Plans for the new United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz - the first church in the country to be designed from the ground up as an environmentally friendly facility – have hit another logjam.
"The last time we looked at a projected start date of construction, we were hoping for June or July of this year (2008). Now it's December, our construction documents are being reviewed, and we are waiting for construction permits. Once those are secured, we will still not commence," says the church's pastor, the Rev. Michael Love.
"Our financial situation is a reflection of the larger economic reality faced by our neighbors and communities everywhere," he explains. "Rallying our assets to faithfully begin the new building project has become linked to the health of the economy. Other congregations have been in this place, so we are mindful that this is not an unfamiliar trek."
Love says the leaders of the church are exploring innovative solutions such as foundation- sponsored grants for green buildings, and potential community partnerships for building usage. Preliminary conversations with the Red Cross and the local free clinic sponsored by the Rotary Club have been promising, he reports.
The church is the result of the merging of three congregations—Live Oak, Grace, and Santa Cruz—in 2003. When a new building was under consideration, Love says church leadership decided right away that it should be "an expression of our core United Methodist values, values rooted in the Wesley tradition and in our Christian faith. We take seriously that 'the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof' and so building a facility that reflected stewardship of the earth was important.”
UMC of Santa Cruz will incorporate solar panels, windows that take greater advantage of sunlight, and several other features to reduce reliance on electricity, along with eco-friendly materials and water conservation techniques. When completed it will house several ministries, including a community center designed especially to serve the community’s children.
Despite the many project delays, the church has been growing its membership. Love says he sees God's hand in it all.
"We know that God has given us this longer route to travel that we might gain more strength as a community of faith and service. And this we endeavor to do. Even as we are called to a place of waiting in the physical building project, we are called to action in the building of the body of Christ," he says.
Love adds, "We surely keep you in our prayers and ask for yours as well."