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TopClara Barton &
Massachusetts Bay Districts
of Unitarian Universalist Congregations

NEWSLETTER: February 2011
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In This Issue
What's a Social Justice Coordinator To Do?
CBD AR/AO/MC Initiative
Building the World We Dream About

Learning Congregation Workshops

Got Purpose? It Does a Congregation Good  - Part III: Getting it into our DNA

with Doug Zelinkski
(Participation in Part III is not dependent on attendance at Parts I or II. All are welcome!)Creating and Leading Dynamic Lay Led Worship
with Rev. Sue Phillips (June 11)

Spring Conference
Governance and Ministry in UU Congregations
with Dan Hotchkiss
May 7, 2011 - Sturbridge, MA

Religious Education
OWL Training for Teachers of Grades 7 to 12
  • April 1 to 3 - FULL   
Renaissance Module
  • Multicultural Religious Education: February 25 and 26, 2011 - FULL  

Youth Ministry Training - Advanced with Barb Greve and Joe Gayeski 

  • April 2, 2011 - 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, UU Church of Worchester (further details and registration coming soon) 
Collegial Conversation with DREs and Ministers
  • May 19  - Harvard, MA (details coming soon)  
Annual Meetings
  • Clara Barton District: April 9, 2011 - Manchester, CT - Lunch meeting  
  • Massachusetts Bay District: April 10, 2011 - Belmont, MA -  Dinner meeting  
What's a Social Justice Coordinator To Do?
Meck B&Wby Meck Groot
Program and Social Justice Coordinator


This year, my job as somewhat newly appointed social justice coordinator is to discern how CBD and MBD can best inspire, support and increase capacity for congregationally-based social justice ministries. Even this articulation of the task reveals two assumptions held by CBD/MBD staff that inform our role in this work.


One of our assumptions is that there is a difference between social justice activism and social justice ministry. Social justice activism (service, education, organizing, advocacy or witness) involves political engagement that addresses social inequalities and disparities. Social justice ministry takes this a step further by including spiritual engagement that invites people on a faith journey together into a deeper sense of meaning, purpose and connection.


While social justice activism often begins with the question, "What does the world need?" social justice ministry is rooted in the question "What makes us come alive?" * Its purpose is not about making the world "out there" a better place - though that may be a happy outcome.  The purpose of social justice ministry is first of all to help us become better people. By "better," do not read "morally superior," but rather "better able to authentically engage with our own and others' full humanity." Social justice ministry, therefore, allows us to discover more about who we really are, why we are here, how we are interdependent, what really matters, and what practices and actions awaken us and others to becoming more fully alive. The first business of social justice ministry, therefore, is a congregation's exploration of its unique purpose and call. [Read more] 

In 2009, the Clara Barton District Board began working in partnership with the UUA's JUUST Change consultancy on an initiative to expand the capacity of CBD congregations for antiracist, anti-oppressive, multicultural ministries. The model being used for this work is simple. Each year, the coordinating team holds a gathering at which congregational delegates present their congregations successes, failures and challenges in this area and share resources they have found for doing the work.
About ten CBD congregations are currently involved. The first gathering was held last May and plans are unfolding for the second day long gathering to be held at the Littleton congregation on May 14. The coordinating team invites all CBD congregations to participate. MBD congregations are also invited to attend in order to learn the model and begin a similar process in MBD.


An invitation with further details about the May gathering will be sent out to all congregations in both districts in the near future. In the meantime, hold the date. Questions about the initiative can be addressed to Rev. Josh Pawelek of UUS: East in Manchester by email or phone at 860-652-8961.


Building the World We Dream About 
UUA LogoBuilding the World We Dream About is a Unitarian Universalist program that seeks to interrupt the workings of racism and transform how people from different racial/ethnic groups understand and relate to one another. Consisting of 24 two-hour workshops, with Taking It Home activities, reflections, and readings to be done between workshops, the program creates opportunities for congregations to practice dreaming our world otherwise, and then commit to new, intentional ways of being. To review or download the program, click here.
Feature What's a Social Justice Coordinator To Do? (continued from top)

The second assumption we have about this work is the importance of its being congregationally-based. As such, social justice ministry impacts and is impacted by all the ministries of a congregation: worship, religious education, pastoral care, small group ministry, committee meetings, even coffee hour and budgeting. This is not to say that social justice becomes the subject of all ministries - though it might from time to time - but that it has the power to transform all aspects of a congregation's life together.


Many congregations experience the phenomenon in which individual congregants and/or small social action committees attempt to raise awareness and energy to address social causes. Whether their efforts receive the attention and blessing of church leadership or not, their work is often marginal to congregational life. Often, the experience leads to frustration or misunderstanding. Congregationally-based social justice ministry, on the other hand, is aligned with and integrated into the structures of the congregation. By implication, it involves congregational leaders - professional and lay - as active participants in decision-making processes that set direction and develop plans for a congregation's social justice work.


Clarifying our assumptions for this work helps us articulate what my job is not. It is not my job, for example, to organize individual UUs in the district to lobby at the State Houses in Hartford or Boston. Nor is it my job to advise social action committees on what issues they should or could be addressing. It is not my job to recruit volunteers for service projects, mentorship programs or educational opportunities. It is not my job to increase UU involvement with such organizations as UU Mass Action or the UU Urban Ministry. This is not to say that these are unworthy tasks. They just aren't the best strategy for meeting the district's goal of developing spiritually healthy and covenantally based Unitarian Universalist congregations.


While we can say what tasks are not mine to do, the question remains: how does the district inspire, support and increase capacity for congregationally-based social justice ministries? A few possibilities are emerging. One is the CBD Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression/Multicultural Initiative mentioned the story above. Another involves making some of the social justice resources offered by the UUA more accessible by offering them through the district. Conversations with people in similar roles in other districts is also yielding ideas for future programming and services.  


Getting to know more about the social justice work at your congregation would also help district staff know better what is already working and what needs you are experiencing. We are therefore soliciting your input on a survey designed to learn more about that. Please consider sharing your experience and thoughts with us by clicking here. You are also welcome to send me an email or give me a call at 617-393-4216 to share more directly your experience, questions, reflections and ideas about congregationally-based social justice ministries.  


In faith,

Meck Groot 

Footnote * From a quote by Howard Thurman, "Do not ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."