Moving across town to make way for a new shopping center, members of the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church will have a July 14 groundbreaking ceremony at their new home in front of the Federal Building on Oak Ridge Turnpike.
Church members announced in late February that they had purchased a 4.6-acre parcel at Oak Ridge Turnpike and Laboratory Road in front of the Joe L. Evins Federal Building, which is used by the U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge Office. They plan to be in a new building there by Thanksgiving 2014.
“Not only will our new building support the ongoing mission of our church in bigger and better ways, its functional spaces will enhance our outreach to the larger Oak Ridge community even more in the future than we have over the last 61 years,” the Rev. Jake Morrill said in a Friday morning press release. “This is a congregation with a heart for service.”
For more than six decades, the congregation of 260 members has been in a heavily used church at the intersection of Oak Ridge Turnpike and Robertsville Road. But in a deal arranged by commercial developers Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial, the church agreed in September to sell that 3.6-acre site to make way for a new Kroger Marketplace shopping center in the heart of the city.
The groundbreaking ceremony starts at 5 p.m. July 14 at 809 Oak Ridge Turnpike, the ORUUC said in a Friday morning press release. The public is invited to attend, and there will be a 5:30 p.m. potluck dinner after the groundbreaking ceremony at the current church at 1500 Oak Ridge Turnpike. Barbecue and buns will be provided, the press release said, but those who attend are invited to bring a side dish to share.
The church’s current property could be used as outparcels, or small lots, at the new $30 million shopping center, which has been named the Westcott Center in honor of Ed Westcott, the official government photographer in Oak Ridge during the top-secret Manhattan Project during World War II.
ORUUC has been located at the Robertsville Road site—a serene, wooded tract in the center of Oak Ridge—since 1956.
The church said it continues to grow in membership and impact, including through a community ministry, such as Ecumenical Storehouse and Tabitha’s Table, while adding ministries such as its own “Stone Soup” meals program, which feeds an average of 100 people on the last Friday of each month. ORUUC has a long-established “Mighty Choir,” to which Music Director Wendel Werner has added well-attended public events, such as the community sing by Ysaye Barnwell, and a music-based outreach ministry, sending members out to local retirement centers and nursing homes to serve people through song, the press release said.
The 25-acre Kroger shopping center could open early in 2014 at one of the city’s busiest intersections at Oak Ridge Turnpike and Illinois Avenue. It will feature a 113,000-square-foot Kroger Marketplace and 12,000 square feet of small shop space, as well as four to five small lots with unidentified tenants.
The Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church congregation was established in 1950, launched its first building campaign in 1956, and finished a project in 1997 that expanded its current building by almost one-third and added a sanctuary.
For more information about the groundbreaking ceremony or the potluck dinner, call the ORUUC office at (865) 483-6761.