The Columbarium and Sacred Hoop Garden at Northbrae Community Church was ten years in the making. It was conceived in 2004 as a way to provide a substitute for a torchbearer window. Our chapel did not have one for Native American spirituality and a garden with a medicine wheel was a possibility.
Reverend Ron Sebring drew the first sketch in July 2005 and John Oldham provided the first formal detailed plan in November 2005. A committee was created in 2006 to further develop the plans.
The Berkeley ordinances and permit requirements were studied and it was found that a columbarium was not allowed in the city. So a two-year effort was started to change the ordinance. On March 9, 2010, the Berkeley City Council passed an ordinance allowing 400 niches.
Proposals were requested from three architects to provide formal plans for the garden. Howard McNenny was selected as the architect with Sue Oda as the landscape architect. Sue selected native plants used by the Indian tribe who lived in this area, with a narrative of how each plant was used. Every element was designed as circular in keeping with their "circle of life" spirituality. The name "Sacred Hoop Garden" was selected from a reading in one of our hymnals.
The cost estimate was $213,000. A financial analysis was done and then a pledge drive was started to presell niches and plaques and get donations. On May 20, 2012, the congregation voted overwhelmingly to proceed with construction within cost constraints.
Three contractors bid on the project and Spencer Wolfe won the contract with a bid that was very close to the cost estimate. Before construction started, a meeting was held in the garden to bless all the plants that would be removed, particularly the large Monterey cypress tree.
Construction started in May 2013, and concluded in November 2013. The columbarium by Mathews Cremation has 80 niches with 5"x 5" granite faces, with room for expansion to 320 niches. The centerpiece for the garden is a large coast live oak tree where the Monterey cypress once stood. When the cypress was removed, we saved the main trunk, then had it cut into planks. Some of these planks now are incorporated into the new rear gate facing Los Angeles Street. Some planks were used to create a beautiful bench.
The purpose of the garden is to:
· Honor Native American spirituality, as a torchbearer.
· Honor and remember the Huchiun tribe of Indians who lived here before the Europeans arrived and to honor their culture.
· To honor all people who came before us and lived in this community.
The garden is intended to be a special spiritual place, a place of refuge, to meditate, to be alone, a place to remember those who came before us. The garden is another symbol that this is an interfaith inclusive church, a church for the whole community, a place where all are welcome no matter where they are on their spiritual path.
Additional information can be found in a Berkeleyside article. Click here to read.