This blog post comes from Rev. Dave Dunn of the UU Metro Atlanta North Congregation in Roswell, GA.
Often when we talk about UU organizing, we share the success stories and the big wins. For our congregations and members who haven’t been that involved, it can feel like it’s just not accessible – that’s great for big urban congregations, for congregations with a lot of resources, for congregations that can hire a paid social justice minister or coordinator. But what about us? That’s why I feel like it’s so important to tell a story of organizing from the very beginning. You won’t see any huge win here (yet!), but what you’ll see is how we at UU Metro Atlanta North and Emerson UU have started building relationships and laying the foundation for a strong and impactful interfaith immigrant justice movement in our area. As part of the national Love Resists campaign, a collaboration of UUSC and the UUA, we’ve been organizing for the last four months and it’s starting to feel like we have some momentum. Four congregations are now solidly on board: Roswell Community Masjid, Temple Beth Tikvah, Emerson UU and UU Metro Atlanta North. We can feel that more congregations will soon be joining us.
On Sunday, January 27, the New Sanctuary Movement of Atlanta – Metro North had its first full-fledged bonding experience comprised of an interfaith worship service, shared meal and immigration justice table discussions.
We started simply by showing up – showing up for community events, non-profit fundraisers, information sessions, social justice actions. Since the faith leaders and congregants of the four congregations kept running into each other at homeless shelters, food pantries, Stewart Detention Center, El Refugio Hospitality House, Georgia State Legislature and Immigration Court; it seemed natural to multiply our power by joining forces.
It started with one-to-one meetings amongst the faith leaders. In addition to the common social justice work that we were already doing, we felt we weren’t doing enough to begin to address the injustices currently being inflicted upon Dreamers, asylum seekers and immigrants.
We then decided to get out of our ivory towers and get proximate (per Bryan Stevenson: 2017 Ware Lecturer). We extended our one-to-one conversations with immigrants in our community intimately affected by these injustices. We listened to them. We allowed them to educate us. We invited them into our worship services. We gave them our pulpits.
We assembled our four congregations to do joint trainings, immigration simulations and immigration court witness. (Immigration court is just plain crazy…and very sad.)
After months of building our relationships with one another, it felt as if it was time to worship together - a call to prayer led by our Muslim friends, communal song from the Judaic tradition, words of covenant from the Unitarian Universalist tradition, our deepest aspirations written on small rocks with paint pens…and the planting of a tree together.
The New Sanctuary Movement of Atlanta – Metro North is growing together through root and rock. We are excited to continue sharing our story as our work develops.