I report a lot of what’s going on at VUU, but I wanted to tell you how much fun my family has been having exploring our metro area! This weekend we made it out to Papago Park and Hole in the Rock, which we’d driven by when we went to the Desert Botanical Gardens (a definite favorite place!) We also discovered an odd and fun little snack shop. John and I made it to Chase Field to see Elton John in concert (John hopes to get to some ball games next season!) With the cooler weather, we’ve had regular hikes at South Mountain and a few bike rides, too.
On Sunday, we had our second Social Justice Deep Dive and learned more about the work of Paz de Cristo and AZCEND, the organization that does iHELP in Chandler using our sanctuary and several others to house folks experiencing homelessness. We learned more about specific volunteer opportunities and how these organizations do their work. It was moving to hear how VUU folks have kept these commitments over time and how these organizations address direct needs in our community. Laura Rohlfing and Joanne McGrath as well as youth volunteer Simon Reynolds all shared about their work and invited us to join them in supporting these organizations. CEO Trinity Donovan from AZCEND shared the work of AZCEND and her deep gratitude for VUU’s generosity during the pandemic, when our sanctuary was literally the day and night shelter for folks in need for many months while we waited to safely re-open. I was proud to be your minister as I heard these stories and am excited to work with these partners.
We also had an OWL graduation (Our Whole Lives Sexuality curriculum) for the K-2 class. Some of the participants received their own commemorative stuffed owl at service.
I want to say how grateful I am for the folks who show up to set up our coffee hour, get the sanctuary ready, and run the tech booth every weekend. We need more volunteers to help make sure these tasks get done and the people doing them get a break, too! In addition, choir members, ensemble singers, band members and others arrive early to help rehearse and prepare for the service. Long before you arrive each morning, we are working to make VUU a place of vibrant welcome where we support each other, grow together and reach out to our neighbors with love and commitment to justice.
This week I have been attending an Industrial Areas Foundation organizing training, which has been an intense experience meeting folks from all over the Southwest and also New Zealand (!) who are working to build broad based organizing in their communities with other faith based organizations. I am learning a lot about building my own organizing and leadership capacities and building the capacity of VUU to do this work with other faith based organizations. We had a Delegates Assembly Wednesday night which VUU had a very strong attendance for with 16 of us there, led ably by Barb Quijada and Bill Elliott. VIP will be holding a leadership training on January 29 and will be inviting folks to join a couple of different research teams on affordable housing and behavioral health. We heard moving stories and committed to continuing our work together. I hope to see more of you engaging in this important work of building institutional power in order to transform our communities and the people within them.