the OUUC spark

December 8, 2022

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Our Refuge, a Faith in Action Perspective - Rev. Sara Lewis

This month’s theme is “Refuge”.

Refuge comes from Old French, meaning a hiding place, a shelter from danger or distress, and before that from the Latin fugere “to flee”. Now I mostly see the word “refuge” used in terms of wildlife habitat preservation, as wildlife refuges. These are places for animals to flee as they lose other habitat they can live in. A refuge may be a choice of last resort, in the face of great loss. People, as well, may be refugees … those seeking a refuge … as a choice of last resort in the face of great loss.

I am struck by the thought, though, that shrinking our idea of “refuge” down into smaller and smaller places, places for remnants to remain as a last resort, forgets one of the most profound truths of life as we know it, namely that Earth itself is the only shelter we know of. Earth is our refuge in the face of a vast universe where we know of no other home where we could live. The Earth is already a refuge, a shelter from danger and distress. And this refuge, our Earth home, needs us all to care for it and to form the refuge of community and relationship.

This realization, of the specialness and the fragility of our earth home, has struck those who have seen the Earth from space. The actor William Shatner reported feeling that way after his trip to space, saying that he was shaken by his view of the earth, and realizing it is “so fragile”. This is called the Overview Effect, a term coined in 1987 by author Frank White, and defined by him as a cognitive shift as we come to understand that the Earth itself is in space. It is a reframing of our reference point, that the world is not endless and cannot be taken for granted. It is finite, it is unique, and it is potentially fragile.

There will be a need for smaller refuges as well, but how can we make the whole Earth a refuge for life? How can we at OUUC extend refuge from where we are out into the larger community, the larger humanity, the larger interdependent web of life, and ultimately all of our Earth home? Bit by bit, of course. Here are a few of the ripples of refuge we have recently sent from OUUC:

We have raised money through our Book Sale to benefit local organizations, sharing our time, talent, and treasure to help build a strong community and promote food security, LGBTQ acceptance and support, and climate change resiliency. We have also donated through Share the Plate, most recently to the Free Clinic and Books for Prisoners, helping to create refuges of healing and of education.

We have also collected supplies, most recently warm items for unsheltered folks to have a useful holiday gift and gift cards for our neighborhood elementary school, helping to create the refuge of a warm and cheerful holiday for others.

Here is the OUUC Community Kitchen crew with our donations of comfort and joy:

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And we have advocated for changes that would make the world a better refuge. We signed on to a call to remove the Snake River Dams as a congregation, and many of us have also written individual letters calling for the dam removals. This change would create greater refuge for the salmon, but also for all of us that are linked with the salmon and with the rest of our pacific northwest ecosystem, including the indigenous people who first lived on these lands and fished these waterways.

Another recent letter writing campaign was led by our new Anti Racism Team and supported the call of the Washington Coalition for Police Accountability to ask the Olympia City Council and the Olympia Police Department to adopt the Attorney General’s model use of force policy in full. This change would create greater refuge of care, accountability, and freedom from police overreach and violence in our community.

Here you can see the leaves that were hung for each person who wrote a letter, in the “Leaves for Love” letter writing campaign.

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These ripples I highlight were joined by the ripples of individual actions many of you may have also taken recently, moved by your UU faith and values. And there is, of course, much more we can do. If you are moved to continue the work of creating ever greater refuge, here are a few things you could do this month:

Congregant Reflection: Curtis Tanner reflects on last month's theme of Acountability

On Accountability - Curtis Tanner

Wednesday Volunteer Opportunity

M'Eliz and Sally's Wednesday Dinner Community Kitchen (mostly OUUC) team at the Salvation Army team is looking for volunteers to expand our teams! We cover every Wednesday except the 2nd.

Kitchen staff create the main dish and we put together veggies, salad, fruit, bread, and dessert for that night's dinner. The Community Kitchen is not serving meals indoors at this time, so the

volunteer team assembles individual meals in containers that are handed to the clients outside.

  • We serve 100 - 200 dinners each night.

  • TEAM A (cook & serve) 1st, 3rd, and 5th Wednesdays - 3 - 6:30 pm cook and serve

  • TEAM B (serve only) 4th Wednesday - 4:30 - 6:30

Contact M'Eliz or Sally if you would like more information or to sign up!

Sally Brennand

M'Eliz Maata

None of our actions will, by itself, create a living refuge, a beloved community, for our whole Earth. But every little bit moves us forward. Throw your stubborn measure of strength, even if it is just an ounce, even if we only move an inch. But still throw your strength in with mine, and let us try. And in this way, perhaps we will find another kind of refuge, a refuge of faith and hope and community, against the dangers of despair, apathy, and hopelessness.


Looking for upcoming events? Go to the OUUC Calendar.