Networks for Justice

There are so many open questions about how we can collaborate regionally. One of the ones that’s very intriguing to me is how we can work together on social justice. My biggest excitement about this right now is a UUA effort on Reproductive Justice. I know that’s not regional, but let me explain why it’s an experiment I’m watching closely: 

I’m watching because our old models of doing social justice aren’t working the way they used to. It’s like this in other areas of life too. The old, late 20th century, model involved institutions and structures. The new model’s buzzword is network. I’ve seen this change in congregations as well as our districts. In several churches I know the old model was one social justice committee that worked on multiple projects. Everyone who was interested came to monthly meetings. It worked! But now it doesn’t work so well. There are lots of people who want to work on social justice projects, but don’t want to come to a formal monthly meeting about multiple subjects. They just want to work on the subject that they are passionate about (partly because they don’t have the time to do more than that!). They’d rather respond to an email or a Facebook thread than drive to church for a face to face meeting with an agenda and notes. Many of our congregations are coming up with new and exciting ways to transform the old model into ways that capture the energy in the new world. (If you have questions about this, I’d be happy to connect you with churches doing this!)

But how will we do it as a region? The old model was a district social justice committee where members would drive to have meetings…that model doesn’t capture the energy in the new world. I have been wondering how we create the networks we need around the issues we care about. Networks where any member of any congregation can be connected with other UU’s who care about that issue and who share resources, build community, and encourage each other.

Our state legislative networks are one way–a way for us to make our voices heard collectively in the governing of our states. Ohio has UUJO, Pennsylvania has  UUPLAN, New York participates in Interfaith Impact.

Another network springing up is Faith Communities Together (FaCT) for Frack Awareness is an interfaith effort with congregations from West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.

It’s my hope that we see even more networks emerge, particularly ones focused on single issues like FaCT. To make an impact we need to work together and share resources. Sometimes the place to make a difference is on the state level, sometimes it’s the local level, but we can still share and support each other even if the work we’re doing is right at home. So, I’m excited about a new effort by the UU Witness Ministries. Jessica Halperin, who grew up in OMD, is spearheading an experimental way to organize UU’s around Reproductive Justice which is our current UUA Study/Action issue. Instead of simply mailing congregations a resource packet–a late 20th century institution model–she’s gathering UU’s interested to learn more collaboratively, sharing resources, attending joint webinars to learn more, and support each other. If you’re interested you can email her at jhalperin @ uua.org. I am going to be watching her efforts closely because I think it’s our future.

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