by ROGER HARLEY
A member of our community, sits on the Venue Committee.
When Lesley and I first encountered Unitarianism in 1995 it was at King Edward Street Chapel in Macclesfield. This is a simple and beautiful 17th century chapel with which we fell in love immediately. I remember being really shocked when listening to discussions on the vastly expensive and compulsory repairs – it is a listed building - when someone suggested that we sell the chapel and acquire a simple meeting room instead. Only much later did I understand that the members and the local community are the most important elements, and that you could say that the meeting house is just that, a space for meeting in.
Having said that, I believe that the surroundings during our meetings do make a difference. I once read that old religious buildings seem to acquire a 'patina' of worship, or reverence, that is built up over the decades and centuries that they have been used, and I know exactly what that means. The prayers, good thoughts and wishes permeate the fabric of the building and resonate during our worship there.
We are extremely lucky at St Mark’s that we have this old and beautiful building. It is a huge attraction for people wishing to get married, or welcome a child, and some of those people are also entranced by Unitarianism and stay, exactly as Lesley and I did in Macclesfield.
Our church is not only an attraction for bringing in new members, it is also an income generator for supporting our community. During 2015 the building generated £15,700. This went a good way towards the £30,000 cost of servicing and maintaining our building. Without this income we would not be in the relatively stable financial state that we are. This income does not automatically appear. It takes hard work by committed members of our community, and other excellent folk employed by us specifically to look after the building, and manage the events which take place here.
The recent and very successful building improvement project has given us three very attractive spaces to let out to groups with very different requirements. From weekly meetings of a group of hobbyists, to rehearsal space for an acting company, and of course as an established, and in-demand venue for the festival fringe, and, this year the book festival too, the building is working hard for us.
The recent changes to the Unitarians in Edinburgh website were partially motivated by the need to advertise the space we have, to continue to generate the income we need. We are just one venue in a city with many such spaces, and we are in competition for customers. The first place most people will start to look is on the internet, and this website revision has hopefully kept our shop window looking fresh and attractive.