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Economic Justice Spotlight

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We embarked on a journey of discovery, to understand the tireless and comprehensive work UU activists were doing to make our world more just. Our call for submissions drew interest from active social justice committees and congregations from every corner of the country. We are pleased to collaborate with them in sharing best practice approaches to justice work for our readers to learn from and to bring inspiration. Enjoy the stories, share in the efforts and use the ideas you see below as a model for your continued work in economic justice. 

First Unitarian Society of Madison. Madison, Wisconsin

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First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio, Texas

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The First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio Texas (First UU) has 420 members and encourages members of the congregation to become active in social justice. This encouragement is manifested in many ways in the San Antonio community.

First UU has been part of the economic development strategy for San Antonio, Texas for over 40 years. The congregation works closely with interfaith community organizations. First UU actively works with an organization called, “Community Organized for Public Service and the Metro Alliance” (COPS/Metro). COPS/Metro has a long history of grassroots community organizing and is an affiliate of Industrial Area Foundation (IAF). The IAF was developed in the 1930s by Saul Alinsky, considered by many to be the founder of modern community organizing.  COPS/Metro was founded in 1974 and “projects itself as an agent for fair and equitable distribution of the city’s resources and services.” 

First UU employs the IAF model of a leader, which is someone with many relationships and a following.  In the First UU congregation, at least 20 members meet this definition.  These 20 key economic justice leaders regularly attend meetings and talk with others about issues of concern including child care for low wage earners, real job training, a living wage, legislation to curb economic abuse of those economically challenged, and immigration.

Through its affiliation with COPS/Metro First UU is a valuable and much-needed resource for the low income working families of San Antonio. For many low income working families the cost of childcare is an impediment to being employed. When the cost of childcare exceeds, or nearly approaches, one’s take home pay, being employed makes little economic sense.  First UU has supported San Antonio’s “After School Challenge” and the “Summer Recreation Program”, which offers a safe child day care system, a much-needed resource for the community.

Furthering its goal of social justice, First UU helped develop an award-winning long-term job training program, Project QUEST. QUEST provides scholarships and services for low-wage workers through training at the local community college. The focus is to provide training of skills which are in demand. To date there have been over 6,000 graduates through Project QUEST. The mission statement of Project QUEST is “to strengthen the economy with highly qualified employees for in-demand, living wage careers”.

For many years, First UU has been advocating for a living wage for workers. First UU was the lead congregation insisting that any tax abatement for the city of San Antonio or County of Bexar be tied to a living wage. First UU was a strong advocate for the public sector living wage campaign in the last two years, for which over 6,000 workers benefited from the public sector living wage campaign, with a $14 an hour wage for 2017 and $15 an hour wage for 2018.

Young adults at First UU have been involved in social justice actions including legislation to curb the out-of-control payday lending business, which preys on low income individuals. The legislation being proposed in the upcoming legislative session is significant in enhancing individuals’ rights and requiring the communication of these rights to the individuals.

First UU helped develop a statewide network called the Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry made up of 48 UU congregations in the state. TXUUJM communicate and coordinate a focused effort to advance significant issues and is holding a legislative training day in November 2016. TXUUJM has a legislative action day planned mid-February, 2017 just after the session starts where they hope to get 200 Texas UU’s from across the state to the Capital.   

With a history of concern for social and economic justice for immigrants, First UU was part of the sanctuary movement in the 1980s. A Guatemalan family that First UU provided a sanctuary sponsorship to is still working with the congregation today.

The 420 members of First UU make up a small percentage of the population of 2,000,000 in the San Antonio metropolitan area. Yet through the effort and energy of its members the region has been positively impacted.  We at the UUJEC honor First UU’s efforts and see them as an example for others.

Article developed in collaboration between UUJEC board member Jim Black and First UU Social Justice Committee member Mike Phillips. To reach out to First UU, please contact Mike at mcmphillips @ yahoo.com.

For a printable version of this article, click here. 

Photos provided by various sources, see the printable document for more information. 

First UU Additional Resources

First UU Website: http://uusat.org/

First UU Twitter page: https://twitter.com/FirstUUChurchSA

First UU Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/First-Unitarian-Universalist-Church-of-San-Antonio-11608568314/

Cops/Metro Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/copsmetro/

First UU Social Action webpage: http://uusat.org/how-we-serve/social-justice/

TXUUJM Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TXUUJM/

Webcast: C.O.P.S./Metro Alliance: Blessed are the history makers:

http://nowcastsa.com/blogs/webcast-copsmetro-alliance-blessed-are-history-makers

San Antonio interfaith coalition cheers living wage victories:

http://www.uuworld.org/articles/sanantoniolivingwage

COPS / Metro Raises Wages AGAIN, Makes QUEST a Line-Item on City Budget:

http://us5.campaign-archive2.com/?u=18c087e16c4694dafc5d36617&id=148e89aea5

Unitarian Universalist Church West. Brookfield, Wisconsin

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Escalating Inequality Task Force of Metropolitan Detroit, Michigan

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Social Action Ministry, Shoreline UU Church. Shoreline Washington

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Mountain Vista UU Congregation. Tucson, Arizona

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The Mountain Vista Unitarian Universalist Congregation (MVUU) has a vision. Since its founding in 1989 with fifty-five charter members, MVUU has dedicated its energies to outreach in northwest Tucson. The members then and now provide pantry supplies, meals-on-wheels, rides to doctors’ appointment, home handymen for the elderly, and financial support to those in need.

When the congregation’s minister, the Reverend Ron Phares, arrived in 2013, action and advocacy around economic justice exploded. Rev. Ron came up with an idea: a Justice Coordinating Committee (JCC), made up of a few members and himself that would focus on justice work through a “lens.” The first several years, that lens was “Economic Disparity” in Tucson and the United States.

The JCC then formed the Committee of the Whole, comprising thirty-five members of the congregation. With this expansion, a comprehensive, successful Life-Span Faith Development program entitled “Living Inequality” was offered in February and April 2016. Those who attended viewed Robert Reich’s documentary “Inequality for All,” formed discussion groups, and wrote covenants called “Money Memoirs.” Much was learned about income disparity, poverty in America, and the controversial education issues in Arizona.

MVUU’s mission is “To Welcome, Care For, and Inspire those within and beyond our walls.” As Mountain Vista’s economic justice activities turn more and more to action and advocacy, the members strive to make economic justice a sustainable part of congregational life. The momentum caused by increased justice involvement by MVUU members has resulted in a palpable rise in energy, enthusiasm, and concern for the well-being of others.

These changes of heart have also coalesced and strengthened the church community. Mountain Vista has established a three-pronged focus—Fellowship, Justice Outreach, and Spiritual Path—for its congregants and visitors alike to know what matters most to the folks attending MVUU.

The congregation of Mountain Vista Unitarian Universalist is truly an inspiration for others. The activities and commitment to economic justice issues demonstrate how a vision can become a reality. Then the reality provides momentum to energize more commitment and action expanding what is being done. The members credit their minister, Ron Phares, with being the catalyst for much of the momentum.

Article developed in collaboration between UUJEC board member Jim Black and Mountain Vista UUmember Elizabeth Reed. To reach out to MVUU, please contact Elizabeth at reedeliz @ gmail.com 



 

For a Printable version of this Article, click here



Photos Provided by MVUU

Additional Resources:

MVUU website: http://www.mvuu.org/

MVUU Beyond Our Walls Initiatives:  http://www.mvuu.org/beyond-our-walls

MVUU YouTube Channel”  https://www.youtube.com/user/MVUUCongregation

MVUU Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Mountain.Vista.Unitarian.Universalist/

Unitarian Universalist Justice Arizona Network: http://www.uujaz.org/

Rev. Phares sermon, Redeeming Our Future:  https://static1.squarespace.com/static/51c749c2e4b01f34284eaa4c/t/573f4bca45bf21ef89c1868d/1463765963230/2016_05_15+RedeemingOurFuture+Phares.pdf

 

Conejo Valley UU Fellowship. Newbury Park, CA

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Pamela Lopez, Outreach Director for CVUUF shares the work and mission of the congregation:

Tell us about the economic justice work in your congregation. 

Conejo Valley UU Fellowship's Mission Statement is:  Our mission is to nurture spiritually courageous people who transform the worldthrough justice and compassion. As part of living our faith we have a strong commitment to economic justice. We have hosted monthly meetings addressing the issue of escalating inequality. The meetings are attended by both members of CVUUF and the outside community. 

We are strong advocates for the $15/hour minimum wage. In doing so, members of our support staff (child care, maintenance, etc.) have gotten the benefit in a salary increase reflecting this. We had over 200 people sign petitions to increase the minimum wage in California.  Through the advocacy of our escalating inequality group, we have enrolled the congregation into endorsing the Farm Workers Bill of Rights for farm workers in Ventura County. Members of our congregation have been lobbying our county supervisors to advocate for fair treatment of farm workers. Additionally, meetings are being scheduled with growers to have the complete story for effective advocacy. 

We had an ongoing, intensive six-month long study group of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century. CVUUF Escalating Inequality group co-sponsored and participated in Ventura Stories Feb. 20th event focusing on minimum wage, low-income housing, Farm Workers Bill of Rights and early childhood education. 

Community Forums (our ongoing speakers’ series) have recently included the following discussions: 

·       Guest speaker David Korten;

·       Chuck Collins discussing his book "99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking Our Country";

·       "What is TPP?  To Protect the People and Our Planet";

·       "Capitalism and Climate Change - the Politics of Global Warming";

·       "The Importance of Early Childhood Education - The First Five Years";

·       David Cobb - Founder, Move to Amend - taking the money out of politics;

·       Screening and discussion of "Inequality for All".

How is the leadership of your congregation involved in your economic justice work?

The CVUUF Board called for a vote on the endorsement of the Farm Workers Bill of Rights.  Sermons on  economic justice haveincluded (in the past twelve months):  "What Affects One Affects Us All" service on inequality  "Our Work on this Planet" ($15/hr minimum wage):  "First in the Country" Rev. Hines & Maricela Morales, local community organizer, (Farmworkers Bill of Rights); "Transforming the World Through Justice and Compassion" (general activism including economic justice)    Ventura Stories event coordinated by Escalating Inequality chair, Michael Teasdale, Board Trustee, Matthew Weisman; Council Outreach Director, Pamela Lopez. Special collections include:  Social Justice Fund for Ventura County, MICOP - Support for indigenous youth, MANNA/FOOD SHARE - Local Food Bank.

Board and Council leadership are involved in:  Escalating Inequality Study Group, Feeding Hands (monthly meal for homeless neighbors), advocating for minimum wage and Farm Workers Bill of Rights, special community education events, reproductive Justice - with equal access to reproductive care - there is greater access to economic independence.       

How have you made economic justice activity a sustainable part of your congregational life?

There is an ongoing monthly scheduled meeting exploring the issue of economic justice.  It is generally attended by at least ten people each meeting.  Projects regularly are created there.  The Feeding Hands program (providing 100-120 dinners to those neighbors less fortunate) has been ongoing monthly for at least fifteen years.  Several special collections are dedicated to economic justice work each year.

What results or changes have you noticed because of your activity?

The congregation has become more aware of the economic injustices faced by our community.  Our endorsement of the Farm Workers Bill of Rights was unanimous.  County Supervisors have indicated they will not bring it up in session.  We have scheduled lobbying meetings to encourage public conversations on the issues presented in the Bill of Rights and congregational members have attended open hearings on the issues of farm-workers.  Members of our congregation got over 200 people to sign petitions to the CA Legislature to raise the minimum wage.  It helped prod the state in their efforts.

Article developed in collaboration between UUJEC Administrator Rachel Bennett Steury and CVUUF Outreach Director Pamela Lopez. To reach CVUUF, please contact Pamela at outreachdirector @ cvuuf.org.

For a printable version of this article, click here

Photos provided by CVUUF

Additional Resources:

CVUUF Social Justice webpage: https://cvuuf.org/justice/social-action/

CVUUF Community Forum webpage: https://cvuuf.org/justice/community-forum/  

CVUUF Twitter Page https://twitter.com/uuconejo

CVUUF Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CVUUF

Farmworker Bill of Rights Report: http://www.nwuujn.org/view/article/57a0eeca0cf25f2d92e34b31/?topic=51cbfc62f702fc2ba812591d

Social Justice Fund of Ventura County: http://www.socialjusticefundvc.org/   

CVUUF Event Notices:

http://www.thecamarilloacorn.com/news/2016-02-12/Community/Workshop_looks_at_local_economic_issues.html  http://conejovalley.happeningmag.com/event/capitalism-climate-change-forum-newbury-park/  http://www.wherevent.com/detail/Cvuuf-Community-Forum-TPP-To-Protect-People-and-the-Planet-or-Corporate-Profits

First Parish of Sudbury. Sudbury, Massachusetts

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Living Our Faith is our overall umbrella for our congregation's social justice activities. Our minister, director of religious education, past president, treasurer, assistant treasurer, and administrator all participate actively.

We fly a Black Lives Matter banner and post Black Lives Matter signs on our property, we hosted a community forum on why we have done so (panelists included our minister, a person who talked about White privilege, our police chief, a Black 50-year resident of Sudbury, and me), and we intend to take follow-up actions in the Fall. Our minister and our assistant treasurer had items in our local paper about why we support BLM, and I had a column on BLM published there.  

We collect backpacks for homeless children in the Fall, have a Secret Santa collection for disadvantaged children at Christmas time, and make quilts that we donate to hospice patients and victims of domestic violence. Our quilters raised more than $1600 for the Free Metrowest Clinic by making and raffling a very special quilt.

We have supported a Haitian-American family since the eldest child was about to graduate from Middle School. The three eldest children in this family have graduated from college —one is working towards becoming a physician, another is working towards becoming a nurse — and the two youngest (twins) are now college freshmen.                                                                               

For about the last nine years we have mentored a lifer — visiting him monthly, and communicating with him during the intervening weeks. He is now in the Boston University College Behind Bars Program, and has completed two English, one American History and one Sociology course with grades of A, A- B+and B. We collect and deliver food for the Sudbury Food Pantry weekly, and serve at a Maynard food pantry at least monthly.

This church year we made a full plate donation to Syrian refugees, as we do to the Metrowest Free Medical Clinic each Christmas Eve.We have monthly share-the-plates for organizations such as UUMassAction, Employment Options, Domestic Violence Roundtable, Dignity in Asylum, Coalition for the Homeless, three local food pantries, and Human Rights Watch. We held letter writing sessions to legislators for single-payer health bills, the We the People Act, LGBTQ public accommodations, improvements in the criminal justice system, and to foreign officials for Amnesty International’s annual Write for Rights.

We showed "Out at Work" as one of our monthly film screenings, and donated to PFLAG, GLAD, OUT and the UUSC. We are members of UU Mass Action and UUJEC.

We Walk for Hunger and Walk for Family Promise. We buy Fair Trade coffee for use in our church, and we used to sell it and fair trade chocolate.  Our sustainable food group meets monthly, and individual members belong to Community Support Agriculture Program. One of us is a commissioner on the Sudbury Housing Authority that provides affordable housing.  Another is a member of Sudbury's Board of Selectmen, where she advocates for affordable housing.

Although it may seem that our church gives charity more than it works for justice, we do bring about more justice by the help we give people.

Article developed in collaboration between UUJEC Administrator Rachel Bennett Steury and Rev. Judy Deutsch of First Parish. To reach First Parish, please contact Judy at revjd @ aol.com.

For a printable version of this article, click here. 

Photos provided by Judy Deutsch and First Parish Facebook page. 

Additional Resources:

First Parish webpage: http://fpsudbury.org/

First Parish Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/First-Parish-of-Sudbury-104705979571381/

MetroWest Free Clinic: http://metrowestfreemedicalprogram.org/

Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady. Schenectady, New York

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Robin Schnell, Chair of the UUSS Social Action Council shares their efforts with UUJEC.

Please tell us about the economic justice work in your congregation.

In April of 2015, our congregation voted to get involved in Economic Justice via a project that could involve all ages, connect us tothewider community, work toward solutions to poverty and educate ourselves. To that end, we joined Family Promise, a nationwide organization that houses homeless families with congregations for a week at a time. Congregants donated bedding, signed up to prepare meals, set up and take down bedrooms in our religious ed. building, stay overnight while the families were with us, and serve as task coordinators. Children have made welcome signs and have played with the guest children. Guests have come to our services and to a folk concert held in our Great Hall.   

In order to better educate ourselves, we offered scholarships to Bridges out of Poverty training. Seven people did the training and we will offer the scholarships again when the program is offered.  A small handful of us have gone to the capital to advocate with legislators for raising the wage to $15, and have rallied in front of fast food restaurants and city hall for this. A coffee discussion drew about thirty congregation members to discuss this issue.  Our most recent activity has been to donate books to a local low-income elementary school so that each child can take home books of their very own at the end of the school year. On an ongoing basis, we collect diapers and personal care products for the local food pantry, homeless shelters and people reentering after incarceration.  For many years, congregation members have worked in soup kitchens and a summer lunch program for kids. We have had strong participation and continue to look for new ways to increase our understanding and activism. For the fall, we want to better understand privilege and its effect on society and poverty.    

How is the leadership of your congregation involved in your economic justice work?

Turning our religious ed. building into a dormitory for three separate weeks so far has required the support of our minister, RE director, and our board. We are all proud of the success of this very ambitious project and look forward to hosting a meeting of the volunteer coordinators from participating congregations.  One of the other things our congregation does is donate one or two collection plates a month to a non-profit. Social Action tries to tie the collection to the sermon theme, the board must approve all of the organizations.    Our minister, Rev. Margret O'Neall, has been enormously helpful with encouragement and suggestions. 

How have you made economic justice activity a sustainable part of your congregational life?

We witnessed an uptick in collections whenever the plate gets donated to organizations, which is a sign of congregational support. It'san established part of our services that makes us feel good.  Family Promise, too, is something that we're proud of. Because the organization had just established a chapter in our area when we joined, we had to do our three weeks of hosting very close together, which caused us to see some volunteer burnout. Fortunately, we could enlist local college students and members of other congregations to fill some gaps, which actually fit with our mission to increase our involvement with the wider community.    

Our collection bins often overflow as children grow out of a diaper size or members pick up extra toothpaste or sundries for the bins. I don't foresee a change there. Our sign-up sheets for the soup kitchen or the summer lunch program get filled in.  In the area of international economic justice, our congregation joined Jubilee last year. This organization that fights for debt relief, asks that we take up one collection for them each year, and preach a sermon. We also participate in Justice Sunday each year with a collection for UUSC.   

What results or changes have you noticed because of your activity?

Having the umbrella of economic justice as a guide for our activities has broadened our thinking about what the roots of economic injustice are. Some of us went to a Black Lives Matter meeting. In the past, I think we would have thought about justice, but not made the tie to economic justice.   Our congregation is predominantly white, middle class and well educated—white privilege is strongly in evidence. We hope that by understanding how that has affected our lives, we will be better advocates for systemic change.  Joining Family Promise has energized the volunteer spirit in us. At least one member who hadn't been attending services lately came back to volunteer for this project, and new members are joining in.

Article developed in collaboration between UUJEC Administrator Rachel Bennett Steury and UUSS Social Action Chair Robin Schnell. To reach UUSS, please contact Robin at r.hary.schnell @ gmail.com.

For a printable version of this report, click here. 

Photos provided by UUSS Social media. 

Additional Resources:

UUSS Webpage: http://uuschenectady.org/justice/social-justice/

UUSS Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/UUSSchenectady

UUSS Twitter page: https://twitter.com/uusschenectady

Family Promise Organization: http://familypromise.org/

Bridges Out of Poverty: http://www.ahaprocess.com/solutions/community/

Jubilee: http://www.jubileeusa.org/

UUSC Justice Sunday: http://www.uusc.org/justice-sunday-2017/

 

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice. Venice, Florida

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Marty King, Chair and Social Justice Team Leader of UUCOV shares their efforts with UUJEC.

Tell us about the economic justice work in your congregation.                    

Our congregation works on economic justice on many fronts.  Our Community Outreach Committee is part of a national organizationcalled Family Promise, and in conjunction and rotating with other area churches, this year has hosted and fed ten families, six of whom now have permanent housing and sustainable employment.  In addition, the committee members have provided for "backpack kids" during the school year, so children have food over the weekend.  They participate weekly in sandwich making at the Center of Hope, which also provides help and counseling once the people come in.  Food Pantry distribution is done year-round.  They also are involved in community dinners, and "coffee talks."  

Many members of the congregation contribute their time, skills and money.  One Sunday of each month, the collection plate is dedicated solely to a designated charity in our community.  Members provide after-school tutoring at the Laurel Community Center.  We are developing a program to help public schools provide for needy children. 

Our Common Good Committee works to help disenfranchised voters, and for the Move to Amend.  They circulate petitions, go to demonstrations and public meetings, and write letters when needed.  This committee has worked hard to educate the congregation and inspire them to work toward justice for the poor, and minorities, who disproportionately represented in our prisons in the USA. Members visit people who are incarcerated.   

Our Green Sanctuary Committee regards global warming as an economic issue, as it will impact most severely on the poor. We have conducted an all-day workshop with the Pachamama Alliance, and our congregation contributed a significant amount of money to put solar panels on our sanctuary roof.  We are working hard to share information about gardening and consuming to live more sustainable lives. 


How is the leadership of your congregation involved in your economic justice work?

Our leadership demonstrates a strong commitment to economic justice by supporting the above programs, and working side-by-side with the membership to accomplish our goals.  Kindra Muntz, Chair of the Common Good Committee spearheaded an effort to get Move to Amend on the ballot at GA.  A few years ago, she was one of the leaders in Florida who sponsored a constitutional amendment to develop a paper ballot.  Our previous ballots had been punch cards, which were a problem in 2000, and this was followed by electronic ballots which could not be verified in a close or challenged election.  So, this reform has impacted favorably on all voters in Florida. 

In addition, Muntz works hard at registering voters and promoting petitions for local candidates to save them the filing fee. Georgia Blotzer and Barbara Griffen, chairing the Family Promise work of the Community Outreach Committee, have devoted countless hours to working with the homeless and hungry in the area. Phil Veach and Steve Batchelor have steadily worked and recruited others in the food programs cited above, with the goal of helping less fortunate school children and their families. 


The leaders of the Green Sanctuary Committee have provided ongoing connections through the Pachamama Alliance, Transition Venice, and other organizations to alert the congregation to the problem of client change and inform them of ways they can help.  A tree planting program has been undertaken.  In all these ways, the Executive Board has been willing to devote time and resources to make these things happen, and have supported the various committees with their own help and counseling.  Our new Religious Education Director has been instrumental in bringing in community resources, and in offering help to neighboring schools.

How have you made economic justice activity a sustainable part of your congregational life?

Everything the Congregation is doing is ongoing, and therefore, sustainable.  Long-term commitments have been made, with no end in sight, at least until some of these serious problems might be solved, which we know will take years.  By working together, we do not become discouraged.  Our Seven Principles guide us, and we are thankful to belong to the UUA, as our hope for the future is that by concerted, determined and long-term efforts, we can work for meaningful change.  

None of these problems can be easily solved, which is why it is so important to work together for greater impact.  Members donate to a different charity each month, and thousands of dollars are collected each year for the worthiest causes in our community, many of them helping low-income children and families.  Our small congregation was able to raise $40,000 last spring from individual donations so that we could go totally solar. We plant native plants and trees to conserve water, and to avoid the runoff that excess fertilizer and chemicals would engender. The congregation is committed to the ongoing success of all these programs, and investigating ways in which we can do more.

What results or changes have you noticed because of your activity?

Homeless families have found sustainable housing and improved jobs through Family Promise.  While the need is great, and this only addresses a small percentage of homeless people, it is a concrete way in which families’ lives can be improved. Hungry children and their families are being fed every week because of our efforts providing food.  A letter-writing campaign has resulted in the postponement of the execution of a man, poor, badly represented legally, and on death row.  Hopefully, there will be time to have his sentence overturned. 

Many people have been registered to vote for the first time in Florida.  Good candidates have been encouraged to run for election by members helping them to be put on the ballot. The role of big spending in elections that destroys the democratic process is being challenged by a constitutional amendment, the Move to Amend.  Voting reforms have been put in place due to the leadership, work and donations by members of our congregation, working with others in the community. 

 

Article developed in collaboration between UUJEC Administrator Rachel Bennett Steury and UUCOV Social Justice Team Leader Marty King. To reach UUCOV, please contact Marty at mking18 @ juno.com.

For a printable version of this article, clock here. 

Additional Resources

UUCOV Website: www.uucov.org

UUCOV Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/uucov/

Family Promise: http://familypromise.org/   

Center of Hope: http://www.salvationarmyflorida.org/westpalmbeach/programs/center-of-hope-transitional-housing/  

Pachamama Alliance: https://www.pachamama.org/  

Transition Venice: https://www.meetup.com/Transition-Venice/  

BuxMont Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Warrington, PA

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BuxMont UU Fellowship’s Peace and Justice Committee drives a thriving social justice ministry.  Their Peace and Justice Committee
 is a composite of the Peace Initiative, Diversity Task Force, Green Sanctuary, Reproductive Justice, Immigration Liaison, Friday Movies, Oxfam Hunger Banquet and their Split Plate Program.

Located in Warrington, PA, BuxMont UUF has donated over $100,000 to non-profit organizations since 2004.  Their guidelines are that the organization is non-profit and non-partisan (following 501 C3 rules).  The charity must address social justice issues, promote fair and equal treatment while empowering marginalized communities to reduce poverty, racism, homophobia and ageism while reducing violence and preserving the environment.


The Fellowship has supported Doylestown Shelter as an apartment partner for 25 years. As a partner, they provide a welcome basket of linens, pillows and towels to help with a fresh start.  They also assist in finding educational and employment opportunities, so it’s more than a donation—they are actively involved with the clients.  The average age of a client is 9. The goal for clients is housing independence.  And when the clients move out, the Fellowship helps by locating furnishings for their new home.  Doylestown also has a food pantry that BuxMont UUF helps support.

BuxMont’s RE Peace and Justice Class decided to support KIVA, where they loaned $25 to Mr. Haten from Palestine to help him in buying a taxi to support his family. BuxMont UU Fellowship has been working with UUPLAN, Pennsylvania’s State Action Network, to stop anti-immigrant bills from passing—despite the legislature introducing 15 such measures.


BuxMonts’ vision statement is to be “well-known in our Fellowship and our community for our leadership in peace and justice issues.  We will actively encourage all members and friends to commit to living out the UU principles in our daily lives to create and maintain a more peaceful and just society fighting for economic justice.” 

It looks like they are succeeding in their effort! 

Article developed in collaboration between UUJEC Co-Chair Terry Lowman and BuxMont member Celia Sharp. To learn more about Buxmont UU Fellowship, contact Celia Sharp at celiamsharp @ yahoo.com

 

For a printable version of this article click here

Additional Resources:
BuxMont website: http://www.buxmontuu.org/make-a-difference/peace-and-justice/    
BuxMont Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/BuxMontUU 
Bucks County Apartment Partner: http://www.buckscounty.org/LivingAndWorking/Services/homeless-shelters 
UUPLAN webpage: https://www.uuplan.com/  

First Universalist Church of Norway. Norway, Maine

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Nancy Lee Piper Office Manager for First Universalist Church of Norway shares their efforts with UUJEC.

Tell us about the economic justice work in your congregation.

First Universalist Church of Norway's Social Justice Committee is devoted, dedicated, active, and far-  reaching.  As a small "Welcoming

 Congregation" with an enormous desire to positively impact varieties of causes and actions, devotion to social justice not only tops the agenda of the committee, but impacts the entire church community as well as the community at large.  At the forefront in 2016 and capturing additional attention with each ensuing week is the Peace Vigil, a regular Thursday afternoon hour of reflection and witness to peace at the front of the First Universalist Church along Main Street.  Demonstrating both the need for and presence of peace in all facets of humanity,

 participants hold signs with words such as "Witness for Non-Violence", "Standing on the Side of Peace" and "Witness for Peace" to portray a dedication to solidarity and a willingness to stand together for a necessary eminence in all humanity has to offer.  The Peace Vigil has drawn significant community attention and the action is to grow the peace vigil locally and beyond.  

As active participants communicating the need for quality resources for homeless teenagers and other struggling people, to educating the public in the truth and reconciliation of Tribal Native Nations' social justice issues through Maine Wabanaki REACH programs, to clothing drives for immigrants and refugees, to hosting 25 years of Community Lunch Programs with the Area Association of Churches to 4th Sunday collections that reach people, programs, animals, and environmental causes, to communicating the need for climate change focus and responsible gun ownership, First Universalist Church of Norway enormously impacts a multitude of important issues not only in a financial capacity, but involves itself actively with contributions of time, written and verbal communication, outreach measures, and expanding the focus of important issues beyond the intimate church family.

 

How is the leadership of your congregation involved in your economic justice work?

Leadership at First Universalist Church of Norway revolves around devotion, dedication, activity, and reaching beyond the walls of the congregation.  Leadership asserts itself from the Board of Trustees to the chair of the Social Justice Committee facilitating direction to the committee members themselves to those not directly on the committee coming together to not only support the causes but get involved in the physical, mental and emotional demands of contributing. Individuals, small groups and large groups step forward to commit to making change and then fostering those actions through execution, completion, and success.   

These same individuals and groups, whether directly sitting on the committee or not, collect and deliver food to local food pantries, collect, sort, organize and deliver clothing for clothing drives, contribute household and other goods to Community Lunch for individuals who frequent Community Lunch and can benefit from other sustainable goods to organizing and staffing events that educate as well as inspire, to contributing generously to 4th Sunday collections to organizing and executing fundraising events, concerts, and activities solely for social justice causes as well as donating percentages of other fundraising events to the social justice account for current actions as well as future actions.    Social and economic justice issues are at the forefront of conversation both inside and outside the church, and everyone, regardless of their level of dedication, devotion, commitment, or activity is a leader in the sense that they take responsibility for the principles of Unitarian Universalism and ensure those principles are present in the conduct of their everyday lives.

How have you made economic justice a sustainable part of your congregational life?

Economic and social justice activity as a sustainable part of congregational life is exemplified through multiple communication vehicles to keep our church community informed as well as alert the public to the many church activities that impact the community at large.  Whether direct telephone communication to members and friends who don't utilize new technologies, to email blasts that engage and inform everyone through catchy and specific subject lines, to the unveiling of a fresh, modernized website to weekly press releases that exhibit the diversity of First Universalist Church of Norway's social and economic justice involvement, to inbox emails from organizations and UUA supported causes, First Universalist Church of Norway seeks sustainability through communication and awareness.  

First Universalist Church of Norway creates and contributes to economic and social justice sustainability by offering low cost long-term, short-term and one-time rentals of the many room and room combinations of the church. Groups such as AA, Community Sing, Choir groups, artist groups, Community Lunch, Safe Voices, Community Concepts, Healthy Oxford Hills and other individual and group programs have all benefited. Blake House, once the church's parsonage, has long been home to local businesses that enjoy reduced rents and have been long time patrons of the church.   

Divesting from fossil fuels and investing its endowment in socially and environmentally responsible companies despite the reality of lower returns has been an important and conscious action of the voting body of the congregation.  The saying, "putting your money where your mouth is" certainly is true of First Universalist Church of Norway.  Through a generous donation from the son of a now deceased member, First Universalist Church also switched from oil heat to propane to be more environmentally responsible.    Communication, outreach, awareness, empathy, and compassion are foundations of First Universalist Church of Norway's economic and social justice sustainability practices.   

What results or changes have you noticed because of your activity?

Paramount to inspiring positive social and economic change for all people is involvement, understanding, participative leadership, and perseverance.  First Universalist Church of Norway focuses on these important components and this is apparent in the attention the Peace Vigil is getting from people not directly connected to the church, as well as the conceptual ideas for change that are being addressed as a result of the Peace Vigil.   

More new people are attending church on Sunday to "discover what we're all about", as well as individuals and families approaching the minister and office manager about becoming members of the church.  Additional groups and organizations are contacting the church to benefit not only from the low-cost rentals but to connect to the social and economic activities and partner with the church to collectively enhance one another's messages as well as implore and seek change.   

Participative leadership is a direct result of social and economic justice practices of First Universalist Church of Norway as more congregational members and friends are stepping forward with ideas, suggestions, constructive criticisms, reflections and analysis for improvements, focuses, movements, and initializing direction to connective causes in relationship to current activities. First Universalist Church of Norway continues to seek both changes and results that benefit the focus and purpose of economic and social change for the better, whether that is utilizing concepts and formats that work or revitalizing actions with fresh approaches and ideas that bring better results.  As a congregation, open to suggestion and innovation, First Universalist Church of Norway works to optimize positive change for all.  

Article developed in collaboration between UUJEC Administrator Rachel Bennett Steury and Norway UU Office Manager Nancy Lee Piper.  To reach Norway UU, please contact Nancy at norwayuu @ gwi.net.

 For a printable version of this article click here

Additional Resources

Norway UU Webpage www.norwayuu.org

Norway UU Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/NorwayUUChurch/

Norway UU Social Justice webpage http://www.norwayuu.org/social-responsibility/

Maine-Wabanaki REACH http://www.mainewabanakireach.org/

Fossil Fuel Divestment http://www.greenfaith.org/programs/divest-and-reinvest/listing-of-known-religious-divestment-efforts


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