OUR SOCIAL JUSTICE TEAM
I strongly believe in social change through spiritual transformation meaning our social justice initiatives are at their best when they are woven into the narrative of our faith, Unitarian Universalism and understood as the practice of that faith. Today, you will find several new initiatives as well as continuing initiatives in social justice. Last fall, we held a social justice retreat in which we invited leaders in social action to join us to consider what a social justice ministry at UCS might entail.
After a process of conversation, evaluation and consensus-building, we decided to focus in three central areas for the next 18-months with a balance of initiatives that are local, statewide, national, and global as well as direct service, charitable support, and legislative advocacy. We are further committed to multi-generational social justice ministry. Our vision is to build upon the social justice ministry at UCS, in order to create spiritual growth for members that leads directly to social action, transformation and faithful witness in the wider world. Our approach is to create a social justice ministry that focuses the resources of the congregation, including volunteers, financial contributions, budget line items, facilities and staff, in such a way that fosters measurable impact, which will be evaluated quarterly. Our areas of focus are racial justice, refugee response, and climate activism. Each area will have teams.
The teams are as follows: Racial Justice: Black Lives Matter: Beyond the Banner Chancellor Ave. Elementary School & Irvington Career Mentor Circles at Union Ave. Middle School Affordable Housing initiatives in Summit Refugee Response: Yazidi women (principally through the work of Madre) Syrian relief (principally through the International Rescue Committee) Climate Activism: Green Earth Ministry (as well as Green Vespers) Each month, you will find updates from our Social Justice Team (formerly the Social Action Committee) as well as opportunities to engage. And please, don’t hesitate to reach out to me to get involved! The next Social Justice Team meeting is Feb. 7 from 7:30-9:00 pm at UCS. We would love to have you in person. We also have a call-in option. Please consider joining us. – Rev. Robin Tanner
Unitarian Universalism: Building Upon a Heritage Of Social Action
Unitarian Universalists are woven throughout the fabric of American history by a common thread of dedication to public service. This includes such men and women as: Thomas Jefferson; John Adams; John Quincy Adams; Susan B. Anthony; Clara Barton; Ralph Waldo Emerson; Henry David Thoreau; Oliver Wendell Holmes; Albert Schweitzer; Roger Baldwin; Adlai Stevenson; and Ted Sorenson.
At Beacon, we strive to build on this tradition by not only being a center for peace and tolerance, but also a voice for social justice in our community and our larger world. It is our belief that the path to better, more meaningful lives rests in completely inclusive spirituality, service to others and stewardship. Our calling is to heal our world.
Our Approach to Social Action
Our Social Action Committee (SAC) welcomes broad participation in its work. The SAC has come upon a powerful model for outreach. Key to this approach is:
- Empowering individual SAC members to assume a leadership role in creating and implementing initiatives of interest to them.
- Working together to understand what the issues are and where the need resides
- Identifying tangible social action that can serve the needs of a specific and identifiable group of people
- Measuring our impact and being held accountable for achieving results; and from that process, learning how we can improve what we have to offer.
The SAC focuses on small multi-year initiatives and continues to add at least one or two each year. These initiatives span the gamut from addressing hunger and homelessness; mass disasters at home and abroad; reaching out to our neighbors in surrounding urban settings that need our assistance; and addressing civil liberties concerns, such as the needs of detained immigrants. All of these are discreet projects with a clear start and end point that have the capacity for achievable and measurable results.
We also support others in the congregation who perform social action witness through book readings, protests, workshops and gatherings.
Our Social Action Initiatives
Our social action initiatives generally fall into one of the following seven categories. Please click on them to learn more:
- Hunger and Homelessness
- The Needs of Our Local Community – The Irvington Initiative
- The Needs of the International Community
- Humanitarian Emergencies
- Bringing Unitarian Universalist Values to Government
- Immigration Initiative
- Initiatives Outside of Our Social Action Committee
The Story of our Social Action Committee
The recently-published, Assembling the Pieces: Supercharging Unitarian Universalist Social Action Committees, authored by the previous Chair of our Social Action Committee, Gary D. Nissenbaum, provides a step-by-step approach to invigorating a Social Action Committee. It also tells the story of our social action efforts at the Unitarian Church in Summit from 2005 forward. The proceeds from the sale of the book are being donated to the Unitarian Church in Summit’s initiative to support the social action efforts of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.
Our Social Action Committee conducted a workshop with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee on this topic at the 2011 Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA) New York Metro District Annual meeting. This was followed by an expanded workshop attended by nearly 200 Unitarian Universalist ministers and lay leaders from around the country at the UUA’s 2011 Annual General Assembly.