September 2017

The Grounding of Our Work

Since the early days of Unitarianism and Universalism in this country, our faith has led us to take action to make the world better. In the long struggle to put our faith into action, we take heart and inspiration from the many activists who make up our history, who worked for the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, prison reform, humane treatment of mental illness, civil rights for African-Americans, and in many other social change movements. With our institutional decisions, as well as these individual inspirations, we Unitarian Universalists have demonstrated that our religious principles call us to make our lives and our communities beacons of justice, peace, freedom, sustainability, tolerance, and love.

Our congregation stands proudly in this tradition, with our resistance to the demands of McCarthyism in the 1950s; our support for the Central American sanctuary movement in the 1980s; our activism for equality for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the 1990s; our work to create affordable housing and end homelessness, from enabling the creation of Stevenson House to co-founding Hotel de Zink to partnering with Peninsula Interfaith Action to raising over $100,000 to build the Palo Alto Opportunity Center; and other actions too numerous to name.

Action Council Mission

The mission of the UUCPA Action Council is to empower the congregation to take action for social and environmental justice in the larger community, in accordance with our Unitarian Universalist principles and our congregational commitment to transforming ourselves, each other, and the world. 

Action Council Responsibilities

The primary responsibilities of the Action Council are to:

  • Promote social justice action in the congregation
  • Plan and staff the Action Council table on the patio
  • Propose a slate of Justice Partners for approval at the Annual Congregational Meeting
  • Communicate/Coordinate with people taking action in the congregation
  • Interface with social justice groups outside the church
  • Manage the process for using the banner and making endorsements on behalf of the congregation in accordance with the resolutions passed at the 2017 Annual Meeting
  • Advise and aid congregation members seeking to organize an all-congregation vote on a justice stance
  • Ensure that the social justice work of the congregation is publicized within and outside the congregation, the particular responsibility of the Action Council being to publicize an overview of this work, whether by brochure, web page, Justice Fair, or any method it deems effective.

NOTE:  The Action Council does not itself engage in direct justice work, though its members may do so through other action groups, or independently. 

Action Council Membership

The Action Council may have from five to nine members, appointed by the Parish Minister and confirmed by the Board of Trustees.  Action Council members must be members of UUCPA.  The Parish Minister and Board Social Justice Portfolio holder are members ex officio without vote.  The Board Portfolio holder for Social Justice may be among the voting members if so appointed.  The Parish Minister does not count as one of the five to nine Council members.

There is no specific term length for serving on the Action Council.  The Council shall elect its Chair from among its membership.

The Action Council will notify the Parish Minister and Board of resignation(s) from the Council, and may request the appointment of a particular new member who has expressed a desire to serve.

APPENDIX

Five Types of Social Action

(adapted from the Justice Ministries of the Mountain Desert District of the UUA)

Service:  The purpose of social service is to meet immediate needs of persons in distress, e.g., money, food or clothing donations, tutoring, child care programs, homes for senior citizens, youth clubs, Girl/Boy scouts, shelter for the homeless, volunteering, etc.

Education:  The purpose of social education is to inform people about the importance of a social issue and to inform and interpret the issue within the context of our liberal religious values, e.g. public meetings, workshops, drama, worship services and sermons, forums, videos, publications, curriculum, etc.

Witness/Direct Action:  The purpose of social witness is to publicly act upon the convictions of an individual or organization regarding a particular issue, e.g. participating in demonstrations, vigils, and marches; communicating through letters to the editor, press releases, and petitions; voting on resolutions; and making lifestyle changes.

Advocacy:  Working through the legislative process to impact public policy e.g., visiting, writing, and/or telephoning elected officials, representatives, mayors, senators, etc.

Community Organizing:  Organization building and social activism that involves coalition work and often composed of existing community-based organizations (congregations, labor unions, etc.) who engage in specific campaigns to change public policy, institutional practices in particular arenas ranging from education, to income, to the environment. This approach recognizes that individuals have little chance of success without the empowerment of groups who know how to organize, build relationships, and influence systems. They do so by developing a strong organization, influencing policy/decision-makers, and empowering people so they can achieve self-determination.