Unitarian Church of Marlborough and Hudson: International Engagement
The international engagement of the Unitarian Church of Marlborough and Hudson (UCMH) is primarily focused in two projects.
An English as a Second Language Program
The congregation’s involvement with English as a Second Language (ESL) began in 2004 with some deep thinking by its recently re-energized social action committee. During that year the congregation had committed to provide a full “tithe” of its membership contributions to its social action committee, a committee that had previously operated on a shoe string. The committee set out to evaluate the needs of its community, and to get involved in a project which would provide a long-term difference in people’s lives. In their analysis they considered that both Marlborough and Hudson—the two communities that the congregation serves—have large immigrant populations that are underserved, particularly by literacy programs. They discovered that, In fact, multi-year waiting lists for ESL programs were common.
The committee took the point of view that there are serious economic and social ramifications caused by the lack of literacy programs for the region’s immigrant population, and decided to find a niche in this work where they could be helpful. They decided that the most effective role they could play would be to help an existing ESL organization increase its capacity, rather than spend energy developing a new program. The organization they chose to partner with is “Literacy Unlimited” which supports four hundred literacy students with four hundred literacy tutors. The congregation initially provided $3000, volunteer assistance, and donated the use of the church assembly room for the training of volunteer literacy tutors.
A year or so later the church learned that the Marlborough library needed assistance to translate a brochure about local resources into Portuguese. The church’s social action committee made it possible for the library to accomplish this project, and continues to partner with the library by supporting its literacy program. Current efforts to expand the availability of ESL include discussion between the church’s social action committee and the Hudson Maynard Adult Learning Center. Optimism about the future is high.
Supporting Habitat for Humanity International
In the Spring of 2007 members of the church learned that Habitat for Humanity would soon be getting involved in their local community, and they quickly became involved. The church has provided $8,500 in grant money to the local project committee, donates meeting space, has committed to provide volunteers when construction begins, and, has offered a highly visible location (the church green) for Habitat’s “fundraising thermometer.”
UCMH is a small congregation (approximately sixty members) with an expansive vision. It demonstrates that international engagement can occur in very local ways. The core religious values of “hospitality” and “justice-making” are fulfilled in a very effective way through the literacy programs that serve an international population. And, in addition to the local impact of the church’s support for Habitat for Humanity, a tenth of all donations that go to the local project committee will be sent to an international Habitat for Humanity International affiliate where its impact will be immense.
Key participants in the church’s international engagement through these projects are: Johanna Ambrosio-LePlant, former Social Action Committee chair and current congregational president, Bruce Crawford, liaison to Marlborough library, Wendy Cohen, liaison to Habitat for Humanity local project committee, Reverend Stephen Shick, parish minister, and a congregation of people committed to a “Sixth Principle” vision.