Meaningful social justice work is at the heart of what we do as a congregation, but the focus of our work shifts and changes as circumstances in and around us change. That creates challenges for organizing that work since we want to be nimble in responding to needs that arise, while also sustaining programs and activities that underlie our most basic commitments.
The past couple of years offer some good examples of how that happens. Two years ago the notion of offering sanctuary for undocumented immigrants was only an idea that we had begun to explore. But after about six months of meetings, forums, research, and debate we concluded that it was something we were called to as a congregation. Six months after that we welcomed La Mariposa into our space, and so began another eight months of intensive support for her, involving dozens of people from our own and neighboring congregations. Now, that she has been able to return to her home, we are left as a congregation to decide: is this a ministry that calls us further? Where do we go now?
Go back even further to 2016 when our congregation adopted a resolution in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Sustaining commitments that arose out of that include participation by our members in MotherRead, a support group at Hillcrest Apartments for women of color and white allies, and the creation of a Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) group that meets regularly at our church to offer mutual support for people seeking to confront the consequences of white supremacy. Where else might this commitment take us so that we have greater impact on the fight for racial justice?
For several years the Earth Community Circle has been working on ways to make our campus more earth-friendly and carbon neutral, including promoting insulation and energy-saving practices as well as children and adult programs to raise awareness of our connection to the Earth. Last year ECC’s leadership played a key role in garnering congregational support and helping to raise money for more than 100 photovoltaic solar panels that will be installed in the next week or so. ECC leaders are urging us to renew our status with the UUA as a Green Sanctuary. What new work are we called to live into that ambition?
Hunger and Homelessness remain perennial problems in this privileged part of the world, where the disparity between rich and poor stares at us wherever we go. Shifting coalitions of organizations serve the poor in our community, and we are haltingly connected to a number of them, ranging from food pantries to Habitat for Humanity. What is the best way to focus and coordinate this work?
That’s a rough summary of some of our activities right now, and there are others ranging from our Peacemaking group, our Social Justice movie night and our newly created Universal Rainbow Unity support group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and other folks who find themselves marginalized by their gender or sexual expression.
All of this work gives us a good foundation from which to decide where we go next. So, this spring I plan to use the process of Appreciative Inquiry to help us explore that question. During the Wednesday Thing on February 20, March 6, April 3, and May 1 you are invited to take part in a process that will help us name what we have gotten out of this work so far and where we think it could take us. Each time we’ll explore a different area. Our goal will be to sort out next steps arising from the energy and success of what we’ve done so far. Please join in if you can.
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister