At last count, in 2019, over 200 Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations are members of Congregation-Based Community Organizations (CBCOs)—over 20% of our UU congregations. These CBCOs are supported by "networks" which provide training leaders and organizers, support and consultation to organizers who do the day-to-day work of organizing and provide organizers to the local CBCOs. Fifty of our congregations are involved with CBCOs supported by the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), 31 by the Gamaliel Foundation, 8 by InterValley Project, 7 by Direct Action Research and Training (DART), 24 by PICO National Network and 7 are independent and not affiliated with a national network. About 11.3 percent of our congregations are CBCO members. UU Churches involved in CBCO activities are comprised of 25,882 members or 11.9% of our total certified membership. Comparative figures with other religions groups are not available.
Congregational size of involved congregations ranges from 1300 to two congregations that have 10 members each. Mean size is 575 certified members.
Read more about UU participation in CBCO: A Social Justice Approach to Revitalizing Congregational Life.
Unitarian Universalist Congregations and Congregation-Based Community Organizing
"We have a history of providing social services. Now we have an opportunity to engage in social action for social change."
"I had almost given up on trying to do anything positive about (this city.) Then this came along and now we are making progress."
CBCO groups with UU involvement have been successful in a wide range of "actions," from securing a needed stop sign to improving police protection and accountability to securing millions of public dollars for affordable housing in a "hot" housing market. Groups have been successful in reducing class size in a public school, improving teacher training and in the development of after school programming. Working together, CBCO groups involving several UU congregations were able to persuade the State of California to allocate $50 million for primary health care clinics, $50 million for after-school programs and a $9.2 billion bond for school repair and construction.
CBCO groups are not "single-issue" organizations. They do not break up following achieving an objective. Rather, other "actions" are planned. Congregational financial and participatory support is also longer term, and can continue indefinitely. In our survey of UU congregations, no one contacted indicated an interest in disaffiliating with their CBCO, nor did they regard their involvement as temporary.
"For me, personally, it is clearly in my self-interest as a person who believes that the deconstruction of the social sin of racism will happen only when white institutions like my own learn to take leadership from Black institutions, communities and Individuals."
Interfaith work puts us into the mix with other religious, labor and community groups. UUs are working, as peers, with members of other religious traditions. Our survey reports concerns in this area, both in accepting work with people of other faiths and in being accepted. To be successful in faith based organizing, UU congregations must be able to accept leadership from Black and Hispanic congregations and individuals.
Since it is important that a broad-based organization be maintained, only actions that can win the support of that base are promulgated. UUs share with people of other faiths concerns about the quality of the educational system, racism, the environment, housing, immigrant rights and freedoms, public transportation, and affordable, accessible health care. There are concerns important to UU congregations that will not be addressed by CBCOs. Participating congregations know that their social concerns programming cannot rely solely on community organizing, and have stepped up their activities in other areas while remaining active in CBCO groups.
UU witness comes in part from assisting CBCO groups to broaden their base not only to include us, but Jewish, Islamic as well as other non-Christian congregations and to pave the way for more inclusive religious practices. CBCO participation has spurred some congregations to include religious orientation in diversity training workshops and other offerings.
"No excuses, no regrets"