Rooms are named as work continues on UCC’s new Cleveland offices

The naming of conference rooms is the latest update as the United Church of Christ prepares for its summer move to new office spaces in downtown Cleveland.

Tom Pritchard, chief engineer of the build-out of the UCC offices, points out a construction detail to Associate General Minister Traci Blackmon during an April 20 visit to 1300 E. 9th Street, Cleveland. Photo by Hans Holznagel

Names of six rooms on the 11th floor at 1300 E. 9th Street will come from the Bible and UCC history.

The executive conference room, named “Amistad,” will honor an important event in racial-justice history and the UCC’s connection to it. Five others will be called “Faith,” “Hope,” “Love,” “Justice” and “Peace.”

How names were chosen

Associate General Minister Traci Blackmon said the church’s national officers felt there were at least three reasons why “Amistad” was a fitting name for the largest conference room on the floor:

  • It honors the historic Amistad rebellion of 1839, in which UCC forebears became allies of enslaved Africans who successfully fought for their own freedom.
  • It signals, at once, the denomination’s commitment to racial justice and the new offices’ continuity with past national UCC office sites.
  • It will contain tangible reminders of the recently closed Amistad Chapel, which was on the ground floor of the past UCC office building at 700 Prospect Avenue, now up for sale. Coming from the chapel itself are Iroko wood for the room’s large conference table and ceiling lighting to be placed above it.

Amistad etchings on its doors will visibly mark the conference room.

Viewing progress on what will become the Amistad Conference Room are (from left) UCC staffer Denise Pittman, project engineer Tom Pritchard, Associate General Minister Traci Blackmon and General Minister and President John Dorhauer. Photo by Hans Holznagel, April 20, 2022.

For the other conference rooms, the officers sought the naming wisdom of UCC national staff members. They invited the staff to suggest sets of five names. Sixteen sets came in, ranging from the names of individuals from the Bible and UCC history to the names of displaced Indigenous peoples.

Then staff members voted. And though almost all of the 16 choices received at least one vote, the winner was clear.

‘Greatest of these’

Digital Marketing and Communications Strategist Laurel Steinetz, who suggested the winning five, took inspiration for three of them from 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” The other two are from an oft-quoted line in the UCC Statement of Faith: “courage in the struggle for justice and peace.”

But in keeping with the New Testament epistle, the greatest — literally, the largest of the five conference rooms — is Love. Steinetz’s inspiration was described this way in a digital staff bulletin board post announcing the news:

  • Faith: “This room is near Justice and Local Church Ministries, which includes the Faith INFO Team. JLCM is also one of the ministry teams that works very closely with the basic unit of our denomination (and our shared faith), the local church.”
  • Hope: “This room is near Wider Church Ministries, which includes the Global H.O.P.E. Team.” WCM also “works very closely with our interfaith, ecumenical and global partners” — a sign “of the hope we have for the world God imagines for us.”
  • Love: Besides being the largest, “it is also closest to the elevators, so it might be used most frequently for meetings that include folks outside of the national-setting staff. What better way to welcome guests than by inviting them to be immersed in ‘Love!'”
  • Peace: “This room is near the worship space, which is a place we can go for solitary or collective worship of our Creator, finding peace that surpasses all understanding.”
  • Justice: “This room is close to a lot of the open offices, pod offices and the break room. It’s the closest to the places where folks come together to work or fellowship on equal/equitable ground, in contrast to the offices that are otherwise assigned to someone.”

The UCC will also have access to larger conference rooms shared by all tenants of the 21-story building. They are near the lobby on the ground floor.

Construction progress

There will be other gathering places on the 11th floor as well: “huddle” spaces, a high-tech “mission central” room, a dedicated room for worship and meditation, and more.

The Rev. Traci Blackmon views early painting work at 1300 E. 9th Street, Cleveland, on April 20. Photo by Hans Holznagel

Construction progress was visible April 20 as a staff design team walked through the 11th floor. Most drywall was up, painting was underway, and tile had even appeared on some special walls, including one in the worship space. Electrical boxes were ready for lights and video screens in some rooms.

The team also visited the 16th floor, future home of the Cornerstone Fund and the Church Building & Loan Fund, and the basement, where a video studio, UCC Resources and the UCC Archives will be.

And though dates could change, an April 25 edition of a staff newsletter asked 11th-floor employees to hold June 6 through 10 as likely dates to unpack in their new offices. Move-in dates in the basement were estimated to be June 27 through July 1.

“I am confident that the space that is being prepared for the national setting of the United Church of Christ is right-sized, and inclusive of technology,” said Blackmon, who headed the design team for the space and monitoring its build-out. “It will enable us to be the church that is needed in our post-COVID reality. And it will aid us in continuing to imagine the church we are always becoming.

This article was updated on April 28, 2022, to include, with her permission, the name of the employee who suggested the winning set of five conference room names.

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Categories: United Church of Christ News

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