In April 2012, a feature article appeared in The Independent titled “Pink Smoke Over Santa Barbara, Woman Priests Defy Vatican” by Nick Welsh. In that article, Welsh stated: “… their Church of the Beatitudes has grown slowly, ripening into an enthusiastic niche community, favored by liberal, social-justice-minded Catholics.” Now, six years later, the church, led by Roman Catholic womenpriests Revs. Suzanne Dunn and Jeannette Love, ponders its journey of the past 10 years.
The word “ripening” still seems apropos. Beginning as a new community 10 years ago with all the vim and vigor that new beginnings entail, today the Catholic Church of the Beatitudes has a new definition: “an open and inclusive community.”
Indeed, this small group of justice-oriented individuals has evolved into a mature community held together by their contemplative orientation to life, their strong commitment of mutual support of one another and their shared desire to continue the journey of spiritual growth unto death. All are committed to the work of social justice, thus the ministries carry us out into the local community and beyond.
We are committed to the well-being of each member of the church. As members experience life’s losses, others are there to help by providing meals and care of personal needs. When a death occurs in the lives of loved ones in the church or in their families, there is support, love and compassion offered to those who grieve. As members experience significant and meaningful occasions in their lives, such as 50th wedding anniversaries or significant birthdays, all join in the celebration.
The care, concern and love expressed within the Beatitudes community don’t stay at home. They are extended into the wider community in a variety of ministries. Several members are involved in the Safe Parking Program that supports women and their families who live in their cars; others help homeless people through Laundry Love, assisting people with laundromat expenses, and at the Warming Center at First Congregational Church. We also support the Catholic Worker Beatitude House in Guadalupe that serves those who need food, clothing and medical attention.
A group drives monthly to Vandenberg Air Force Base to stand vigil for nuclear disarmament. In addition, we support the Poetic Justice Project that creates community for formerly incarcerated women and men through their drama productions and their poetry. We participate yearly in the Interfaith Love. Period Prayer Service to support the LGBTQ community at the Pacific Pride Festival. And two of our members are on the board of Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE). The church also supports a physical therapist who works with disabled children at a clinic in Vietnam. There are several members who use their talents and serve in various other ministries throughout Santa Barbara.
Perhaps this is what the church of the future will look like — not a mega corporation needing to raise mega cash, but small groups of committed members who tithe not only money but also time and talent to serve all of God’s people. The Catholic Church of the Beatitudes is composed of women and men, young in spirit with the wisdom of maturity living a deep spirituality. The spirituality of the group continues to deepen; each member affirms that with every liturgy their spiritual needs are fed. One of the goals of the founders of the Church of the Beatitudes was to ensure that its membership felt nurtured and nourished on their spiritual journeys. That indeed is happening!
At 4:30 p.m. Sept. 8, Mass will be celebrated at First Congregational Church to mark 10 years for the Church of the Beatitudes. Newly ordained Roman Catholic Woman Bishop Jane Via, RCWP from San Diego, will co-preside with our founder, the Rev. Suzanne Dunn, at this special Eucharist. One of our visiting womenpriests, Rev. Chris Fahrenbach, RCWP has written a special musical score, “Mass of the Beatitudes,” to honor this event. We invite anyone who has been a part of our growth to join us in this joy-filled celebration. Following the Mass, there will be a reception to which all are invited.
We are thankful for the support, fellowship and joint commitment of First Congregational Church in our growth. Its members opened their doors and offered us a sacred place to worship. They supported our vision and our mission. For this we are deeply grateful.
Now, with 10 years of growth in wisdom, spirituality and justice work, the Catholic Church of the Beatitudes joins with the Roman Catholic Womenpriests proclaiming: We are not a people coming in the future; we are here, we exist, through the courage and wisdom of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement.