Since last fall a group of Live Oakers has been meeting to plan ways to implement and maintain a congregational social justice ministry at Live Oak. A congregational ministry is one that brings focus to the power of the church to address injustice in the lives of our neighbors. It can be extremely effective in that it is both an organizing principle and the priority for the church’s resources (space, volunteers, funding, education, etc.)
The Social Justice Ministry (SJM) team sees clearly that there are concrete steps we can take to address injustices in our community this afternoon, tomorrow and next week. We intend to deepen our affirmation to the inherent worth and dignity of every person and to make this affirmation manifest through our work. We won’t have to say it, because we can see it. UUs walking the talk. Through this affirmation we enrich connection with those who suffer injustice. By this interconnection we grow and become better humans. This ministry enables Live Oak as a congregant of people to carry out our faith by substantially improving the quality of life for our community members who experience a variety of injustices – food insecurity, poverty, environmental injustice, racism, economic injustice, healthcare injustice.
To achieve this purpose, we have:
- Joined the Texas UU Justice Ministry for networking and legislative lobbying
- Carmen Rumbaut is our Live Oak representative to this group and has coordinated opportunities.
- Invited congregational conversations about justice and formed a core Live Oak team:
- Carmen Rumbaut
- Carolyn Dower
- Tim Buckley
- Mary Hengstebeck
- Kim Ono
- Lois Scott
- Marjorie Taylor
If you run into any of these people, ask them about what they are doing.
- We also wanted educate ourselves about best practices in UU justice ministry through training so we reached out to Heather Vickery, the Coordinator for Congregational Activism at the UU College of Social Justice (UUCSJ). This year we have had:
- A justice sermon, Heather Vickery UUCSJ January, 2021
- “Saying Yes, Saying No” workshop, Heather Vickery January 2021
- Faith in Action Workshop, Heather Vickery, March 2021
Heather is committed to remaining with us for coaching and consultation as needed.
- Ideally, this process of establishing a congregational ministry would involve engaging the whole congregation to identify its most passionate social justice concerns. However, with the pandemic limitations, the SJM team decided to evaluate our two most complex outreach efforts, Fresh Food For All and our literacy work (ESL and ABE), to see if they might meet criteria for congregational ministries as recommended by UUA. Our review of these, with a comprehensive tool supplied by the UUCSJ, is ongoing. Each program may qualify as a congregational ministry or they may be seen as two beginning foci in a larger Economic Justice Ministry.
- An Economic Justice Ministry, through community partners, could reach out to the over 16,000 households in our community where our neighbors do not have enough to eat, often have to decide between eating, transportation, childcare, medicine, healthcare, etc. and are just one unexpected expense away from a true catastrophe.
- We are currently discussing the proposed UU 8th Principle and how that focus might become part of SJM’s functioning:
“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”
The SJM team is optimistic about the future.
In the coming year we will be:
- Developing policy and procedures to support our purpose for submission to the Board.
- In the fall, we will conduct Adult Education classes describing the importance of the SJM so members can learn ways to become involved.
- Make recommendations to the Board on designation of congregational ministry status for current programs.
- Propose ways to engage the whole Live Oak community in developing our congregational ministry in the future.
Catch up. Catch on.