UU Church of St. Petersburg 2014-2015 uustpete.org/
Social Justice Annual Report
At this time the UU St Pete Social Justice Committee includes these six ministries:
- Fair Trade Coffee
- Farmworker/Immigrant Families
- Green Sanctuary
- Move to Amend
- Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC)
This year a new Social Justice ministry, Move to Amend, was added and the Green Sanctuary ministry has expanded into a major project for our entire congregation. The Criminal Justice Ministry has not been meeting regularly but will meet as needed to address the important issues of fairness and equity in the criminal justice system.
Each of the six ministries plan projects to address the issues faced by those in need. Some projects are Outreach – (ex. selling free trade coffee and chocolate, feeding the Homeless, supporting immigrant families or gathering donations using Guest at Your Table boxes).
Justice efforts aim to address systemic issues. Examples include supporting the Coalition of Immokalee Workers campaign for Fair Food, advocating for immigration reform and economic justice thru our Free Trade Chocolate and Coffee sales.
Educational opportunities to our congregation via speakers: Discussing reasons an amendment to the US Constitution to limit and manage the money spent on elections is needed; the plight of immigrant families and human trafficking; farmworker issues; the environmental state of our climate; local transportation needs; Film opportunity: About four undocumented students who beat out MIT in a robotics competition. Educational opportunities for Children’s RE classes – introducing the children to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and our Green Sanctuary work.
Partnerships strengthened: The Society of Friends, Coalition of Downtown Churches, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Interfaith Action of SW Florida and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.
Fair-Traded Coffee & Chocolate Sales
The UUSC Coffee Project is an innovative way, through Fair Trade, for the congregation to reach out to small farmers in the coffee-growing world, allowing us to strengthen economic justice by our choices. As of December 2014, the Social Justice Committee has begun its seventh year of offering Fairly Traded Coffee, Tea & Chocolate products for sale, twice monthly, after the Sunday service. Each purchase benefits the work of our church, as the funds raised go into the Social Justice budget and will help to support the work of our Green Sanctuary committee.
For seven years, our congregation’s continued support of these efforts has been helping to transform the lives of these small farmers, and their families, around the globe, helping the UUSC continue it’s commitment to their human rights, and helping our church community to live our mission.
This ministry identifies outreach, educational and justice projects that support farmworker and immigrant families. The following supporting activities that enable and encourage members and friends of all ages and means to participate.
Major Activities for this year included:
- The biggest project for the year was the recent brunch for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their supporters. In partnership with UU Clearwater and the Unity Church, we cooked 300 breakfast burritos and provided breakfast for 250+ marchers; and, then participated in the march in St Petersburg supporting the CIW’s Fair Food Campaign.
- Bi-monthly food collections provide local immigrant families with food that they have difficulty funding on their own.
- Provided gift cards to the mothers of two families to buy Christmas gifts for their children.
- Comprehensive Immigration Reform was stalled in the US House of Representatives. However it was decided to support Florida drivers’ licenses for our undocumented residents. Though there are solid safety and economic arguments supporting such legislation, the Legislature was tied up on Medicaid Expansion and environmental funding issues – which are also supported.
- Educational efforts expanded this year: The film, Underwater Dreams, was shown. Also, three inequality issues were addressed at different services: one speaker was an undocumented law student who passed the FL Bar – but could not get a license to practice in this state; two immigration lawyers who deal daily with victims of human trafficking and the unaccompanied children who have come to the US from Central America; and a CIW speaker. A lesson was also prepared and provided about Florida farmworkers to our youngest members.
The Homeless Ministry takes to heart and carries our mission forward — offering compassion and advocating for the rights of the homeless.Through the initiatives of the Homeless Ministry, the generous support of this congregation and other faith based groups we partner with, we continue to be on the front line of homeless issues with direct outreach, political action and support to local agency’s.
Members raise funds to support, through monthly and annual fund raisers, established and emerging outreach institutions, including Daystar, Free Clinic- Beacon House, Woman’s Residence, Family Promise Pinellas County, Pinellas County Homeless Leadership Board and Celebrate Outreach.
In addition to helping fund many partners — immeasurable hours are also contributed by many church member volunteers.The Friday night Picnic in the Playground is one example of the level of commitment in our Church. This past year we have reshaped this interfaith weekly service to include more volunteer participation, focusing on nutrition and sustainability. We continue to serve over 5000 meals annually to all those in need. This service has been held up as a positive model for other groups to follow. In April we celebrate 6 years of continuous service.
Our Beacon House servers continue to serve meals every Monday evening of the month throughout the year
With our children and the reinstated “Food collection Sunday” we continue to collect nonperishable food for distribution to those in need.
With our partner Celebrate Outreach we sponsor a monthly community forum, in Gilmore Hall, bringing in expert presenters to share knowledge on eradicating homelessness and ways to navigate existing and emerging services to benefit the marginalized poor.
Our members have helped co-sponsor the National Memorial Service held every December to remember those in our community that have died without homes.
We remain flexible and open to new ideas for finding solutions to the ever-changing landscape of homelessness.
Green Sanctuary Ministry
The Green Sanctuary Ministry is working to increase congregational awareness of climate change and to make UU St Pete a green sanctuary. The ministry is presently performing an audit of current church practices. The ministry will then develop and implement an action plan to fulfill the green sanctuary requirements.
The Green Sanctuary Ministry’s recent activities include: 1) Book study of Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate; 2) THE GREEN CORNER, a weekly post on info net that provides information on climate change and suggestions on how each of us can become more involved; 3) A climate trivia booth at Intergenerational Day; and 4) A kick off day on Sunday April 26th to inform the congregation of the Green Sanctuary program.
Move to Amend Ministry
The purpose of this ministry is to support the passage of a constitutional amendment to reverse a couple of disastrous Supreme Court decisions. The amendment will limit “personhood” to human beings. No other entities will have constitutional rights. It will also affirm that money is not speech, allowing it to be regulated in the political process.
We work with the Pinellas county Move to Amend chapter which includes people from UU St Pete, UU Clearwater, people from other churches and people with no church affiliation.
Towards the end of 2014, we participated in meetings and potlucks in support of Rana Bazini, an 80 year old woman who walked from Sarasota to Tallahassee to draw attention to the need for the constitutional amendment.
What Exactly is the UUSC? Membership in UUSC means becoming a part of a global network of social justice activists and advocates, and increases our collective ability to create positive change. It is in effect aligning UU principles with practice on a broader scale.
At UUSP, UUSC is best known for the Guest at Your Table campaign run each fall. In addition, Marilyn Barber has steadfastly sold Holiday Cards. We are also participating in the James Luther Award for congregational involvement based on a minimum contribution per pledge unit. There are many situations where the national office in Boston has designated areas which need our attention and advocacy: Immigation and Deportation,
Climate Justice, Human Right to Water (especially given the situation in Kenya and California)
Lastly, in conjunction with the UUA, the College of Social Justice is offering summer internships for young adults. In addition, congregations interested in a social justice mission can travel under UUSC/UUA’s auspices to work with UUSC partners in the delivery of aid.