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Social Justice Empowerment Handbook

Download the Unitarian Universalist Association's Social Justice Empowerment Handbook (PDF, 147 pages)

...supporting congregational action for transformational social change.

Introduction to the Handbook

The Social Justice Empowerment Program was launched in 1992. In that time, over 150 congregations have participated in the workshops and many others have used the materials. Congregational leaders report that the program has helped them to focus, strengthen, and grow their social justice programs. It has helped them to balance their program with a mix of service, education, organizing, advocacy, and public witness activities. It has made them more aware of how to draw on UUA resources and to join in national organizing and advocacy campaigns. Most of all, ministers and others tell us that the program has helped bring social justice into the heart of the spiritual life of the congregation.

Since 1992, our association of congregations has continued to develop our effectiveness in working for social justice and broaden our understandings of what social justice means. The increased effectiveness can be seen in the fact that over ten percent of our congregations are now involved in congregation-based community organizations, and many more than that are working in interfaith coalitions. Thousands of Unitarian Universalists have joined in interfaith and national advocacy efforts that the UUA has initiated and joined. Our broader (and deeper) understanding of justice is reflected in the fact that over half of our congregations are now officially Welcoming (to the bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender community) Congregations. In 1997, we embarked on an association-wide, anti-racism initiative, and since then we have started to work on issues affecting people with disabilities. Youth empowerment is on the rise and social justice activities that include the whole family are being organized. Most recently our Statement of Conscience on global warming, passed at General Assembly, represents our deeper commitment to the earth.

A new engaged spirituality has taken hold in our faith, and we are beginning to understand that to work for social justice is in itself a spiritual practice.

This updated handbook reflects these new understandings. It is designed to help social justice leaders and advocates be more strategic, to develop collective decision-making, to make good use of congregational resources, and put our UU faith into action. It incorporates materials from Inspired Faith—Effective Action (UUA Advocacy and Witness), Facilitating Circles of Change (Spirit of Action), and other sources.

Our thanks to the Social Justice Empowerment facilitators who have lovingly taken this program across the country to small fellowships, mid-sized congregations, and large churches; and to Rev. William Gardiner who established the program.

Special thanks are owed to the Rev. Carole Ann Cole who revised much of the materials and shepherded this project. To Rev. Cynthia Prescott who formatted the handbook. To Rev. Art McDonald who provided a new social justice bibliography. And to Charles Zoeller, Rev. Kathy Huff, Pam Kelly, Carl McCargo, Rev. Ralph Galen, Tom Esch, Pat Butler, and Barb Greve for their review and comments.

We hope you will find this resource useful for your congregation’s contribution to justice.

In faith,
Susan Leslie
Unitarian Universalist Association
Director of the Office for Congregational Advocacy and Witness

For more information contact socialjustice @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Wednesday, August 24, 2011.

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