“The Temple above the Clouds* Berkeley 1973-1995 – From Viet Nam to Misogi
To Robert Bellah, Feb 23, 1927 – July 30, 2013, author, “Civil Religion in America”
Prologue: This follows my earlier papers, PISTIOLOGY and FIDEOLOGY, “Faith as Trust.” The story of my efforts to apply Fideology in the life of a special church.
From 1890s to 1960s, the Unitarian Church was next to the University of California. An amendment to the California Constitution was passed by popular vote in 1952 requiring churches to sign a loyalty oath. With three other churches. the Berkeley Church Committee refused to sign In 1958, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Amendment unconstitutional – a violation of First Amendment
University Regents took the old church. The congregation split. 60 families bought property closer to the University for a UU Fellowship. In 1961 the rest followed Dr. Cope to the new building on the East Bay Hills. In 1968 Dr Cope concluded his 22 year ministry to the Berkeley. He was followed by Rev. Howard Oliver, who resigned after three years. “From Viet Nam to Misogi” begins.
The Challenge: As I candidated for the Berkeley ministry in 1973, I walked in the Berkeley Hills with Starr King President Robert Kimball. Kimball suggested that my family find a home close to the church (we did). From Kimball and others I learned more about the 60 families who refused to go “up the hill.” I learned that a Seminary Course used First Unitarian Berkeley as an example of a “failing church.”
The Four Partnerships:
Soon after that start of my Berkeley Ministry, an event set the future tone of my ministry. Reading Robert Jay Lifton’s book HOME FROM THE WAR on Vietnam Veterans, I drafted portions of the text into a REQUEIM FOR VIETNAM, adding a few extra songs. I took it to our church organist, Arthur Hills. He looked over the text and said that he would be glad to write the music. I invited Lifton . He wrote back when he could come, The Requiem opened with beautiful sounds from a Couch Shell
2) Partner Churches, the IARF, and World Citizens
Later the choir would go to 4 IARF Congresses. In 1990, 45 strong in Transylvania they helped establish the connections that became the Partner Church Council.
The membership of the church came from nine different communities. The common interest was international. Dr Lucile Green Isitt, President of the World Citizens Assembly, was one of six church members born of missionaries to China. She joined with Judy Bayer in leading the church to vote to be a Sanctuary. Soon our first refugees arrived, Dr. Ricardo Calderon and his family from El Salvador. We hosted a large family of ethnic Chinese refugees driven out of Vietnam. Our lives were enriched by refugees from Tiananmen Square.
3) The Partnership in Education
With Bernie Loomer, Huston and Kendra Smith, and Mental Health Professionals we offered classes, lectures and workshops. Twice a year a mailing of our course listings was made to over 15,000 homes in the East Bay. Dr. Joseph Fabry produced 10 issues of “Uniquest,” and brought his friend Victor Frankl to give lectures on Logotheraphy. Each year we would have at least two Starr King Students as “Ministers-in-Training,” wonderful people, Mike Schuler, Shannon Bernard, Charlie Kast. Jane Rzepka, Orlando Brugnola…A team of 24 church volunteers assisted the bankrupt Richmond School District.
4) Partnership in Joy and Sorrow
Misogi, Births, Weddings, tragedies, drugs and AIDS.”