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Congregational Stories and Best Practices

Unitarian Universalist Church of Ventura Takes Lead on Ending Homelessness: Over the last five years, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ventura, California has become the leader in advocating with homeless persons in Ventura County. Their exciting and focused work has led to significant progress within their community; from raising awareness to working with local officials on legislative and funding issues. Working alongside the city’s 10-Year Strategy to End Homelessness, they helped secure over $100,000 in funding, established Lift Up Your Voice (LUYV), a non-profit advocacy group, hold annual memorial services for homeless persons and offer guided trips through ”Hidden Ventura.” Their success can be attributed to cultivating a focused approach to social justice ministry, encouraging a church culture of generosity and trust, and making budget decisions that allow the staff to spend time and energy in support of justice issues. Read the story including the action steps and resources the congregation used to transform its justice ministry.

People's Church in Kalamazoo, MI is 2012 Bennett Award for Congregational Social Justice Winner: Ten years ago, after a Sunday Service, a newcomer asked about the People’s Church social action program and a long-time member answered, “Oh, we don’t do that.” Today, just a look at the congregation’s website reveals a vibrant social justice ministry, from community organizing and community service, to advocacy at the local, state and national level, and an international partnership. What has changed to make the congregation this year’s recipient of the Unitarian Universalist Association's (UUA’s) social justice award? Read the story including the action steps and resources this congregations used to strengthen its justice ministries.

New Orleans Congregations Take Lead with Local Interfaith Worker Justice: The Unitarian Universalist congregations of greater New Orleans have come together to join in an exciting partnership with Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) and the New Orleans Worker Center for Racial Justice. Their joint work has produced a model of congregational and community cooperation that has begun transforming efforts for economic justice in the city. Together, they have opposed wage theft, protested the abuse of immigrant workers and fought the closing of the Avondale Shipyard, the largest employer in New Orleans. The strength of the partnership comes from strong leadership, especially from the Unitarian Universalists ministers and their efforts to communicate and work with their congregations and other local organizations. Read the complete story and see the Action Steps.

First Unitarian Church of Oakland Partners with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights: The First Unitarian Church of Oakland has begun exploring a new and dynamic model of social justice ministry by partnering with the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Working together with members of the community, their partnership seeks to address pressing local concerns, including high rates of teen incarceration, increasing urban violence and the need for green jobs that support low income families and people of color. The growing success of this partnership results from strong congregational leadership at First Unitarian, which sought support from the whole congregation, not simply a few members. By gaining a church-wide commitment to the Ella Baker Center and its work, First Unitarian has emerged as a leading voice for justice in Oakland. Read the complete story and see the Action Steps for Forming a Congregational Community Partnership.

The First Unitarian Universalist Church in Rochester, MN wins 2011 Bennett Award for Congregational Action on Human Justice and Social Action: Following a 2007 Social Justice Empowerment (SJE) workshop sponsored by UUA's Office of Congregational Advocacy & Witness, First Unitarian Universalist Church renewed a “spirit of social activism within the church, reorganized lay leaders, and increased congregant participation.” As a result of the workshop, the congregation formed several Task Forces addressing the issues of poverty, racism, health care, the environment, international justice, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) rights, and people with disabilities. The congregation also organized a 45-member rapid response Standing on the Side of Love team! Read the complete story.

From Service to Solidarity: Unitarian Universalist Society of Black Hawk County, Cedar Falls, IA supports local immigrant family: After the devastating 2008 Postville, IA workplace raids that led to the arrest and deportation of more than 300 workers, the UU Society of Black Hawk County in Cedar Falls, IA has entered in to an interfaith partnership with other congregations and organizations to provide support and community for affected families. Beginning with service to one Guatemalan family, the congregation is developing a lasting relationship with a local Mennonite church, immigrant rights groups, and the immigrant community. Read the full story to learn the background and ways the congregation began this transformational journey.

For more congregational best practices, see:

For more information contact socialjustice @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Tuesday, May 29, 2012.

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Members of People's Church attend a 2010 Issues Convention for their interfaith congregation-based community organization, ISAAC
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