Local Unitarians will have a permanent place to worship

After bouncing around for a few years and being shot down in its attempt to build a church in Edna Valley, the region’s Unitarians have a permanent home, close to central San Luis Obispo.

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Luis Obispo County has bought the former Church of Christ property at 2201 Lawton St. in San Luis Obispo. Part of the property borders South Street between Meadow Park and Broad Street.

In a unanimous vote on Nov. 20, the 190-member congregation agreed to proceed with the purchase of the 40-year-old church and an adjacent residence. The purchase price was $1.5 million.

Gina Whitaker, the fellowship’s social responsibility circle coordinator, called the purchase “a piece of good news to start off the new year.”

“We are very pleased to have a settled home again,” said Chris Cummings, the fellowship’s board president. “With its central location and flexible spaces, the new church will be a great resource for our congregation and for the larger community.”

Andy Pease, a member of the congregation and project manager for the team overseeing the project, said the 8,400-square-foot building will meet the group’s needs with minor renovations and repairs.

The congregation currently is meeting in a rented space at 2074 Parker St. in San Luis Obispo.

The move to Lawton Street is scheduled for March.

The new location will end years of turmoil during which congregants sought a place to worship. In 2005 parishioners bought 2.75 acres at 6445 Edna Road.

The church went through the permit process, changing its design in order to meet county requirements, and received the approval of the county Board of Supervisors.

However, a neighbor, Philip Da Silva, sued to stop them, complaining about traffic and drainage, among other things.

Ultimately, the fellowship withdrew its application for the Edna Valley site.

It will now sell that land.

Established locally in 1952, the fellowship is known for its social activism, especially on issues of homelessness, marriage equality, and immigration reform.

It says it is a “strong ally” of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, and is a founding member of the Central Coast Clergy and Laity for Justice, an interfaith alliance promoting peace and justice for all.

The congregation describes itself as belonging to “a spiritually-diverse and welcoming faith tradition, rooted in Christian and Jewish beliefs and drawing from the world’s great religious traditions, science and nature, and contemporary thought.”