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On the Move

The Unitarian Universalist Association is moving. Well, that’s slightly misleading – the UUA is just the name we give to ourselves, all of us Unitarian Universalists and our congregations, as we work together. So of course, at any given time a great many of us are in motion. But we do have a national office, and that office is in Boston, at 25 Beacon Street (with two other adjacent buildings and another nearby). And in not too long, it won’t be.

They aren’t moving far: just off Beacon Hill and over to 24 Farnsworth Street in the Seaport District, conveniently close to the Boston Children’s Museum. The current property will be sold to fund the new. If you’ve never been to 25 Beacon before, all of this probably sounds like rather bland news – but people can grow attached to places they feel are important. I am one of those people, and 25 is one of those places.

The first time I visited our headquarters, I was 14, on a trip to Boston with the Coming of Age class from my home congregation. One of a gaggle of young Unitarian Universalists, coming to see the mothership for the first time. It seemed old in a way that felt unfamiliar and important; the church I grew up in was built in 1962 and looks the part. 25 Beacon was and is full of brown woodwork, irregular doorways, and paintings from before the electrical age. We were given a tour, I remember – I’ve taken that same tour several times since with other Coming of Age classes, as a youth advisor, and then a minister. I also worked in the basement of one of the UUA’s properties for a time. Their complex is right next to the statehouse – one of our ground-level windows looked out onto its lawn. On days when there were protests for or against something, we could hear every chant. Sometimes we went out to join in.

I have a deep appreciation for that place where great leaders of our faith have served, where great ideas and plans have been conceived and carried out, and where great work has been done for generations, supporting our congregations and our movement. When I heard about this plan to move, I was aghast. Where was our reverence for history? The administration is planning to move because their current space is small and crammed, with poor accessibility, zero flexibility, and technical barriers that are bad news for a modern office (such as a lack of high-speed internet). Compelling, pragmatic reasons, but not enough to sway my attachment to a place I consider sacred.

Change is a vital, essential element of living. Of the big changes, we can all expect to experience at least a few: the beginning of a relationship or its ending, a move to a new town or city, starting a job or finishing one, failing or succeeding at something we feel passionately about – the list goes on. There is a way of approaching change that is about escaping or abandoning the past: starting afresh, rejecting whatever was hard or painful in what has gone before. We can make it through life like that, but we will find less and less of ourselves there at the end of each transition. You can only the leave the pieces of yourself behind so many times before you run out. The alternative to this is to acknowledge that wherever we come to, we are always a product of our history. However jagged or rough the path that led us to now, it was our path. When we make peace enough with our own story to be able to live with it honestly, we may come to appreciate parts of it even more fully than when we were living them.

This is what finally won me over to the possibility of this new location for our association’s headquarters: the promise that the new space will include a dedicated space for the artifacts and stories that will be carried over from the previous buildings. From taking the tour so many times, as well as seeing behind the scenes, I know that much of the history of 25 lies below the surface – just as is the case in so many places. Paintings and plaques and memorabilia that were tucked away in inaccessible rooms or private offices can now be featured prominently, given a fuller context, and shared with far more visitors. Every change holds a loss, sometimes small and sometimes great, and we should never be quick to surrender precious things. But when the situation cannot remain or return to how it was, when our circumstances demand transformation, it can provide an opportunity to regather the scattered pieces of ourselves.


In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson

To learn more about the move, to share your remembrances of 25 Beacon, or to contribute towards the relocation effort, please go here.


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