As we begin our month focused on the theme of Sanctuary, I am reflecting on how we repeatedly offer sanctuary to one another as friends, as family, as a community and as a spiritual home for difficult times. This month we begin our new LGBTQ youth group, offering sanctuary to youth who have a hard time finding a safe space to be themselves in the Conejo Valley. The following week, many of you are planning to join us for our new 4 session monthly Adult Ed class “Cultivating Joy and Resilience in Challenging Times.” This class will teach practical tools for finding sanctuary within yourselves and in this community as we navigate these challenging times. Email Dianna at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to participate. As we embrace this month, I invite us to explore what it means to offer sanctuary to others and how we may find it within too, no matter what our challenges may be.
Speaking of Sanctuary, it was heartening last month to attend the first ever Conejo Pride Festival and see so many of our members involved in volunteering and offering a sanctuary of sorts for the LGBTQ+ population here in Thousand Oaks. I wanted to share a letter we received from one of our members who was involved with the Conejo Pride Festival, as it eloquently expresses how our community supported this occasion. Here’s to offering and finding Sanctuary with one another!
In faith and joy,
P.S. Please read on – this letter below is so affirming of who we are and what we do….
Dear CVUUF members,
Thank you for supporting the Conejo Pride event last Saturday with your time, talent, and treasure. Almost one year ago, I and a few other members asked if our Fellowship could support the first Conejo Pride somehow. I had no idea what that would look like or how we would go about it. What happened was everybody got involved and everywhere I turned at the event, I saw our members. The amount of enthusiastic participation was truly amazing. During the entire event, I felt as if I was enveloped in the love of a larger family, my CVUUF family. And that was indeed a very new way for me to enjoy Pride.
I have been to at least twenty Pride events over the years, and some were large and some were small. This was the first time that I was at a Pride event from start to finish. At the last minute, my original plans fell through, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to be a part of the event. Monika unhesitatingly invited me to help with our CVUUF booth even though she already had everything planned and organized. She made me feel welcome and like a partner in the enterprise. I arrived early, three hours before the gates opened and helped set up our OUT of the Closet booth for giving away donated clothing to anyone, who perhaps wanted to try on a new gender identity.
I had a wonderful time greeting the many youth walking past our booth and inviting them to browse through all of the generously donated blouses, jeans, dresses, blazers, accessories, and boots. I was able to share information about our newly forming LGBTQ youth group that will be starting on the first Thursday evening of October. I even had the opportunity to answer questions about our Fellowship.
Throughout the day, I was joined by one member of our Fellowship after another for scheduled shifts. When I walked through the event to greet my many friends from the LGBT community, I saw members of our Fellowship at every turn. Some were working at other booths, some were tending the main stage with sound that never faltered, some were volunteering in the children’s area, and some were sweating mightily at the front gates taking tickets. Many hands made light work as we restocked and reorganized our wares. When everything was cleared out and packed up around six pm, I had a heartfelt talk with our own Leann Walters, who was a member of the Conejo Pride committee, about what a successful inaugural event it was. I had a full and fabulous day being proud of not just being a lesbian, but of being a member of this beautiful CVUUF community.
This was my first experience participating in a big public event with our Fellowship, and there is nothing like it to reinforce my feeling of belonging. I highly recommend joining such an event for new members, and I look forward to participating in many more.
~ Erica Escalante