: parking; maintenance and capital improvement; ADA compliance; who might rent space from UCH and what vetting and scheduling procedures would be required; and the need for administrative personnel.  Some suggestions to address these concerns were also offered. Participants pointed to the need for a business plan.

Others felt that worship should be the central issue.  Many congregants felt that service time at 9:30 is too early, and this is a turn-off for families, neighbors, and themselves.   Many suggestions on scheduling were offered, including the idea to offer one morning and one afternoon service.  Others addressed the problem of establishing RGL at Market Street.  Some participants emphasized the need for a worship style that would be more inviting to neighbors, one that should be less intellectual, and more heart-centered.  More ministerial presence at Market Street was called for.  Some congregants also discussed growth—whether a membership drive should be done, whether people feel comfortable joining the Church when it is in a time of uncertain direction; whether growth should be pursued before retention is normalized, and how volunteer effort to promote membership was being exhausted.  

Some people wondered what happens if the proposal fails.

APRIL 11, 2016

Many participants saw a lot of advantages and possibilities for a Chalice Center.  A worship and community center would exploit the success and contacts that UCH has already developed in the Allison Hill community.  Sharing expenses and social justice work is attractive, and the development of intentional mission and planning on the part of UCH may offer a road to unifying the congregation.  A number of suggestions were offered on other connections that UCH might make to market or organize the center: the Non-profit Association of Camp Hill; CONTACT Harrisburg; VISTA; the use of the center as an ‘outstation’ for groups like the YWCA.  Closer ties with other organizations would offer opportunities to market the Center and perhaps share fundraising efforts.  The Chalice Center could develop into a “one stop shop” that would help neighbors tap into a range of services.  Also, the development of a lively center at Market Street may increase neighborhood safety.  One person pointed out that whether they were officially members or not, many people in the Allison Hill neighborhood who come to our programs think of the Market Street Church as ‘theirs.’

Many participants also emphasized the hard work and dedication it would take to make the Chalice Center a success.  While “the idea is good,” the difficulty of supplying enough volunteer time and money will be “daunting”.  One participant thought that “the work will get done” when we make a definite decision, and continue to work toward reconciliation.  

Some participants are concerned that the proposal does not sufficiently address the relationship between Clover Lane and Market Street.  One person said that although it at first looked like the campuses should split, the financial realities indicate that this is not practicable.  Others wondered whether the involvement of UCH members should be stronger in GTS, or how GTS figures into the proposal.  A suggestion to increase the intentionality of the relationship by travelling between locations was proposed.  A few people wanted more details on how UCH would develop more shared community.  
Members discussed the need for a business plan, and the details of making the proposal workable.  Who would likely renters be, and how would they be vetted?  Would this raise further security concerns?  Have the appropriate inspections (of the electrical system, etc) been performed?  When will the building be handicapped accessible?  We would need a business manager; one useful model of getting renters is to offer commissions to a rental agent.  Some people questioned whether “Chalice Center” was an appropriate name.  The business plan, once developed, would require periodic re-assessment.  We should not begin with too high expectations, but bite off what we can chew a piece at a time.  
Some people wondered what would happen if the proposal fails.

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