Community Ministry History 2005-2016
(Social Justice and Community Outreach)
2005 – 2016
Guided by our Unitarian Universalist principles seeking justice, equity and compassion in human relations and affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person, the Community Ministry of Community Church Unitarian Universalist seeks to celebrate diversity, build inclusiveness, and promote human rights and social justice locally, nationally, and internationally by raising awareness of inequalities and injustices that exist, partnering with local agencies and churches, and planning and implementing activities involving worship, education, community service and action.
Vision: Community Ministry adopts CCUU’s vision statement.
CCUU’s Community Ministry (social justice and community outreach work) began in earnest after Hurricane Katrina with the confidential distribution of money from the Gulf Coast Relief Fund and the coordination of weekend volunteer teams from the Baton Rouge church. We helped match the volunteers with members and friends of CCUU and First Church who needed help. In 2007, a three-pronged vision for our social justice and community outreach work was established: (1) Develop educational and social programs; (2) Assist our local neighborhood and offer use of annex building; and (3) Reach out to and partner with groups citywide.
In December of 2006, we liaised with the Beacon of Hope Resource Center and began greeting and providing lunches for volunteer groups who came to town to do gutting/cleaning/gardening work in our Lakeview neighborhood. (Beacon of Hope was founded after Katrina as a lifeline for Lakeview homeowners who sought information and resources to rebuild their devastated homes.) We also allowed Beacon of Hope to connect to our outside faucets and use our water. “Saturdays at the Park” was one of our volunteer efforts that lasted a couple of years where we assisted in the cleanup and upkeep of Fleur de Lis Park, tending to the gardens, picking up trash, etc.
One of our ministry members coordinated a monthly recycling pick up for members at the church, which ran until public monthly drop-offs were established.
As we looked for ideas to reach out to the community, we started by looking inward to our own CCUU members and friends for recommendations. Many members were involved in other associations and/or doing volunteer work. There were two benefits to this approach: (1) we got great ideas and recommendations and (2) we helped support services and projects in which our members were interested.
As part of the newly formed GNOUU cluster composed of the three Greater New Orleans area UU congregations, and to further the development of our Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal, we established a lecture series called “Ethical Living in NOLA.” We had speakers about every other month or so in the annex. Our first speaker was Dr. Michael Cowan from Loyola University and the leader of the Common Good Initiative. His topic was Public Integrity, Economic Opportunity and Social Trust: Healing the Racial Divide in New Orleans. We ultimately hosted about a dozen lectures, at which time more venues opened up around town, many larger institutions were sponsoring speakers, and our attendance began to dwindle. With the help of then intern minister Erik David Carlson and Rev. Jim, we were able to broadcast many of these lectures on local public television. http://gnouu.org/
In October 2007, we instituted the “Saturday Internet Café” and opened up the church to our Lakeview neighbors who were rebuilding, often in homes without electricity, offering wi/fi internet access, A/C, television, and coffee/refreshments, and conversation every Saturday from11-2. We provided this service up through the summer of 2008.In 2008,
CCUU teamed up with members from First Church and North Shore for a volunteer clean-up day at City Park. In June of 2009, members from the three churches served the midday meal at Ozanam Inn, a homeless shelter in downtown New Orleans. Since then, we have also participated together in three volunteer service days at Second Harvest Food Bank.
Adopt a Family” Christmas Program
Even before Hurricane Katrina, CCUU partnered with Catholic Charities and participated in their “Adopt a Family” Christmas program every year, where members and friends donated money and gifts to brighten up Christmas for one local needy family. In 2013, we decided to make a change and began participating in Volunteers of America’s Christmas Wish Project (“VOA”).
Volunteers of America Christmas Wish Project:
This VOA Project began over a decade ago, when the VOA learned that a number of the people they served might not receive a gift at Christmastime. CCUU members adopt a minimum of 25 VOA service recipients each Christmas. The names and wish lists of these individuals are provided to us by the VOA. http://www.voagno.org/
This fair was sponsored by our neighborhood Lakeview Civic Organization, of which CCUU is a member. CCUU members decorated and ran a children’s game booth at the fair. Money raised at the fair was used to benefit or beautify the neighborhood. http://lakeviewcivic.org/ .Lakeview Fest was discontinued in 2012, followed by the Harrison Avenue Marketplace, sponsored by Beacon of Hope.
Beacon of Hope
Now located at 145 Robert E Lee, Suite 200, it serves 16 neighborhoods throughout New Orleans. Their new mission is to assist all homeowners in the City of New Orleans inthe rebuilding process and to help those looking for a way back home. In 2013-2015, Beacon organized the Harrison Avenue Marketplace in the parking lot of Lakeview Grocery, located at 801 Harrison Avenue. Rev. Jim and Suzy Mague volunteered to assist with traffic and parking during vendor set up. The festivities lasted from 5:00 to 8:30, and residents could meet and support local vendors while enjoying delicious local food, drinks, activities for kids, live music, special guests, and unique arts & crafts. CCUU sponsored a children’s activity and face painting booth. http://www.beaconofhopenola.org/
New Orleans Faith Health Alliance
NOFHA was a private, non-profit organization that provided affordable health care for uninsured workers and their families in the Greater New Orleans region and was located on the second floor of the First Grace United Methodist Church. NOFHA’s emphasis was not only on treating symptoms but also on actively engaging each patient in a continuous regimen of physical, spiritual, and emotional health improvement. Several members of CCUU volunteered their time at the clinic and we took up periodic collections for them. However, NOFHA suspended services as of August 2013, and is undergoing a strategic planning and re-structuring process with the hope of re-opening at some time in the future. http://nofha.org/
Community Ministry has assisted the minister with several “Association Sunday” worship services. This was an annual service celebrated at UU churches across the country, sponsored by the UUA. Contributions went to the UUA, with the idea that combining our resources enables us to grow stronger, become more effective, and have more of an influence on our country.However, this annual service program has been discontinued and replaced by the Thirty Days of Love program and Share the Love Sundays, sponsored by the Standing on the Side of Love campaign. http://www.uua.org/giving/sunday/index.shtml.
Standing on the Side of Love: Harnessing Love’s Power to Stop Oppression
Standing on the Side of Love is an interfaith public advocacy campaign that seeks to harness love’s power to stop oppression. It is sponsored by the UUA and all are welcome to join. Why?This is a time of great hope and possibility, yet our communities are threatened by the increased prevalence of acts motivated by fear and hate. No one should be dehumanized through acts of exclusion, oppression, or violence because of their identities. How? The Standing on the Side of Love campaign elevates compassionate religious voices to influence public attitudes and public policy through community activism, social networking, and media outreach. The campaign was inspired by the 2008 shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville,which was targeted because they are welcoming to LGBTQ people and have a liberal stance on many issues. The Knoxville community responded with an outpouring of love that inspired the leadership at the UUA to launch the campaign in 2009, with the goal of harnessing love’s power to challenge exclusion, oppression, and violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity,immigration status, race, religion, or any other identity. In 2010, the UUA began the tradition of re-imagining Valentine’s Day as a social justice holiday. Since 2012, this event has evolved into “Thirty Days of Love“– a month-long spiritual journey and commitment to sustained action and service. http://standingonthesideoflove.org/
Each year, Community Ministry collaborates with the minister to present the annual “Justice Sunday” service. Justice Sunday is organized by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) and it connects participants with people on the front lines of today’s human-rights movement. It offers meaningful advocacy actions for people of all ages, and congregations across the country focus on similar social justice issues. http://www.uusc.org/justice-sunday On Justice Sunday, CCUU recognizes one of our members with a Courageous Love Award.
Guest at Your Table
CCUU participates in the annual Guest at Your Table, a 40-year UU tradition.By bringing home a Guest at Your Table box or envelope and a Stories of Hope booklet, families and individuals learn about how the UUSC puts our shared values into action in the U.S. and around the world. Through the stories, we connect with people who have shared their personal struggles and are working hard for human rights in partnership with the UUSC. In each household, the box is placed in a prominent spot (usually at the dinner table).When family and friends enjoy meals together, they can reflect on the contributions of their “guests” to the movement for universal human rights, and then insert coins or bills into the Guest Box, as if sharing with the “guest.” https://guest.uusc.org In addition to the Guest at Your Table program, CCUU annually takes up a special collection for the UUSC at our Christmas Eve service
UUA’s United Nations Office
In 2015, CCUU connected with the UUA’s United Nations Office(UU-UNO). “Your voice at the United Nations,” the UU-UNO is engaged in international advocacy work at the UN based on Unitarian Universalist values. From involvement in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to leading the faith caucus to establish the International Criminal Court, to overcomingUN apathy about sexual orientation & gender identity issues, theUU-UNO has a long history of providing strong leadership in all aspects of human rights at a policy level through UN consultative status. CCUU earned Blue Ribbon status in 2016 and was presented with a plaque at General Assembly. Our current UUUNO envoy is Cynthia Ramirez. Along with a charitable collection, Cynthia prepares an entire Sunday service on this topic.
SECOND SUNDAY CHARITABLE COLLECTIONS
CCUU’s monthly charitable collections are truly making a difference in our local community while also providing a wonderful spirit of generosity and abundance at CCUU. We rotate our offerings to a select group of local organizations as we develop ongoing relationships with them.We also take up special collections depending on suggestions and circumstances (i.e. natural disasters, such as Haiti and Japan Earthquakes, Ebola Relief, Flood Relief, Fire, etc.).
The Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club / Red Flame Hunters
CCUU has had an ongoing relationship with the RedFlame Hunters all-youth Mardi Gras Indian Tribe, formally affiliated with “The Porch” (now closed), a community-based organization in the Seventh Ward (Treme) that used the arts to effect social change and promote and sustain the cultures of their neighborhood.The Red Flame Hunters are now a division of The Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club. Director Ed Buckner, a member of the Original Big 7, which has its own adult brass marching band, works tirelessly with the children out of his home, also providing after school services for at-risk and underprivileged youth.
In 2009, CCUU purchased band instruments for some of the students, and we have continually assisted with purchasing beads, sequins, and other materials for crafting Mardi Gras Indian costumes. Students are taught the culture and craft of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians. Their “tribe” is called the Red Flame Hunters. (Some of the Indians participated in the dedication service for our new building in April of 2011.) The RedFlame Hunters dress up and march on Mardi Gras Day, St. Joseph’s Day/Super Sunday, and in the Mother’s Day Parade. They also perform at Jazz Fest, demonstrating their beading work and music, and participate in the city’s Juneteenth festivities at Congo Square. In 2014, they had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Boston to perform at the Honk! Festival and at the Oktoberfest at Harvard University. It is a mutually rewarding relationship. https://www.facebook.com/OriginalBig7
The Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal“CELSJR” or “The Center” was co-created by the three Unitarian Universalist congregations of the Greater New Orleans area(“GNOUU”). Shortly after the Center’s creation, it was merged with the New Orleans Rebirth Volunteer Center, which had been created in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood of 2005 with assistance from the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge and the UUSC. The Center is GNOUU’s secular501(c)(3) organization for social justice work and grants and it operates the Rebirth Volunteer Center. The Center originally focused primarily on providing food, lodging, volunteer work and a curriculum for groups, placing them with over 20 community partners in New Orleans and surrounding parishes. There are several key components of the program designed to help volunteers understand the context in which they are working, to process their experience, and to bring what they have learned back home. However, over a decade post-Katrina, the Center has redefined its mission, which states: The CELSJR is a catalyst in the New Orleans area for promoting social, economic, environmental and racial justice. We do this through activism,community engagement, and transformational learning. www.celsjr.org
Every year around Mardi Gras, we conduct a bead drive to donate beads to STRIVE, a non-profit organization that offers opportunities for work and development to the mentally handicapped.We also take up the Second Sunday collection for Strive that month as well. http://striveincorporated.org/
Adopt-A-Family School Uniform Drive
In August 2013 and 2014, CCUU took up collections for the Adopt-A-Family School Uniform Drive to help provide proper school uniforms to children who do not have one or choose not to attend school because their family cannot afford the uniforms. The program was started in 1997, when schools began requiring uniforms. Each $50 donation enables one student to purchase (2) school uniforms, and the program sends back the”actual receipt” and “thank you” note from the student assigned to the donation. Over $680,000 has been raised citywide in the past 20 years and 100% of the donations spent on school uniforms. http://www.la-adoptafamily.com/School_Uniform.html
Lead Lab, Inc.
New in 2014, we added Lead Lab, Inc. to our Second Sunday rotation. A non-profit organization dedicated to conducting research and educating the public on issues of lead contamination in the city of New Orleans and southern Louisiana, its mission is to promote a more environmentally just, healthy and humane society. CCUU member and longtime toxicologist Howard Mielke has dedicated much of his life to researching the lead contamination of urban environments. In New Orleans, the levels of lead contamination are well documented, and in some areas as high as 50% of the children have elevated levels in their blood streams. The side effects are subtle and more often than not go unnoticed and untreated. According to Mielke, “The education achievement of children who have had lead poisoning is low, they are failing, and they are showing up in the prison system.” There is a very strong connection between lead poisoning and violence. Mielke and Lead Lab, Inc. are working on a project to create lead safe outdoor play areas at childcare centers around New Orleans. They plan to use geotextile materials to create a barrier between a bottom layer of contaminated soils and a top layer of clean sediments harvested from the Mississippi River. http://neworleansinstitute.net/reports/detail/40/Lead-Lab-Inc.
Also new to our rotation is Mama Maji, a local agency whose mission is to empower women to change their world through water. A lack of clean water access poses the biggest limitation on the lives of many women throughout the world, but it also poses the biggest opportunity. By connecting women throughout the world in a common effort of change, all women will rise. Workshops empowering women in New Orleans help fund workshops in the developing world. Catalysts from the developed world invest in projects in Kenya, developing and deepening relationships, the true currency of a global economy. By making these women significant players, not simply objects of development, Mama Maji strives to give them the knowledge they need to succeed and to have a voice within their community. They believe that water should be an asset for millions of women around the world, not a burden. http://www.mamamaji.org/
Mamou High School Band
In 2014 and 2015, we had Second Sunday collections for the Mamou High School Band. The Rev. Dr. Marie E. deYoung, Minister Emerita of the Gulf Coast UU Fellowship, was in the middle of her third year teaching at Mamou High School, a high-poverty, racially balanced school located in the World Famous Cajun Creole Zydeco musical capital of Louisiana. In her message, Marie says, “When we perform for our town, our students feel valued and respected for their efforts. But, they also learn the importance of ‘giving back’ to our town by playing for important social functions (Homecoming, Christmas, Veterans Day, Martin Luther King, Harvest Festival Parades, Graduation).” They won their first trophy: “Best in Show for the 2013 Basile Swine Festival Parade.” Many of the students cannot afford to rent or buy instruments. CCUU’s contributions went toward providing adequate music instruction materials, including band instruments, music, stands and chairs, as well as new, well-fitting casual marching band attire. However, due to cutbacks in education and at the recommendation of Marie, CCUU has substituted LYFE of Dance in our rotation.
Voice of the Experienced (V.O.T.E. NOLA)
VOTE is a membership organization with a strong and engaged grassroots base. The membership, staff and board consist of Formerly Incarcerated Persons (FIPs) and allies, all working together to create a space and a voice for people impacted by the criminal justice system in the United States. FIPs and people at risk of incarceration typically have many obstacles to overcome on their way to becoming successful, happy, and secure, as well as law-abiding, citizens. VOTE hosts forums about the electoral process, public policies and local elections. Through organizing, they execute strategic campaigns that center on Civic Engagement, Economic Empowerment, Community Education, and Strategic Leadership Development as they relate to formerly and currently incarcerated people. VOTE operates within the framework that those communities that have been devastated by the prison industrial complex will be centrally located in any work that will truly transform the system. Norris Henderson, Founder & Executive Director of VOTE, has had tremendous success in his work impacting public policy and public discourse about police accountability, public defense for poor and indigent people, and reforming the notorious Orleans Parish Prison. As someone who was wrongfully incarcerated for 27 years, Mr. Henderson shared with CCUU his first-hand experience of racism and brutality of the criminal justice system with communities of color across the city. Self-taught in criminal law during his 27 years in prison as a paralegal, advocate and organizer, Mr. Henderson has applied his legal expertise and community-organizing skills to a number of leadership positions since his release in 2003. www.vote-nola.org
Rebuild the Churches Fund
In July 2015, CCUU collected $400 during a special plate collection to benefit the Rebuild the Churches Fund as a sign of interfaith solidarity against racism. The fund was managed and disbursed by Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) in St. Louis. All money received was to be given directly to the churches not to individuals. CCUU has now been added to the long list of churches that joined in this effort.
SisterHearts Thrift Store
In 2016, CCUU’s Community Ministry team endorsed a new project: collecting children’s books for SisterHearts Thrift Store and non-profit organization. SisterHearts strives to build the community by offering seminars to help those in need get back on their feet. This store focuses on prison reform and helping formerly incarcerated women reenter society. The owner herself served time in prison and has created this non-profit store as a vehicle to help others.SisterHearts is a consignment shop with quality items such as antiques, furniture, clothing,handbags, accessories, etc. It also has a section for children. Since children’s books are so popular they cannot keep them on the shelves, CCUU delivers books (and other items) on a semi-monthly basis. http://www.arabithriftstore.com.
New in 2016, and upon suggestion from CCUU member Alicia Cooke, 350 Louisiana was added to our monthly collections for August, a volunteer climate activist group connecting our region to the international climate change movement led by 350.org. The group evolved out of 350 NOLA (founded in April of 2013). They exist because “climate change poses unprecedented threats to human civilization, and coastal Louisiana is especially vulnerable.”Rising seas, hotter temperatures, and stronger, more frequent storms do not bode well for the futures of our coasts, communities, or cultures.
Any money that 350LA receives goes toward promoting civic engagement and advocacy around climate change. Public actions, such as rallies,involve permitting and security fees. There are costs associated with transporting community members to events of interest, such as Entergy’s public hearing on their energy distribution plan, or transporting members to canvass in various communities when we wish to promote turnout or action around a particular issue (such as their presence at the Superdome on the day of an oil leasing auction). Event promotion always has costs, such as producing fliers for events and sponsoring social media action alerts for upcoming public meetings or congressional votes of interest. They ultimately hope to be able to support a part-time paid position to help manage their workload and improve community networks (since they are all volunteers, they need someone paid to represent them at City Council, community-based organization meetings, etc.) http://350louisiana.org
LYFE of Dance
LYFE of Dance is CCUU’s newest partner. LYFE stands for Loving Young Female for Excellence and its motto is “Dance is not just an Art; it is a way of Lyfe.” Started in 2011 by its CEO/Instructor Jermaine Alphonse and Instructor Carrie Ivery, it is a non-profit with a mission to uplift high risk, young girls through dance, promote positive self-image, and encourage community involvement. Girls ages 4-9 are trained in a variety of cultural, classical, jazz, and modern dance. They dance to a drumming group made up of both girls and boys who work with local musician Noonie Batiste. Lyfe of Dance also does community service projects, such as vending during the Pelicans and Saints games, visiting area nursing homes, and flower planting for schools. Their desire is for the young ladies to experience fine culture, enabling them to learn social etiquette. Many of the girls “have poor people skills or are always angry,” as expressed by their parents. LYFE of Dance works with these girls in small groups on developing their dance skills while interacting with others. Over time, the girls learn to share and interact with others. The LYFE program provides students with access to dance instruction, physical fitness activities, mentors, and healthy lifestyle information in order to become healthier citizens of New Orleans.
In addition to our monthly collections, CCUU has developed ongoing relationships with several community agencies:
Unity of Greater New Orleans
Founded in 1992, UNITY of Greater New Orleans is a nonprofit organization leading a collaborative of 63 organizations providing housing and services to the homeless. UNITY’s mission is to coordinate community partnerships to prevent, reduce and end homelessness. UNITY also conducts homeless outreach on the streets and in abandoned buildings, develops nonprofit-owned apartment buildings for those who are homeless or low income, helps the public locate affordable housing and advocates for public policy to prevent and reduce homelessness. In 2008, CCUU donated $1,000 from funds left over from the Gulf Coast Relief Fund to Unity to enable them to rent a truck for a week to move many homeless people who had been camped in front of City Hall or along Claiborne Avenue into transitional housing. Unity collaborates with over 50 other charitable organizations in New Orleans such as the Salvation Army, Volunteers ofAmerica, and the Travelers Aid Society to accomplish its goals of combatting homelessness in our area.
DEDICATION OF ROSA F. KELLER BUILDING
On Monday, December 10, 2012, several members of CCUU attended Unity of New Orleans’ holiday reception to dedicate the Rosa F. Keller Building. The building, located at 2222 Tulane Avenue in close proximity to the developing Medical Center, is New Orleans first mixed-income Permanent Supportive Housing apartment building. It supports Unity’s focus in combatting homelessness in New Orleans. The building provides 60 apartments, and includes on-site case management services.
Martha Kegel, Executive Director for Unity, provided a tour of the facility, which included a visit to one of the occupied apartments and the opportunity to visit with its very proud and appreciative occupant. This resident, who suffers from both physical and mental disabilities, lost most of his family and support system after Hurricane Katrina. Unity selects residents for its facilities based on a “fragility index” that results in targeting those individuals found least likely to be able to survive on the streets. CCUU is recognized for its support of Unity’s Rosa F. Keller Building with a Commemorative Tile placed with those of other supporters in the building’s entrance foyer. Currently, CCUU collects travel-size toiletries, and new or gently used pots/pans, linens/towels, furniture, lamps,or other housewares, furniture, etc. on an ongoing basis for Unity. http://unitygno.org/
Second Harvest Food Bank
The mission of Second Harvest is to lead the fight against hunger in south Louisiana through food distribution, advocacy, education and disaster response. Community ministry organizes food drives and annual volunteer workdays at the Food Bank. New in 2014, CCUU began an ongoing project of collecting and donating peanut butter monthly to Second Harvest Food Bank. Peanut butter is a food staple and easily used by those without a stove or microwave. www.no-hunger.org
Days for Girls International (New Orleans Chapter)
The New Orleans Chapter of Days for Girls International (“DfG”) was co-founded by CCUU members Lisa Kamuf and Cassie Catalanotto, who work towards the goal of every woman in the world having access to feminine hygiene. Days for Girls’ mission is to empower girls and women worldwide with more dignity, health, and safety through access to quality sustainable menstrual health management and education. They produce washable feminine hygiene kits for distribution to girls and women in need, including right here in New Orleans, as well as around the world. They also provide feminine hygiene education for the girls and women receiving kits,and training for girls and women in need to sew washable feminine hygiene kits In 2016, the New Orleans Chapter began raising funds for a start-up Days for Girls enterprise in Homa Bay County, Kenya, in partnership with Hellen Staula of the Lake Region Community Development Initiative (LARCOD). http://www.larcod.org
Many girls miss up to 2 months of school every year. It turns out this issue is a surprising but instrumental key to social change for women all over the world. The poverty cycle can be broken when girls stay in school. CCUU is permitting a reduced rental rate ($40) for Days-for-Girls’ use of the fellowship hall, and several CCUU members are actively involved. There will also be a service project at General Assembly in New Orleans in June 2017. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Days-for-Girls-New-Orleans/682118008498164
Edible School Yard – New Orleans
Founded in 2006, ESYNOLA changes the way children eat, learn, and live at five FirstLine public charter schools in NewOrleans. Their mission is to improve the long-term well-being of their students, families, and school community by integrating hands-on organic gardening and seasonal cooking into the school curriculum, culture, and cafeteria programs. ESYNOLA awakens their senses, cultivating an environment that promotes a sense of pride and responsibility for our land and natural resources, and developing a love of fresh, seasonal foods. CCUU has participated in several open harvest days. http://esynola.org/
Grass Roots Breakfasts
Up until early 2016, CCUU members assisted with free community breakfasts for immigrant dayworkers by volunteering time and or delivery of breakfast food on Saturday mornings at the Lowe’s on Elysian Fields Avenue. The breakfasts were organized and promoted by CCUU member Marcel Rivera, who has since moved out of the area.
CCUU – Working For a Better World
In 2013, we designed a new t-shirt to promote CCUU while doing our community outreach volunteer work. However, the shirts are available for anyone with a suggested donation of $10.
Standing on the Side of Love – Compassionate Immigration Reform
In March 2013, the UUA’s Standing on the Side of Love hosted a webinar to ask members of individual churches to urge their respective members of Congress to support compassionate immigration reform. CCUU members were well prepared to do so as members Shirley Peak and Suzy Mague had led a well-attended, six-week adult education group on “Immigration as a Moral Issue” in Autumn 2012. As an outgrowth of that study, the group members identified the humanitarian issues about which we most strongly wanted to advocate and developed positions that we felt were both humanitarian and politically pragmatic. After meeting and exchanging drafts of the petition by many emails, the petition was vetted, completed and offered after Sunday services for signatures of the group members and other supporters. (We executed the petition as individual voters, not as a statement of the position of our congregation, which has not taken a formal vote on this matter.)
On April 2, Rev. Jim and members Shirley Peak and Liz Trotter joined with other clergy and organizations in support of Congreso (Congress of Day Laborers) and the New Orleans Workers’Center for Racial Justice at a press conference in front of the Federal Building and courthouse in downtown New Orleans, and were able to present a copy of the petition to an aide of Senator Mary Landrieu (the original was sent to her Washington, D.C. office). The event was covered by several local television stations. A couple of our members also delivered the petition to our local Congressman, Cedric Richmond. In addition, copies of the Petition were mailed to Senator David Vitter and all other U.S. Representatives from Louisiana.
With thanks and a spirit of appreciation for our standing with them, Congreso sent us a poster,which was put up in the Fellowship Hall.
Bring Back Our Girls
UU clergy and CCUU members participated in the 2014 Mother’s Day Peace & Prayer Rally in support of the kidnapped girls and their families in Nigeria. It was a moving experience and great to see several UUs there along with three of our area UU ministers. Rev. Darcy Roake was one of the clergy asked to say a prayer. We also heard a speech from a Nigerian woman from that area who is studying for her second Master’s degree at Tulane. She was with her mother and had quite the story to tell. There was dancing,chanting, praying, crying, and laughing…
Operation Save America
In July 2014, a group of 12 to 15 protestors invaded and disrupted worship at First UU in New Orleans. Present were 13 young people were commissioned as National Youth Justice Leaders.The disruption began when a woman began to berate the church, the youth, and everyone who did not agree with her during a moment of silence and reflection. They were all stunned when she began to yell “Going to Hell!”–words not usually heard in our services. There were many people with very loud voices who did their best to pull apart and unravel the service. Fortunately,the youth stood together, the UUs joined hands and began to sing, and the interlopers were eventually dispatched. Rev. Deanna Vandiver and several others supplied a real face of calm throughout this intrusion, this trespass, into worship.
In response to Operation Save America’s disruptive presence in our city, Greater New Orleans UUs joined many others in a Pro-Choice Rally in front of City Hall.
Planned Parenthood Rally
In March 2015, CCUU clergy and members attended a rally on behalf of Planned Parenthood, which was facing great obstacles in getting its new facility constructed in the city.
Black Lives Unitarian Universalists (BLUU)
Formed in the wake of several conversations among Black UUs at the July 2015 Movement for Black Lives Convening in Cleveland, OH – the BLUU Organizing Collective works to provide support, information & resources for Black Unitarian Universalists. They also work to expand the role and visibility of Black UUs within our faith. In the wake of the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, BLUU issued a Call to Action encouraging UU congregations to open their doors and make meeting/healing space available to Black organizers in this difficult time. They will match congregations with local Black organizers but see this response as a positive sign in our faith. A sign that our needs as Black UUs are important to our congregations and that we as a faith are ready to begin the difficult work or rooting out Anti-Blackness in our congregations and communities. .The Community Ministry studied this issue and recommended to the Board that CCUU should answer “Yes” to the Call to Action, which they did. CCUU has been added to the list. If contacted for a meeting, CCUU will have 1-2 members on site to assist and answer any questions, and supply refreshments. www.blacklivesuu.com
CCUU Chalice Circles are participating, either as individuals or in groups, in at least one community outreach project and one in-house project for CCUU every year. They are provided with a booklet available with information about many possible service projects in the GreaterNew Orleans area, focusing on agencies with which CCUU already has an ongoing relationship.There is also a list of needs and projects developed by the Building & Grounds team.
Looking to the future, we will continue to partner and collaborate with local community organizations and support UU initiatives.
Working with GNOUU and the Center for Ethical Living, we will continue to strive to develop ways the three churches can work together and coordinate joint volunteer efforts and programs which will have greater impact than one church working alone.
Members are always welcome to join our ministry.
Community Ministry Chair
Social Justice – Community Outreach
Community Church Unitarian Universalist
6690 Fleur de Lis
New Orleans, LA 70124