Here at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley our theme of the month is sanctuary. We will be delving into this rich theme throughout October in worship, and many of the break-out sessions during Reverse RE Sunday on October 14 will explore different aspects of sanctuary as well.
But sanctuary isn’t just something we are interested in one month out of the year; it’s one of our deep purposes as a congregation. Last year we voted to become a Sanctuary Congregation, and last Monday many of us had a potluck dinner together with the Cabezas family, whom our Sanctuary Team is supporting as they navigate our country’s complex immigration system.
Alongside this important work as a Sanctuary Congregation, as a community of faith we exist in part to be a kind of sanctuary to everyone – to offer peace, welcome, support, and solace for all people of goodwill who come through our doors. This part of who we are and what we’re meant to do and be together came through especially strongly in our mission and vision process last year, so much so that it informed a few of our Ends Statements (our shared goals as a community), namely: “We invite people of goodwill to make a spiritual home with us” and “People rely on UUCB in times of need.”
We’ve been hearing from many of you about the seemingly infinite number of requests you receive from worthy causes for money, time, and energy. The same is true for our congregation; there are so many things we could do in the service of our values, so many ways we could live into our vision together. Yet the power that comes when we unite in shared focus and purpose can become diluted if we try to do everything. That’s why it’s so important for us to make decisions thoughtfully and carefully about what we focus on and what projects we undertake together.
Later this month our congregation will have an opportunity to make one such significant decision. For decades this congregation has owned and enjoyed the Freestone retreat property in Sonoma County. Over those years it’s become a beloved and sacred place for many in our congregation, especially those church members who helped build it in the beginning and the generations of youth who went there for Coming of Age retreats. Unfortunately the property has also been difficult for the congregation to maintain. Before we became your ministers two years ago, the Board was forced to limit the extent to which the property could be used due to safety and liability concerns. As a result, last spring the Board proposed a motion to the congregation to sell the Freestone property.
We hope everyone will consider carefully whether you feel the Freestone property (and the required time, energy, and money it would take to renovate it for full use into the future) is an integral part of our purpose as a congregation. And we encourage every voting member of the congregation to participate in the meeting on Sunday, October 21 after worship where you can vote and help make this important and tender decision.
Whatever the outcome of the vote, our hope is that we continue to live fully into our shared purpose as a congregation so that the flame of liberal religion keeps burning brightly in a world and community that need it, now more than ever.
Reverends Kristin and Christian