Saturday, December 3, 2016

Tree of Life UU Congregation Offers a Safe Place in Troubled Times

Tree of Life UU Congregation has printed these up as flyers to distribute in the community as part of its outreach and commitment to being a safe space.

The Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 5603 Bull Valley Road in McHenry is reaffirming its commitment to the inherit worth and dignity of all and is offering itself as a safe space for individuals and communities who currently feel under attack.
“It has been a period of high anxiety for many since the election of Donald Trump as President.  Many of the people he singled out for scorn and attack are now fearful.  His cabinet selections, hard liners on immigration; women’s reproductive rights; gay, lesbian, and transgender rights; voting rights suppression; and climate denial, have only deepened the fear and trepidation,” according to Social Justice Committee Co-Chair Judy Stettner.
Tree of Life joins other Unitarian Universalist congregations from coast to coast in reaching out to offer comfort and support.  The Congregation is also contacting long time organizational and religious friends and collaborators for social justice in McHenry County to inquire how it may best serve their needs in these days and to arrange future gatherings for mutual support, solidarity, and action.
The Congregation is not jumping into this blindly or with no background.  For decades Tree of Life and its earlier incarnation as the Unitarian Congregation in Woodstock has collaborated and supported many communities.  
Rev. Dan Larsen, now minister emeritus, helped lead an immigration march in Woodstock with members of LULAC, symbolic of the congregations long commitment to the  Latino community in McHenry County.
It helped found the old McHenry County Hispanic Concerns Committee, worked closely with former Latino Coalition, The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC),  and other organizations on immigration and other concerns, and continues a close supportive relationship with the Garden Quarter Neighborhood Resource Center in McHenry. 
It was an early supporter of Gay Rights and has been the longtime home for McHenry County Pride and PFLAG and was a vocal force in the struggle for Marriage Equality.  It currently offers a support program for transgender teens through the Religious Education program.

In support of religious diversity the congregation welcomed and housed both of McHenry County’s Jewish congregations in their formative years, the Blue Lotus Buddhist Temple which now occupies the Congregation’s former Woodstock home, and pagan groups.  It offered support to the Muslim community in the backlash after the 9/11 attacks and invited Islamic speakers to its pulpit.

These original stained glass windows from the congregation's form church home in Woodstock represent Tree of Life's respect for the multiple religious traditions from which it draws inspiration and its commitment to religious liberty.  The windows await instillation in the McHenry building.

As part of the former Interfaith Council for Social Justice, the congregation founded and maintained the annual Diversity Day Festival in Woodstock Square for 11 years.  It was also instrumental in encouraging the founding of the County and several municipal human relations commissions.
The congregation also has had long standing connections with the Women’s Movement and a commitment to reproductive choice issues.
Tree of Life is certified by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) as a Welcoming Congregation for being LBGT friendly and as a Green Sanctuary Congregation for its commitment to the environment.  In addition it is working toward certification in the Accessibility and Inclusion Ministry (AIM) for the full inclusion of people with disabilities.  The congregation also shares the UUA’s commitment to the Black Lives Matter Movement.

The Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation on Bull Valley Road in McHenry Stands on the Side of Love against a rising tide of bigotry and repression.  You are invited to join the effort.
Beyond welcoming individuals, we look forward to offering our facilities and support to all affected communities.  We want to be a rallying point for resistance to an attack on our deepest values as Americans and religious liberals,” according to Stettner.
For more information call Tree of Life at 815 322-2464, e-mail  or visit  on the web.

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