Unitarian Universalists in Cohousing
From: Joani Blank (joaniswansway.com)
Date: Sat, 4 Jan 2003 03:22:01 -0700 (MST)

Five of the 20 households at Swan's Market Cohousing (eight adults including me and one teenager) are members of the Oakland UU church (although one, a UU minister, is currently serving a UCC--Congregational church).

Early last June, I put out a request on this list for UU's in cohousing to let me know (off list) who they were, because I was hoping to (eventually) to run a session or two on cohousing at the UU's annual gathering (called General Assembly), usually attended by over 4000 people. Thirteen people responded, and I personally know of or know almost two dozen others from various coho communities throughout the US.

Larry Landrum from Shadowlake Village was going to lead a session at last year's GA but was unable to attend because, guess what, he was moving into his new house at Shadowlake. So I hung out in the room where the session was to have been held and talked cohousing for an hour with the dozen people who showed up. I went to another session on community led by Mark Knight, who works professionally in affordable housing, and who who lives, I think, at Hundredfold Farm, which touched on community housing issues, and I chatted with him briefly about bringing a session on cohousing to the very next GA. I have let the year get away from me, and it may be too late to get on the program, but we may still try.

General Assembly will be in Boston at the end of June this year, and as Boston is the home of the UUA (the association of UU congregations), and there are myriad congregations in that area--unlike in California, or Quebec where the gathering was last year--it should be very well attended. If we can get a session on cohousing into the program, I hope to put together a panel of Massachusetts UUs in cohousing to lead the session. So in addition to responding to the thread julie started here, perhaps you UUs will send me your contact info OFF LIST, whether or not you would like to be on such a panel.

Martie's experience reminds with a group spontaneously coming up with cohousing, reminds me of the following experience. Nine or ten years ago (I was living at Doyle St. Cohousing at the time) I attend three of four sessions on the subject of community at Stebbins Institute, an annual retreat/workshop sponsored by the UU Pacific Central District. (In case some of you UUs might recognize the name, I'll mention that it was led by Mark Belletini--then serving the congregation in Hayward, CA, now in Columbus, OH.)

On the last day, after talking about many aspects of community, participants were given butcher paper and markers and asked to draw a rough design (site-plan but he didn't call it that) of a community that they thought they might want to live in. There were five or six groups of 5 or 6 people each, and every single one spontaneously came up with a plan that looked for all the world like cohousing, though Mark and I were the only ones in the room who had ever even heard of cohousing, much less lived in one as I had. I kept very quiet in my group because I was eager to see what these non-cohousers would come up with.

This was an "older" crowd, and to be sure, some of the plans had a house or two quite far away from the others, "put" there by people who wanted to be sure their private house would be quiet, meaning away from children. And a couple of people in the larger group said they wanted to live in a seniors-only community. But most projected in their drawings what we have come to see as typical cohousing--intergenerational, resident controlled, common facilities....the whole nine yards, or at least eight of them......<g>

Joani Blank

At 12:22 AM 1/4/2003, you wrote:

I believe we have three Unitarians in our community of 35 adults, of
which I am one. In fact, I am in cohousing because of a discussion we
had at our church retreat about 20 years ago. We brainstormed what kind
of housing we would like to live in if we could invent anything. And we
came up with cohousing, although it wasn't cohousing yet. We had the
houses in a circle with a pedestrian path, parking on the perimeter,
private homes with a common house with a room for teens. It is really
eerie to think of it, because it was so definitely cohousing.

Nothing came of it until one of the participants told me several years
later that she heard of something like what we had created and sent me
to Ann Zabaldo and here I am.

I would say that Unitarians commitment to a society that works leads
people naturally to cohousing. And their interest in creating solutions,
which led us to have that discussion at all.

Martie Weatherly
Liberty Village, Libertytown, MD
martiew [at] earthlink.net

juliehh wrote:
> I'm giving a program on cohousing at my Unitarian church this month and wondered if anyone would hazard a guess as to the % of Unitarians in cohousing. And any wise words linking the two :-)
> Thanks,
> julie
> Central Austin Cohousing
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