Long before there were GoFundMe or Kickstarter or Unitarian Universalism’s own Faithify, there was a crowdfunding program called Chalice Lighters. A few times a year, a call would go out for small donations to make a grant to one of the area congregations. They could raise several thousand dollars for a project this way, and every Chalice Lighter had a stake in helping Unitarian Universalism thrive beyond the congregation they attended. And when the time came to raise a little capital for their own congregation, these folks knew they could count on that web of interconnection to support them too.
We at UUCPA are responsible financial stewards in many ways. We give our fair share to the Unitarian Universalist Association and region, we support the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, and we give part of our offering to a justice partner each month. It’s exciting to see the things that we make possible through these steady contributions. But we are less generous close to home.
And within the span of our district (northern California, northern Nevada and Hawaii), several Chalice Lighter requests go out each year. A few years ago, we looked into applying for a Chalice Lighter grant, but we have so few members who are Chalice Lighters that we were advised that we would be at a serious disadvantage. The program relies not on a quid pro quo but on mutual generosity and goodwill: I show up for your barn raising and I know you’ll show up for mine. If we demonstrate that we of UUCPA will come through, $20 at a time, to give a boost to projects like an outdoor patio cover and lights for UUs in Sacramento (home to our former intern, Lucy Bunch), or a new sound system for the congregation in Reno, then when we put an application in, Unitarian Universalists all over the district will be here for us. And when we visit these places, we will see what we have built . . .