Two years after launching Unitarian Universalist Church of Merced in their living room, Claire Osborne, the co-founder along with her husband Mark, is looking to expand and offer new programs at the church.
The church has grown from a handful of members who met at the Osborne house and those of various friends to about 20 members who meet on the second and fourth Sunday of each month at the Unity Church of Merced, 305 W. 26th Street.
She said they began renting from the church at the beginning of the year.
The mother of three boys said she and her husband tried many churches in search of one that would fit both their needs. And she said they found they'd disagree over which one to attend.
"My husband liked one, I didn't," she recalled.
As the church has grown, Osborne said its outreach has as well.
"We have a children's program now, a religious education children's program, and it's all about learning about the UU principles and the values of other churches and other religions," she said.
The values are common sense values, she added. For example, "We believe each and every person is important, and we believe that all people should be treated fairly."
They've been feeding the homeless, for example. During the holiday season, the children will also participate in offering holiday bags for prison inmates. And the education also extends to 3-year-olds and up in their nursery care services.
She also added there is a very active book club for members.
"We are going to be offering adult education programs/workshops," the native of southwest England, who has lived in Merced for 14 years, added.
It's a church for everyone, she said, "You don't have to recite anything or have strict belief."
"This church doesn't have a strict doctrine, so basically you bring yourself to the church," said Osborne, who works as a therapist at Mercy Medical Center Merced. "You could have a Buddhist sitting next to a Catholic sitting next to an atheist. You bring yourself to the church."
Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.