The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tampa and HOPE

UU Congregations & CBCO: Success Stories

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tampa is a founding member of HOPE, Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality. HOPE is affiliated with the D.A.R.T. Network (Direct Action & Research Training Center) in Miami, FL, and is a member of the F.D.O.F. (Federation of DART Organizations, Florida).

HOPE was founded in 1988 as a private, non-partisan organization in Hillsborough County, Florida. Like Congregation Based Community Organizations elsewhere, HOPE is a multi-issue community organization consisting of multi-racial and interfaith congregations representing the cultural diversity of Hillsborough County.

From its beginning, HOPE has been regarded to be a vehicle to unite the voices of hundreds of people to successfully encourage officials to act on proposals coming from member institutions for long-term solutions to community problems.

In the past, HOPE has worked on education reform, health care, neighborhood improvement, employment issues, crime prevention and leadership development.

HOPE is funded by dues from member congregations, individual and business investments and non-governmental grants.

HOPE is a private, non-profit, 501(c)3 federally tax-exempt organization. The UU Church of Tampa has as its goal the sum of $3000 (or more) for this year's support drive. The congregation is well on its way to achieving or exceeding that goal.

HOPE's Organizational Structure

HOPE membership is open to organizations, except politically partisan groups, which will act on HOPE's mission and goals. All member applicants must be approved at a HOPE Unity Assembly and provide annual membership dues based on membership size. 
HOPE holds a Biennial Convention which brings hundreds of delegates together from member groups to elect the Board of Directors, authorize action agenda, make necessary changes to the Constitution and By-Laws, and celebrate the life of HOPE. 
Quarterly membership meetings, called Unity Assemblies, sanction the work of committees, approve and commit to implement action recommendations, approve applications for membership, and build relationships among members. 
The Board of Directors is comprised of individual members elected or appointed by member groups. The board meets monthly to develop and implement policy decisions, authorize and review budgets, and oversee activities between Assemblies. 
Furthermore, there are Research/Planning Committees. People interested in a specific problem meet to research and develop action recommendations to address the root causes of that problem. 
HOPE Staff work with members to carry out the activities of HOPE and are accountable to HOPE's Board of Directors. How H.O.P.E. Uses Power to Confront Injustice: UU Theological Grounding
As Unitarian Universalists, HOPE provides a vehicle for living our principles by working together to achieve justice, equity and compassion in human relations.

Frequently we are powerless when we work alone to seek justice for ourselves and neighbors. HOPE is a vehicle to help us overcome powerlessness, by enabling us to build power and act powerfully! Martin Luther King is quoted as saying: "Power without love is abusive, yet love without power is sentimental and anemic." Our love is not real without power. It cannot be realized. It is merely sentimental. Yet he also says, "Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love, correcting everything that stands against love." 
Power relates to the different kinds of relationships in our lives: Imagine three circles each inside the other. The inner circle represents our Personal relationships—friends and family. The second circle represents our Voluntary relationships—ones we choose. The third/outer circle represents our Necessary relationships—ones we need in order to survive. So, what do these circles have to say to us about power? 
The problems HOPE tackles are related to the systems in the outer circle (for example, the Education system—kids not reading; the Health Care system—Lack of health care) 
So, what are our sources of power? In today's society, there are two sources of power—Organized Money and Organized People. 
The systems in the outer circle have their power in large amounts of money. HOPE's potential source of power is people, if we're organized. 
How does HOPE get more organized people? We build relationships! Power is in relationships. We want HOPE to be in the third Circle through the power of large numbers of organized people! HOPE's strength is directly related to the number of organized people we can bring together to hold the systems accountable to the values of justice and equality. HOPE has in the past, and needs to continue to get into the outer circle so that we can do something when these systems treat some of us unjustly! Our frustrations, concerns and anger can help us recognize something is wrong, motivate us to think, strategize and then build the power to act effectively. When we organize and work together, the congregations in HOPE can speak truth to the systems in our communities who mistakenly think that they are all-powerful! 
Without organized people, we will not have the power to negotiate with the systems that have power over our lives. Without power, we cannot do justice ministry! 
A quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the book 'Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?' sums it up. "Power, properly understood, is the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political, or economic changes. In this sense power is not only desirable but also necessary in order to implement the demands of love and justice."

Recent Efforts

In addition to the fund drive mentioned earlier, our goal was to develop a Justice Ministry Team of 3 to 8 people at UUCT. This team was be trained to carry out a listening and network building process that engages a large number of our congregation in identifying and discussing local community problems.

Ten or more people were needed to attend a Community Problems Assembly (November 10 - total goal 200) to prioritize two of the identified local community problems. The next step was for volunteers to step forward to research and develop action recommendations to address the prioritized problems.

Next, we will need 15-20 people to attend a Rally (March, 2006 - total goal 300) to approve and carry out action recommendations. And for the finale, we will share of bringing 1,000 people to a public action (tentatively in March or April of 2006) with the officials who can commit to implement the proposed solutions.

UU Church of Tampa congregants may get involved at the level that works for them and in return they have an opportunity to live out their UU principles and benefit the wider community. Training is provided along the way with opportunities to work together with members of the diverse mix of race, culture and religious traditions that make up HOPE's membership.

An ongoing challenge is how to get people involved. In the past, the process has been a network of one-to-one interviews to get to know people and learn their interests and concerns. In this process, we find out common concerns that need to be addressed to bring justice and equality to our community.

This year, we are using a House Meeting process to accomplish the same goals. A House Meeting is a 60-90 minute focused discussion held in a home involving 10-12 people with a facilitator who directs conversation. These meetings also may be held at the church.

The purpose of the meeting is to build relationships with one another, to engage folks in lively and meaningful conversation, to surface community problems, to get more leaders involved in our justice ministry network, and to build the power of UUCT and of HOPE.

The theme of the 2005 HOPE Unity Assembly April 11 was “Building Our Power for Successful Justice Ministry.” Ten UUCT members and friends were there: Robert Boileau, Diana Stevens, Grant Wilson, Kathy Albury, Tempie Taudte, Jay Hall, Susan Lee, Carol Partington, John Jeter, and Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley. On November 10, 2005 HOPE set Jobs/Living Wage and Transportation as next year's goals. Next year, we will have March 2 nd Rally Assembly and an action assembly on March 30 to achieve goals in these areas.

Recent Achievements: Some Highlights

  • HOPE saved a Direct Instruction reading curriculum grant balance of $650,000 from being diverted away from Direct Instruction activities
  • They stopped the elimination of a HOPE initiated Alternative to Out-of-School Suspension program, initiated in 1996 and expanded district wide in 1999.
  • Helped win the expansion of substance abuse and mental health treatment in the County HealthCare plan for the poor with an initial start up cost of $2 million.
  • Helped win a public challenge to the use of secret evidence to detain a person without due process of law.
  • Won a commitment that children will no longer be suspended from school for tardiness.

by Carol Partington, UUCT, with assistance from Sharon Streater, Hope Organizer, and Fred Seidl, UUA.