The First Unitarian Universalist Church in Rochester, MN, is the 2011 recipient of the Bennett Award for Congregational Action on Human Justice and Social Action.
Following a 2007 Social Justice Empowerment (SJE) workshop sponsored by Unitarian Universalist Association's (UUA’s) Office of Congregational Advocacy & Witness, First Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church renewed a “spirit of social activism within the church, reorganized lay leaders, and increased congregant participation.” As a result of the workshop, the congregation formed several Task Forces addressing the issues of poverty, racism, health care, the environment, international justice, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender (GLBT) rights, and people with disabilities. A year later, a follow-up SJE workshop was held and the congregation crafted a new mission statement for the social justice council and eventually, a new congregational mission statement that includes justice as a key tenet: “To be a Compassionate, Welcoming Community that Nurtures Spiritual Growth and Practices Justice.”
Congregational projects include the formation of a forty-five person Standing on the Side of Love (SSL) Rapid Response Team with a dedicated web page and a written procedure for how the congregation decides to respond to local incidents. The congregation kicked off their SSL participation with Rochester’s Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parade in Jan 2011 which garnered local media. Additionally, the congregation has joined with a local Gamelial Congregation-based Community Organizing (CBCO) affiliate, ISIAH, to participate and host one of many statewide ‘faith conversations’ for 10,000 Voices for One Minnesota in order to identify and address pressing local issues. Since 2009, the congregation has been working with Minnesota UU Social Justice Alliance (MUUSJA) on stopping a constitutional amendment in MN opposing marriage equality.
First Unitarian Universalist Church in Rochester, MN, was recognized at the 2011 General Assembly.