Our Beloved White Elephant
Our Building History and the Live Oak Mission
The famous Chicago architect Daniel Burnham said in 1910: “Make no little plans.”
In the past 3 ½ years, I have become very familiar with every nook and cranny of the church buildings. As I am stepping back from leading the Buildings & Grounds Team, I thought I would share with you my theory on the history of our buildings. Rev. Joanna explained to me that Baptist churches build their structures with a strong emphasis on education. That got me to thinking about how did the church buildings morph into what we have today. Let me offer a theory on how we arrived at the current structure.
1986 – The church building was constructed
Class rooms were located on the first and second floors. As best I can determine, there was no large fellowship type hall. But with an industrial kitchen on the first floor, I wonder if the sanctuary and the narthex also served as the large meeting area.
I imagine that the structure quickly became too small. So temporary buildings were added
1 – Classroom #1 – Acorn building (This temporary building is no longer on our property.)
2 – Classroom #2 – Sauber building
3 – Classroom #3
4 – Classroom #4
1993 – The school building was constructed
This building provided the Baptist congregation many needed classrooms to fulfill their mission. Most likely around this time, the temporary buildings 3&4 were combined into the one building and called “Common Ground”. It served as large hall for gatherings needing space bigger than a classroom. The Acorn building was then made into offices for a growing staff.
2001 – The Fellowship Hall was constructed
Common Ground became the youth center.
2003 – Live Oak purchased the church
Members quickly discovered there was more space than was needed. In fact, the congregation was worried about supporting the larger structure. They made a decision not to install an elevator most likely because the second floor school building was unused space. At one time, Live Oak church owned a strip mall and there was a source for income through the rental of business space. So naturally, when they saw the additional unused space in the buildings, the rental income model was continued. When I became chair of the Facilities Team, I addressed the congregation on our future. And in doing so, I explained that the increase of church programming would put pressure on the need for space. Therefore, the congregation should plan for a decrease in rental income.
Historically, this congregation has never been able to self support the maintenance of our large structure without rental income. The Capital Campaign has changed everything. The Live Oak congregation has committed substantial funds for our future. There is talk of changes that will be needed when an elevator is installed. The entire building accessibility needs to be assessed. With the selection of an architect, we need to look at how we envision the use of the entire structure. How does the elevator play into our vision or is it just a piece of equipment that moves a few people with limited mobility from one floor to another?
Recently I spoke to a new member and he told me about how Bethany Methodist church has changed over the years with the addition of buildings. Their most recent problem has been incorporating the “boxes” (separate buildings) into a coordinated facility. And that is why I thought about this history of the Live Oak buildings.
All this is interesting to think about when planning our future. What does Live Oak want from a building and how does the building structure fit into our Mission? These are exciting times for the People of the Live Oak. Recently a number of serious structural problems have been addressed. (Parking lot, property drainage, office configuration, HVAC units, new LED sign, and exterior painting) And now we are thinking about our future.
How do you envision our physical structure being supportive to our mission?
In summary, we need to think of our beloved “white elephant” as being important in fulfilling our Mission. Here is a suggested way to think about our planning for the future:
Spaces where people come together in worship, music, discussion, and fellowship.
A building that accommodates people of all generations, abilities, and orientations.
A center for lifespan education of church members and our neighboring community.
The Unitarian Universalist Liberal Religious Center in the greater Austin area.
Since I have only been a member for 10 years, I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on the history of the building and how best to use it to fulfill our Mission. It would be great to hear the thoughts and expectations of newer members about our future. Please send me an email message at: firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you, Tim Buckley