General Assembly: GA Presentations: Presenter views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UUA.

Greater New Orleans Unitarian Universalists: Cluster for Social Justice

General Assembly 2008 Event 5018

Speakers: Jyaphia Christos Rodgers, Terry Van Brunt, Rev. Melanie Morel-Ensminger, Rev. Jim VanderWeele

It should not take a hurricane to bring us together! That's the lesson from New Orleans.

The people of New Orleans divide the span of time into two eras: pre-K and post-K, or pre- and post-Katrina for the long-winded. Pre-K, there were three Unitarian Universalist (UU) churches that mostly ignored each other: First UU Church of New Orleans, Community Church UU, and North Shore UU Society. Now, they are a cluster: Greater New Orleans Unitarian Universalists (GNOUU) also sometimes referred to as Getting to kNow yOUU. They have not only come to know one another, now they appreciate and inspire one another! Every year, on the anniversary of Katrina, they gather for a service similar to Seder.

They give a grateful "shout out" of thanks to their Southwestern District Executive, Rev. Susan Smith, to the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), to the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), and to many others. They have received much help from donors and volunteers. But it's not over yet! There is still much to be done. So far, they have raised 28% of the $2.7 million they need.

The GNOUU cluster of churches is working to provide affordable housing, space for community organizations, affordable child care, programs for both youth and seniors, and food for those in need. With few grocery stores open and locally grown food in shorter supply, there are holes in the food-system net.

Fortunately, they managed to collaborate with the AIDS task force that had kitchen equipment but no place to put it. GNOUU had the space but no equipment. It was a perfect match. Together, they bring 800 meals per week to persons living with HIV/AIDS. "It's all about people working together!" said Jyaphia Christos Rodgers.

"Food, family, and fun!" declared diva-chef Jyaphia; that is the New-Orleans way. There are programs that focus on service, education, justice making, and partnership with engaged community organizations. Together with the Executive Director of the New Orleans Rebirth Volunteer Program, Quo Vadis G. Breaux, she promises radical hospitality to volunteers. For information email Quo Vadis at or go to the GNOUU website.

Though the plight of New Orleans has fallen off the national radar screen, the leaders of GNOUU want everyone to know: they are alive, but it's not over yet. Nevertheless, if you visit New Orleans, you will find a great group of people in a great city.

Reported by Mike McNaughton; edited by Jone Johnson Lewis.