More Congregational Social Justice
This month we are continuing to run social justice stories we received from congregations.
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Canton, Ohio
Every Sunday at 1:00, people who are hungry for a meal assemble on the lawn west of Market Street between 3rd and 4th Streets, where various churches and other organizations set up tables to distribute food and sometimes clothing to any who have gathered there.
The UCC church faithfully sets up tables and hands out a variety of hot foods every Sunday. Other groups, like ours, contribute less often. Every month there are familiar faces and new faces waiting in line.
On the Sunday before Christmas, we came to Kresge Square with homemade cookies and hats, gloves and scarves donated by UUCGC members and friends. There were so many cold winter accessories that we needed two tables to stack them on. It was gray, cold, and muddy. The people who came by the tables looked grimly through the hats and gloves, nodding with satisfaction when they found something that could fit them. “My little girl needs a new pair of gloves. She just keeps growing,” one man told me as he picked up a small pair of pink fleece gloves. Picking out the right pair of gloves, the hat that would fit, or a warm scarf was serious business. But when we pointed to our other table across the lawn, the table that displayed plates of homemade cookies, faces brightened. Two men pretended to steal an entire plate of cookies but returned laughing when the teens called after them. Another guy flirted with my 71-year-old mother, complimenting her on her Christmas tree earrings and asking her for a date. I like to talk smack about the Browns this time of year since so many people show up in Browns and Steelers gear.
On another Sunday, the weekend before Thanksgiving this year, Max and I put about 100 sandwiches and 20 juice boxes into a large plastic tub and carried it between us to the long line that snaked across the lawn as people waited for the UCC volunteers to set up their tables. It was a cold day, and we were all shivering. Those without gloves were holding them under their armpits, stomping their feet to keep them warm. The mood was more than usually pleasant, though, no doubt helped by a band of four musicians who had braved the cold temperatures and set up near a picnic table where they played guitars, violin, and a horn. The atmosphere was festive, and our sandwiches were welcomed. Our juice boxes, as always, disappeared within seconds. As Max once said to a visiting youth who wondered whether anyone really appreciates our tuna fish and egg sandwiches, “We don’t do it because we want their gratitude, we do it because they’re hungry.” But there was not one person who accepted a sandwich from us who didn’t thank us sincerely and bless us for coming down.
No moment during my own Thanksgiving celebration later that week made me feel as grateful, happy, and blessed as I felt to walk somewhat shyly among strangers and offer them food made by the children of our congregation.
—by Erin Dubois
First Universalist Church of Rochester, New York
Members and friends of the First Universalist Church of Rochester, NY, recently contributed nearly $500 to Interfaith Impact of New York State through a pass the plate for justice emphasis during a Sunday morning service. Interfaith Impact is a state-wide advocacy network composed of Unitarian Universalists, Reform Jews and progressive Protestants who advocate on state-wide issues. The particular focus of the contribution was on stopping hydrofracking in New York State.
Unitarian Universalist Society of Cleveland
Newly called minister Rev. Joe Cherry has brought a different way of giving to the community. In an acknowledgement that the minister's ministry is never solely to the members and friends of the church, nor contained to the walls, Joe has asked his congregation to tithe some of his ministerial time. Through a lottery selection of organizations suggested by members, he is giving around four hours a week to organizations outside the church.
North Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Lewis Center, Ohio
The NUUC Social Action Committee (SAC) has been involved in numerous projects during 2014 to raise awareness, encourage participation in social justice, and provide assistance to address human needs. Our congregation participated in UUSC’s Guest at Your Table program, hosted an Empty Bowls luncheon to raise money for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, collected school supplies to benefit students served by the Delaware County Juvenile Probation Department, and collected gifts and donations to support Montana de Luz, a faith based organization in rural Honduras that provides a home for children affected by HIV/AIDS. Each month we donate our Loose Change Offering to an organization that provides educational awareness or support services to those impacted by social injustice. Our monthly Fair Trade sales of coffee and chocolate support fair wages for farmers and the proceeds from sales are used to sponsor a child at Montana de Luz.
During 2015 the Social Action Committee offered several educational programs on different social justice topics to provide information to members of our congregation and the surrounding community. Our environmental group watched “The Story of Solutions” discussed steps we can take to move toward a more sustainable future. We showed A “Place at the Table”, a documentary about hunger in America. We hosted a screening and discussion of “Disruption! “. We sent ribbons for the Climate Ribbon Project with two members to the People’s Climate March in New York City. We also showed “Dollarocracy – The Influence of Money on Our Democracy and What We Can Do About It.”