Peace, love, social justice |

Peace, love, social justice

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

The Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains (UUCM) in Grass Valley strives to create an atmosphere of acceptance and peace both within the church and within the community.

Part of its bylaws state, “Relying upon reason as our guide, and upon freedom as our method, we seek to grow in understanding of ourselves and of our world to promote and serve the universal human family.”

The local church consists of 110 members and is certified as a “Welcoming Congregation.”

“Social justice is very important,” said Keith Johnson, board president of UUCM.

He said that the church is very supportive of gay rights and flies a rainbow flag.

It is also very supportive of Hospitality House, Habitat for Humanity and the Interfaith Food Ministry, as well as doing programs, such as “Pass the Plate” to raise funds for organizations in the community.

Unitarian Universalists are a melding of two traditions. Both began in Europe hundreds of years ago.

In the United States, the Universalist Church of America began in 1793 and the American Unitarian Association in 1825. The two religions combined in 1961.

Johnson explained that the term “Unitarian” is based on questioning traditional thinking. Universalists questioned the Calvinist belief that you must be damned, instead believing that there is a universal salvation. Since combining, Unitarian Universalists have stressed the importance of a social justice and liberal religion.

Famous practitioners include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and John Adams.

All are welcome at UUCM, as are all belief systems. While the church follows a traditional format with services at 11 a.m. Sundays that include singing from hymnals, church announcements and a benediction, it is not based on dogma.

In fact, one of its principles is “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”

“Find us and you shall seek — we stress independent search for spirituality,” said Johnson.

Anita Wald-Tuttle discovered the Unitarian church in 1953.

She found that the congregation was comprised of people whom she could talk to without worrying that her views might upset them.

“It’s been a home away from home for me,” she said.

Those words are truer now than ever before, as Wald-Tuttle is the resident manager of UUCM, living on site and looking after the building and overseeing the many events that take place there, including concerts, movies, music lessons and 12-step programs that utilize the facilities.

Wald-Tuttle was also an instrumental part of getting a church in Grass Valley.

UUCM members once had to commute to Auburn for Sunday service.

She discovered that there were many members who lived in Grass Valley and Penn Valley and suggested that a site in the foothills be found.

The Grass Valley organization first met in Wald-Tuttle’s living room. As the congregation grew, it moved to the Magic Theater, then the library, then a gymnasium, until finally finding the former Hooper and Weaver Mortuary space. UUCM purchased the building in 2000, and the recently widowed Wald-Tuttle, who was losing her house to a trust, was asked to be the resident manager, giving her both a home and a new service in the church.

Unitarian Universalist has changed Wald-Tuttle’s life for the better in many ways, and she hopes that it can do the same for others.

She recounted an event that happened two weeks ago. While she was out of town, someone stole the church’s rainbow flag, as well as its world flag and its brand new, outdoor sign. Wald-Tuttle learned of the theft right before she went to a Holly Near concert.

The lyrics of one of Near’s songs struck home, “We’re still here, choosing love over fear.”

After the concert, Wald-Tuttle asked if she could use the line. Near gave her blessing.

That night, at 11:30 p.m., Wald-Tuttle lettered the quote on cardboard and placed it in the church’s sign holder.

Early the next morning, the flags and the sign had been returned. A note, written in Latin, said they had been given back – for now.

“I have a feeling that Holly’s words spoke to somebody,” said Wald-Tuttle.

She left a note in response.

“Thank You,” it said. “Pax.”

Pax is Latin for peace.

UUCM is located at 246
S. Church St. in Grass Valley. Information is available
at (530) 274-1675 or uugrass

Mellisa Hannum is a freelance writer and blogger in Nevada City. She can be reached at

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