The Unitarian Church in Davis has put its faith into practice on sustainability for many years – and is an active member of the Cool Davis initiative. In 2005, the UUCD embarked on the important and daunting task of becoming a Green Sanctuary: a church whose members truly live with “respect for the interdependent web of which we are a part.”

Becoming a Green Sanctuary, a program sponsored by the national Unitarian Universalist Association,  required the church to form an on-going oversight committee, do an extensive audit of the church’s buildings, grounds, and practices, and develop twelve projects including the subject areas of worship, religious education, sustainability and eco-justice.

“A number of us in the Church recognized that Earth’s systems were in peril from human activities, and that as people of faith, we face a moral and spiritual crisis of utmost importance.” (Judy Moores)

All members of the congregation had to be involved in one or more projects and the church had to reach out to other churches and groups and involve them in an on-going eco-justice project. In February of 2007, the UU Church of Davis was accredited as an official Green Sanctuary, and recognized at the annual national UUA Convention. In spring of 2007, the City of Davis recognized the pioneering environmental work of our church with an Environmental Award to the church.

The church on becoming a Green Sanctuary has not been content to sit on its laurels. They acknowledge that  “action-plan that we completed was just the beginning of our work to integrate environmental awareness, sustainable practices, and environmental justice into our church community, our personal lives, and our wider communities.”

Each year they dedicate at least two services to environmental topics stressing our responsibility to take care of our planet. They also organize a day (and month) each year when they encourage the congregation to walk, bike, or carpool to our rural church. While the event has been somewhat different each year, it usually brings together 100-150 adults and children for an old-fashioned picnic with a “Veggie Cook-off”, demonstrations of earth-friendly practices, entertainment and lots of good vegetarian food. Each year the event has gotten closer to zero-waste.

The Green Sanctuary committee also sponsors various educational initiatives including a number of Northwest Institute classes for adults on Global Warming, Voluntary Simplicity, etc., and David Gershon’s Low Carbon Diet along with annual workshops to teach canning techniques and to make earth-friendly cleaning supplies and body care products, and as a small fund-raiser, sold metal water bottles, Chico bags, and cloth grocery bags.  Many of the annual Religious Education programs for children include a nature component.

“When we face our fears, and what better place to do so than in a loving supportive faith community, we find hope and the will to meet the challenges of the climate crisis before us.” (Judy Moores)

The Church has not stopped at Davis but also been part of a push across California to take more effective action against climate change. Unitarians have collected signatures and organized letter writing campaigns for a number of issues, For example, in 2010, when our landmark CA AB32 Climate Action bill was subject to recall, the GS committee worked with the California UU Legislative Ministry to collect signatures both at church and beyond. Similarly, the UUCD currently supports CA AB685 (Eng), the Human Right to Water Bill.

Judy Moores, who has co-chaired the Green Sanctuary committee since it formed, references Rev. Michael Dowd, an environmentalist and author who spoke at the UU Church of Davis as an inspiration for their work. Dowd commented that “We are the living manifestations of the stardust formed at the beginning of the Universe, we have a “cosmic loyalty” or duty not only to minimize our negative impacts on other manifestations, but also to open the minds and hearts of as many people as we can to this profound insight.”

The church is determined to put sustainability at the heart of its future. It has just  raised enough money to build a Social Hall with a much-needed large meeting space, a commercial type kitchen, and accessible bathrooms as well as renovate aspects of our Meeting Hall/Sanctuary, which was built in 1967-68, for energy efficiency and accessibility.

From the first visioning meeting on, the congregation indicated that it wanted the building project to be as “green” as possible. The building is being built to Cal Green standards. As part of our “green efforts,” demolition material was separated and most of it recycled or reused in some way. For example, the contractor has saved the concrete flooring so that it can be crushed and reused. Volunteers sorted out all redwood timbers and boards for reuse, and several hanging light fixtures were donated to the Habitat for Humanity Restore. Meanwhile by early 2012, the GS Committee expects to be ready to apply for National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat. This is a very important project as the church’s 6+ acres, which supports a fair amount of wildlife, is about to be become an island surrounded by development.

Judy says, “When we first started our GS work in 2005, it was scary. The demands of the program seemed overwhelming and the congregation members with few exceptions were not particularly tuned global warming. But when I called the first meeting, fifteen dedicated, knowledgeable folks turned up, and the basic work got done in about 15 months.

Since we started our GS Committee the state of planet, increased greenhouse gas emissions, species extinction and other environmental issues have become more ominous. Fortunately, our state and local governments are working hard to meet some of the challenges, but they need grassroots efforts of support to champion their work.

We are pleased that other faith groups and many non-profits in our area are now also working for the health of Earth. We know that our UUCD Green Sanctuary work is not a fait accompli, but rather the prelude to challenges that grow with each passing month and year. There is much to be afraid of in the world today. However, when we face our fears, and what better place to do so than in a loving supportive faith community, we find hope and the will to meet the challenges of the climate crisis before us.”