Social Justice Committees
CARITAS — Each year the basement of First UU Church is transformed into a shelter for homeless adults for one week as part of an interfaith effort throughout the Richmond area to house homeless individuals over the winter. First UU volunteers host CARITAS guests and staff throughout the week by donating food, serving breakfasts and dinners, and staying overnight in the basement with the group. This all-church project is usually the largest SRC activity of the year.
Earth Committee — The mission of this group is to facilitate awareness of environmental issues within the First UU Church and beyond, and to explore connections between spirituality and environmental consciousness. Recently the Earth Committee has facilitated adult religious education classes, including Voluntary Simplicity, Sustainable Living, and a Sense of Place. The Committee hosted an environmental film series, and a town hall meeting on global warming issues. The local chapter of Chesapeake Climate Action Network meets monthly at the church, actively working on global warming issues in Richmond and elsewhere in Virginia. The Earth Committee sends a monthly newsletter to all interested persons on environmental and outdoor events in the metro area.
Food Bank — Each Sunday SRC volunteers collect nonperishable goods from members and friends of the church to be delivered to one or more emergency food sites in Richmond for families in need. On Martin Luther King Day we join with those from other area churches in an ecumenical project to work on site at the Food Bank
History Project — We have been compiling information about our church and its involvement in social responsibility back to the early 1800′s. The data is fascinating, empowering and something for us all to take pride in and be inspired by as we continue our calling to work for social justice. We expect to have segments published and available to the congregation and others in our community and UUA.
Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond — The ICGR works with other Richmond faith communities to sponsor scholarships for high school students and engage in a variety of educational and social activities-such as sharing food from different traditions–in an effort to improve interfaith understanding
Mending the Web — Following a November 2006 Social Responsibility Empowerment Workshop co-sponsored with UUA, the congregation passed a resolution in June 2007 to have an annual church-wide social justice project (Spotlight on Justice). This year’s project, Mending the Web II, will focus on economic and environmental justice issues as they relate to us and our Richmond community. There will be many opportunities to learn, listen and act on our faith, such as some of those provided in 2007-08: Moneyless Yard Sale, Immigration Forum, Historic Black Cemetery Cleanup, Organic Gardening Class, Living Simply Forum at VCU, and many more.
Micah Initiative — The Micah Initiative is a nationally acclaimed faith-based program in which more than thirty churches in Greater Richmond are each paired with one City of Richmond public elementary school for a significant period of time. Volunteers from the churches assist teachers and get to know the students by participating in a wide variety of school activities during the school year, including tutoring, school events, SOL testing, PTA programs and the like. First UU’s partner school is the Greene Elementary School.
Mitten Tree — Each year the SRC conducts an all-church drive during the Christmas holidays to collect needed items for residents of the Old Dominion Home, a home for mentally retarded adults near the church. Church volunteers interview the residents to find out what they need, then hang paper mittens with details about those requests on a special tree in the church lobby. Participating members and friends of the congregation make monetary contributions, shop for those items, bring them back wrapped as holiday gifts, and volunteers/youth then deliver them for distribution in time for the holidays. Providing such gifts to the Old Dominion Home has become a holiday tradition at First UU.
Committee for Racial and Ethnic Unity (CREU) — CREU (formerly named the Racial Harmony Committee) works to help our church become an anti-racist, anti-oppressive, multicultural congregation and to build bridges across racial boundaries in the larger community. Past activities have included film and book discussions, service projects with local non-profits such as The Neighborhood Resource Center in Fulton Hill, joint projects with other faith groups, and group outings into the community for outreach and events related to their mission. In 2010, CREU will be sponsoring the TJ District’s Anti-Racism Conference for UUs throughout the southeast, an event they last sponsored in 2003. For more information, please visit CREU’s collaborative web site: http://sites.google.com/site/richmonduucreu/
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee — This is the UUA’s largest organization for justice issues. First UU raises funds for the UUSC annually through holiday card sales and the “Guest at Your Table” collection and maintains an ongoing connection with its work.
LGBTQ Straight Alliance — In support of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) community, we:
- Foster a church home for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities
- Educate about LGBTQ issues and concerns
- Advocate for LGBTQ civil and human rights
- Celebrate the history, richness and diversity of the LGBTQ community
- Affirm the right of all people to live and love openly, free from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Having obtained recognition as a “Welcoming Congregation” from UUA, this committee now works to continue First UU as a safe space for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (GLBTQ) persons. This is done by actively supporting sexual minorities both in our congregation and in the general community. Beyond support, goals include education about sexual minorities, increasing awareness of GLBTQ issues, and taking a position against oppression. This year First UU hosted and financially supported the ROSMY PROM, the area’s first alternative Prom. Monthly meetings are open to those interested in joining these efforts.
Committee to Oppose the Marriage Amendment(COMA) — Following a 2006 congregational resolution against the proposed Marriage Amendment (restrictive if not draconian approach to same sex couples) this group convened to oppose passage of the bill in November 2006. The bill passed.
Committees of Correspondence — The Bill and Jean Hellmuth Committee is active during the legislative session(January to February/March) by identifying bills of interest to our congregation, encouraging members and friends to write to their legislator and encouraging the writing of Letters to the Editor of local publications about these bills.
Peace and Justice — In recent years this committee existed as a response to concern about the war in Iraq—to provide information, encourage dialogue and activism–and to foster peace initiatives generally. It may be reactivated to deal with the same or related issues.
Welcoming Congregation — In 2005 efforts of this committee culminated in a congregational resolution to seek formal UUA designation as a Welcoming Congregation, that is a congregation especially open to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals.We strive to continue to be welcoming in fact.
UU Katrina Project — Due to the continuous need in Mississippi for new and rehabbed housing and the failure of the federal government to provide for all those in need, First UU determined to join the ecumenical efforts of local Gulf Coast groups and volunteers from all over the country. In 2005 a work group from Community Church in Glen Allen helped with a food distribution center, and in May 2008 a combined group from both churches stayed at Camp Coast Care and worked on houses. Another trip is scheduled for November 2008.
RECENTLY SUPPORTED GROUPS
- One Voice
- Richmond Peace Education Center
- Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy
- Scholarships (youth and adult ) for General Assembly
- Friends of Mali
- Fluorescent Light BulbProject
- ROSMY Prom
- William Byrd Community House
- United Parents Against Lead
- Freedom House
- Nubian Village Academy
- Virginia Assoc. Personal Care Assistants
- UU Fellowship of the Gulf Coast