Rethinking Social Justice at UCN

As Unitarian Universalists we talk a lot about Social Justice — but what do we do as a congregation? And how is that decided?

This Sunday, April 9th, we will begin our all-congregation, periodic review of Social Justice priorities.

Please read through this list and chat with others from the Unitarian Church of Norfolk (UCN) and beyond. Find out what they see as areas of social justice action, witness, service and learning. Maybe it is something on this list, maybe it is something new. Put on your thinking caps on and hope to see you Sunday.

Social Justice Priorities Task Force,
Judy Welp
Amy Hutcheson
Paul Greggs
Rev Charlie

This will attempt to answer not just what we at UCN are doing to work for Social Justice but what the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is doing as well. This is a brief summary offered to inform you. On Sunday we will be talking about our Social Justice Mission in Sunday service and seeking your input as to what we should do as we should be doing as we move forward.

UU NATIONAL ISSUES FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

As part of our UCN re-examination of Social Justice Priorities, we thought it would be good to look at what the UUA General Assembly has voted to address. Every two years over 4000 delegates vote on one new topic for research, debate and proposal of denominational resolutions.

This is a list of recent UUA Congregational Study/Action Issues (CSAIs):

2016-2020 CSAI The Corruption of Our Democracy

As corporations use “corporate personhood” and “money as speech” for their interests rather than the people’s needs, can a constitutional amendment be passed to protect us?

Topics (abbreviated)

  • “Corporate personhood”
  • Treating corporations and other artificial entities as persons
  • Address voting rights, gerrymandering, voting methods,
  • The possibility of public financing of campaigns

2014-2018 CSAI Escalating Inequality

Here is a very abbreviated issue summary:

  • Engage with the complex history and realities of economic inequality, which exists at every level of human community, from local to global, and is composed of overlapping and interrelated systems of education, income, housing, taxation, democracy, banking, public health, workplace policies, and many others.
  • How structures of oppression affect economic inequality.
  • The impact of class and classism
  • Experience a call, to bridge class divides and create a more just
    and equal world.
  • Act against classism and economic inequality

2012-2016 CSAI Reproductive Justice: Expanding our Social Justice Calling

Issue summary:

  • Reproductive rights and health services are seriously under attack nationally.
  • Reproductive Justice represents a broader analysis of racial, economic, cultural, and structural constraints on women’s power.
  • The right to have children, to not have children, and to parent children in safe and healthy environments is a human right.

Earlier CSAIs were:

Immigration as a Moral Issue, Ethical Eating, and Creating Peace. See: http://www.uua.org/statements/current

The UUA General Assembly also adopts “Statements of Immediate Witness” each year: www.uua.org/statements/years

CURRENT UNITARIAN CHURCH OF NORFOLK Social Justice Priorities (2013-2017)

In the Fall of 2013 the UCN Social Justice Team conducted a survey of the congregation to determine what our priorities should be. We came up with three priorities at that time and we have been working on these for the past few years. Those priorities were: Poverty and Homelessness, the Environment and Health Care. Then as a result of growing concern in the congregation about Racial Justice, a fourth priority was added last summer. Following is a brief description of what each of these Priority Groups has been working on.

Poverty and Homelessness

The two main programs we run in this category are Norfolk Emergency Shelter Team (NEST) and Sandwich Makers. But in addition, we provide Thanksgiving Baskets, Angel Tree gifts, gloves, socks, rain ponchos and hand warmers for the homeless. Last year we also provided weekend backpacks with food items for participants in an after-school program one week a month. UCN is also represented on the NEST Executive Board and on the Board of Ghent Area Ministries by Anne Odell, Chair of the Social Justice Committee.

Environment

The Environmental Priority group has brought in speakers on climate change, hosted a forum on sustainability, shown documentary films and advertised films on the environment being shown at the NARO. They have provided informational pieces on environmental issues for the Friday Newsletter. They have promoted a special offering for UUMFE (UU Ministry for Earth) and sponsored the Virginia League of Conservation Voters in hosting their environmental health fair in our Social Hall. This group will also be arranging the service this year for Earth Day and is helping to see that we are environmentally responsible in our new building.

Health Care

Vicki Caminer volunteered as a certified application counselor in assisting people without affordable health care to register on-line to obtain coverage. She worked on this for 3 years, helping members of UCN, their relative as well as people in the community, This was done mainly in partnership with the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health.

Racial Justice

The Racial Justice Taskforce originated in 2015, following a church listening session on Black Lives Matter. The goals of the group are to explore ways to address racism both within ourselves and the larger community, including our congregation. The goal is being approached from the didactic to the experiential, and will include workshops, worship services and celebrations.