At First Parish in Concord, you are CONNECTED to social action through vibrant Church groups, collaborating with neighboring UU churches and interfaith and cross-sector groups.   You are also CONNECTED through our greater UU local, national, and international agencies in coalition with sectarian and non-sectarian networks.  The respectful “way” of UU social action is to support local partners and “step back” to allow people most affected by injustice to provide direction. 

SOCIAL ACTION GROUPS

(Read the Annual Report of Social Action for 2020-21 Fiscal Year July 1 – June 30  HERE.)

At First Parish in Concord

All who share our UU values are welcome to participate, agreeing to convenants of cooperative endeavor.  Contact leaders to learn more or show up to your first meeting in your respectful listening and learning mode. View our Church Calendar. Subscribe to FP Weekly for details about Social Action Opportunities.   Attend 10:00 a.m. COVID-safe Sunday services where social action is a part of worship.  Find actions and articles updated weekly on our Facebook page.  Questions?  Contact socialaction@firstparish.org.

Advocates for Women’s Empowerment (AWE)

Leaders:  Lora Venesy  Suzie Weaver

Meets: Contact Lora at venesy@comcast.net for date and time of next meeting and also if you wish to subscribe to the AWE newsletter.

AWE formed in response to a vote at the 2012 UU General Assembly, to support reproductive justice as a faith.  Activities include:  Advocacy at the Statehouse, marches, volunteering, educational events such as monthly feminist films, book discussions, and presentations.  AWE is open to anyone, regardless of gender, sexuality, identity, faith, etc. We envision a world where all genders work to promote choices, access and agency, and to optimize women’s quality of life by removing social, economic, political and institutional barriers.  AWE is a social action group dedicated to advancing women’s rights and improving their lives through advocacy, direct action and education.

Diversity Committee

Leader: Sara Ballard

Diversity CommitteeFirst Parish is a Welcoming Congregation for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identification or expression. The Diversity Committee builds community awareness with films, speakers, and participation in the annual Boston Gay Pride Parade.

Environmental Team

Leader:  Gail Kharidia

Meets: email the leader (above) the next date and time of the monthly meeting.

Join First Parish in Concord’s Environmental Team (ET): contact Gail Kharidia, Chair,  gail.kharidia@gmail.com for more information, to attend an ET meeting, or to get on the email lists for Environmental Education, Personal Actions, or Legislation and Advocacy. Meetings are held monthly. See FP Weekly for upcoming dates.

First Parish in Concord is an accredited Green Sanctuary congregation, but our work has just begun.  A Greening the Campus initiative is currently working on moving our multiple buildings off of fossil fuel heating and insulating.

The 7th UU Principle affirms our “respect for the interdependent web of existence, of which we are a part.” We “honor all beings” and work for a greater appreciation of our interconnections with the natural world. How and where we live, work, play, and pray impact all beings, now and for future generations.

ET provides leadership in translating this principle into individual and community action.  We work closely with UU Mass Action, MassPowerForward and a regional group of neighboring UU churches.  Email Robert Andrews or Gail Kharidia to be added to our listserv and join the team.

Immigration Justice Task Force

Leaders: Tony Rodriguez or Laurie Van Loon

Meets: the first Monday of each month at 7:00 pm.

Immigration is an extremely complex and moral issue. Extreme violence in other countries has led to increased flight to the US for safety at the same time as domestic political forces are denying access to entry, and treating as criminals those already here. The actions of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at local levels have escalated to include raids, detentions, and violations of human rights against non-criminal residents of the Boston area and all around the country.

The First Parish Immigration Justice Task Force convened in early 2017 and since then we  …

  1. Act – We call on all members of our group and First Parish in Concord to show up for justice and take action in this time of crisis. Together we confront the injustices of our immigration system and the effects of racism and xenophobia on our immigrant neighbors.
  2. Collaborate – We identify and collaborate with other Immigration Justice groups, formal or informal, faith and non-faith based groups, as leaders, followers and supporters.
  3. Educate – We educate ourselves and our fellow parishioners about the immigration crisis in our country.

IJTF is part of a regional interfaith coalition, all supporting an undocumented immigrant asylum-seeker in sanctuary.

Find us on Facebook

Racial Justice Action Group

Contacts: Leslie Fisher or Cindy Soule

Meets: the third Monday of each month for 7:00 pm check-in and 7:30-9:00 pm business meeting  (See FP Weekly)

The Racial Justice Action Group is committed to increasing racial justice through deepening our own understanding of racism, white supremacy, and white privilege and taking action to support communities of color who are leading the struggle for racial justice. RJAG takes action to:

  1. Realign congregational goals, mission, and decision-making processes to support racial justice.
  2. Continue and deepen a spiritually-grounded education and change process about race and racial justice.
  3. Create opportunities for more interactions for congregants across racial and cultural lines, including increasing the congregation’s ability to embrace more diversity.
  4. Support activists and activism in the congregation in the service of racial justice.

We welcome all who are interested in joining this effort.

Reclaim Our Democracy

Leader: Fred Van Deusen

Meets: the second Wednesday of each month to plan future events and actions

Reclaim Our Democracy is an inclusive, collaborative, multi-partisan movement to limit and control the corrupting influence of money on elections and politicians. Our goal is to reclaim our democratic rights as citizens of the United States of America to have a government that truly represents and supports the needs and desires of all people.  We:

  • Help grow the democracy movement
  • Educate ourselves and others
  • Organize learning events
  • Collaborate with other organizations
  • Support actions to reclaim our democracy

View the Reclaim Our Democracy Website for more information about our group and our activities

Find the latest democracy news on Reclaim Our Democracy’s Facebook page

Women’s Parish Association

WPA liaison to the Social Action Council: Marilyn Lowitt

Membership to the Women’s Parish Association (WPA) is open to any member of First Parish in Concord, who is sympathetic to our mission. Contact Membership chair Lois Whitney  lois.whitney@gmail.com, for information or to join us. WPA events are published in FP Weekly

The WPA was founded in 1881, as an independent organization, at a time when women had no voice in First Parish governance. We have a broad-based mission and strong roots in social action. Then and now, we have championed women’s rights and civil liberties and fought poverty locally and worldwide. The WPA raises funds to support social advocacy work. We are intergenerational and collaborate with other FPC social action groups. The welfare and elevation of women and children, support for First Parish itself and the broader Unitarian Universalist community, including our Partner Church in Transylvania, are our priorities.

The WPA board meets monthly at First Parish and conducts its annual meeting each fall. All are welcome to our programs throughout the year. We are grateful to the many volunteers who work with us on community events.

OTHER: Social Action Project Committees

Microfinance Group

Leader: Toby Smith Ropeik

A group of parishioners administers a small pool of social justice funds to award microloans to entrepreneurs around the world, through the online microfinance organization kiva.org. These loans are so small that traditional lending institutions would not even consider them. As microloan repayments accumulate each month, the group then makes new loans.  Loans are selected to reflect many of the social justice priorities and interests identified within our congregation: environmental concerns, women, racial justice, and immigration. If you are interested in joining the group, email Toby.

ANNUAL REPORT OF SOCIAL ACTION

FOR 2020-21 FISCAL YEAR July 1 – June 30

Table of Contents

Introduction

Social Action from the Pulpit

Calendar list of Social Action Candle and Share the Plate Presentations

New Practice of Having an Intersectional Social Action Theme

Dismantling White Supremacy Culture

Annual Reports

            Advocates for Women’s Empowerment

            Amnesty International Group 15

            Diversity Committee

            Environmental Team

            Immigration Justice Task Force

            Racial Justice Action Group

            Reclaim Our Democracy

            Women’s Parish Association

Introduction

Author of Introduction: Adrienne Betancourt, full-time Social Action Manager

Expanded Programming Geared for the Pandemic

Fiscal Year 2020-21 (the year of the Global Pandemic) was an admirable year for social action at our Church.  Social Action was apparent through online activities and events, in every Sunday service within multiple segments, in our Pastoral Care, RE, and Music Ministries, and in hands-on in person social action/charitable work, in spite of the pandemic. 

In the Spring of 2020, the social action groups were urged and supported to start tackling the steep learning curve of doing everything online.  They utilized many new and effective publicity and communication tools. The Social Action Manager assisted and encouraged all groups to share and try out particularly successful online approaches. By September 2020, the groups were running with activities and creative and well-attended online programming. 

Below, please find the annual reports for the social action groups at First Parish in Concord.  In addition, congregants could easily find weekly-updated individual social action opportunities published by the new Social Action Manager in the First Parish Weekly enewsletter that were either adult or family-friendly and offered in-house or by UU affiliates in the greater UU world.  The Social Action Manager sent action opportunties to the RE program from which they chose some to highlight in their own RE newsletter.  Non-UU local social actions and those of our Church’s partners and allies were featured on our First Parish in Concord-Social Action Community Facebook page, managed by the Social Action Manager. 

Social Action from the Pulpit

Social Action and justice issues were included in every Sunday service, and often multiple times.  Social Action was often featured in the monthly Open Door vespers services, as well.  Worship staff used the Sunday service opening, chalice lighting, music and songs, children’s message, readings and sermons, reflection questions, guest speakers, prayer time, offertory, and invitations to weave social action and justice among the year’s services (which followed a general UU historic theme this past fiscal year.)

Share the Plate two-minute presentations (which introduced to the congregation a non-profit organization with which we split the offertory collection 50/50 between supporting the Church and it) resumed in September alternating with the two-minute Social Action Candle.  The Social Action Manager worked closely to prepare  about 40 different speakers or video presentations to cover all of the Sundays from September through June. She often arranged for the visitor from the Share the Plate organization to stay on and answer questions at our 11 – 11:30 Coffee Hour.  Each of the social action groups took at least one and sometimes two Social Action Candles with the opportunity to highlight and celebrate some of their best work. 

The nominations process for Share the Plate for the following fiscal year was opened up in February 2021 with a new vetting team composed of the former Standing Committee Chair, the current Treasurer, and a representative from Pastoral Care.  The application criteria for STP remained the same, but the webpage and application form were updated to provide more clarity. The STP organizations for 2020-21 were Black Ballot Project, Open Table, National Alliance for the Mentially Ill, The Nature Connection, Guatemala Aid Fund, Hagar’s Sisters, Gaining Ground, Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, Concord Prison Outreach, and Household Goods.

CALENDAR LIST: Social Action Candles, Share the Plate Presentations, and Social Action from the Pulpit Examples

9/6 Adrienne on UU the Vote–Last Chance to Act

9/13 STP Dir. Horace Small for Black Ballot Power

9/20 Ruthann Brien-Minkin, a representative from our Amnesty International Group, on their projects

9/27 STP Alice Kaufman for Black Ballot Power

September  Adrienne prepared a video for RE service on UU the Vote

10/4 Lora Venesy “Youth Summit on RBG/Roe Act”

10/11 STP Open Table Dir. Jeanine Calabria

10/18 Nancy Kerr Immigrant Justice Task Force addressing food insecurity of immigrants in Framingham

(Children’s message Liz and Adrienne “dirt on your face” about recognizing and accepting the need for change)

10/25 STP Janet Bailey (of WPA) for Open Table

11/1 STP Assistant Director of Community Education and Training, Michelle Ward, for NAMI

11/3 Adrienne presents as part of Election eve vespers service

11/8  Adrienne celebrates the congregation’s UU the Vote accomplishments

11/15 STP Lisa Monk, National Alliance for Mental Illness– In Our Own Voice presenter

Guest at your table inspiring activists, sermon on truth about thanksgiving

11/22 IJTF Laurie Van Loon, speaks about immigrants and mental illness

11/29  First Parish Junior Youth Group member, Rob Pope

12/6  UU Urban Ministry staff video to First Parish Concord thank you for Secret Santa

12/13 STP The Nature Connection– by First Parish member, Bev Bringle, and their Development and Marketing Director, Jenn Reilly

12/20  Adrienne celebrates FPC participation in special December UU Advocacy Day

12/27 STP The Nature Connection– by First Parish member, Bev Bringle, and their Development and Marketing Director, Jenn Reilly (second time)

1/3 STP Guatemala Aid  Video put together by Jay Barnes

1/7 Adrienne presents as part of post Jan 6 insurrection vespers service

1/10 Adrienne was social action candle speaker on Long History of White Backlash Against a Diverse America

1/17  STP Guatemala Aid video put together by Jay Barnes

Children’s message on John Lewis   MLK service

1/24 Cindy RJAG theme of interfaith and collaborations with Littleton Interfaith group and MARA

Jade–  Homily: “Unitarianism and Colonialism”

1/31  Fred Van Deusen from Reclaim Our Democracy  promoting UUSJ and ROD opportunities for you to work on rescuing and improving our democracy

2/7 STP Hagar’s Sisters founder Joyce Shelter Holt

2/14 Kristin Haddad promotes signing up for Beloved Conversations for the spring

2/21 Beth Norton speaks on FP Concord’s long association with UUUM

Guest minister is Mary Margaret of UUUM on dismantling white supremacy culture; Adrienne and Anderson do children’s message on Freedom Songs

2/28 STP Hagar’s Sisters founder Joyce Shelter Holt

March Open Door vespers service features Abby Buehle of IJTF about her relationship with sanctuary resident

3/7 STP Gaining Ground Board member and First Parish member, Amy Capofreddi

3/14  Tony Rodriguez, IJTF, celebrating stay of deportation for sanctuary guest Maria Micario

3/21  Youth member Margot reads and anti-racism poem

FP Youth Service Children’s Message” Jane Blumberg- Introduction with members of the Youth Group reading “Letters to a Mother I Barely Know”

3/28 STP video about Gaining Ground

4/4 STP Margie King Saphier for Louis D. Brown Peace Institute

Margie also spoke on Peace Institute for RE service

4/11 Recording Lois Suarez and Holli Jones White on COIC and Widening the Circle

Homily and sermon on Native Americans in Concord area

4/18 STP video testimony of State Representative Liz Miranda on behalf of Louis D. Brown Peace Institute

4/25 Brad Hubbard-Nelson for the Environmental Team about joining ET to meet climate carbon emissions goals

May Open Door vespers service features Lora Venesy and her daughter about their reproductive rights social justice work

5/2 Coming of Age Service  No social action candle (just offertory for Concord Prison Outreach)

5/9  STP Don Miller on behalf of Concord Prison Outreach

Adrienne lights chalice in memorial for those who died by violence and Mother’s Day Walk for Peace

5/16 Adrienne speaks on pushback with UU denomination against our dismantling white supremacy culture and need for more GA delegates

5/23 STP Sam Williams, new Concord Prison Outreach Director

5/30 Adrienne speaks on Abolition movement to dismantle policing and prisons

Memorial Day anti-war messages from Jade and Howard

6/6 STP overview video from Household Goods website with Board President Barbara Howland at Worship Sharing meeting

6/13 COIC/Widening the Circle laying the groundwork ad hoc group – Peter Nobile on lack of men in social action

6/20 STP Household Goods

New Practice of Having an Intersectional Social Action Theme

Our Year 2020 UU the Vote first-try at an intersectional theme ramped up its activities in September with an ad hoc steering committee that met every week, offering a large array of  creative voting social actions which were eagerly embraced by the congregants.  This work continued through the elections and into the Georgia run-offs in January.  Members of the congregation also participated in deescalation training, a Concord ad hoc group responding to the possibility of a Presidential power grab, and a gathering, on November 4th (the day after the election) at Old North Bridge to reaffirm our protection of democracy (at which our Senior Minister was one of the speakers).

The Social Action Manager invited the social action groups to propose a new intersectional theme for 2021 and a vote among them chose Racial Justice, which they embraced with enthusiasm, impressive programming, and many collaborations over the only six months remaining in the fiscal year (which are noted in the annual reports.)  Silohs came down.  In addition to co-sponsoring events, representatives from our social action groups went and visited with each other through the zoom meetings. The Social Action Manager facilitated, shared the best practices of each group, gave trainings, and empowered social action groups and individual congregants doing social action. She responded to dozens of requests for information and invitations to forge relationships from representatives of faith-based groups and other groups outside our Church.  First Parish in Concord increased its fame as a bastion of social action.  Also note within the annual reports the collaborations with external partners and allies and coalitions.  The Social Action Manager made sure that three new delegates to our partner, UU Urban Ministry, in Dorchester, Boston, were set up to attend UUUM’s opening delegate meeting in May and continue representing us through the next fiscal year.  A member of our congregation sits on the Board of UU Mass Action.  Another congregant plays a leadership role within UUSJ. The Social Action Manager is part of the continuing UU the Vote national group.   

We fielded one of the largest groups of congregants to visit Massachusetts State legislators at the December and the April UU Mass Action online Advocacy Days.

Dismantling White Supremacy Culture

In addition to many racial justice events listed within the annual reports, below, the Social Action Manager asked the Minister of Pastoral Care to work with her on recruiting new people to do Beloved Conversations in the spring with the offer of paying their tuition as needed ($250 per congregant).  They recruited 17 new congregants, and 5 members of the staff also signed up for Beloved Conversations.  Coming out of the June 2020 UUA General Assembly was a delegation from First Parish in Concord eager to bring the UUA model of a Committee on Institutional Change to our very own Church. A subgroup of this delegation formed a “Laying the Groundwork” ad hoc committee in the winter that visited—online—many parts of the Church to build awareness.  They then worked with the Senior Minister to create an entire Sunday service (scheduled for June 13th) to inspire the congregation to enter into this important process.

In sum, social justice was very noticeably pervasive throughout the Church’s programming.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Advocates for Women’s Empowerment

Author: Lora Venesy

Mission:  AWE is a social action group that is dedicated to advancing the rights and lives of women, through advocacy, direct action, and education. 

Vision:  We envision a world where all genders work to optimize women’s quality of life by removing social, economic, political, and institutional barriers, to promote choices, access, and agency.

Background:  In 2012, after ‘Reproductive Justice’ was made a priority at General Assembly, a group formed at First Parish.  In 2016, the group changed its name from “Reproductive Justice” to “Advocates for Women’s Empowerment” (or AWE).  AWE meets monthly, coordinates regular activities, a monthly newsletter, and an active Facebook page-  https://www.facebook.com/concordwomen/.   AWE is open and welcome to all, regardless of age, gender, faith, orientation, etc.  There are approximately 25 active members and 140+ friends, which include both FP and community members.  Co-leaders:   Lora Venesy and Suzie Weaver.

Year in review: 

  • Monthly Meetings- In prior years, we met monthly for housekeeping, community building, planning, & discussions. This year we held semi-regular meetings via Zoom.
  • LUNAFEST- 8th annual women’s film festival was held online on April 9th, with a virtual discussion on April 11th. This year’s event raised $1000 to benefit Renewal House, a Boston domestic violence shelter for women and their children.
  • Toiletry Drive- Held in the month of April. Items were collected for Rosie’s Place.
  • Rosie’s Place Volunteering- We were unable to take volunteer trips to make meals there this year, due to Covid-19, but hope to begin again next year.
  • Share the Plate- AWE applied & was awarded STP funding for the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund. The offering plate will be shared with this organization in April of 2022.
  • Advocacy- We participated in events and advocacy in 2020, leading to the passage of an adapted version of the ROE Act, which increases access to abortion in MA! There are several additional bills that are currently being worked on this session, such as the EACH Act, Healthy Youth Act, and others working to increase access to Emergency Contraception, medical abortion, and maternal equity.  Advocacy includes letter writing, postcards, zooms with legislators, etc.
  • Racial Justice- Ongoing collaboration with RJAG (Racial Justice Action Group) to give opportunities to fight racism as an intersectional issue with feminism and women’s rights.  Opportunities include becoming pen pals with women incarcerated in Framingham and educational programming.
  • Thank yous- Hosting ongoing successful postcarding campaign to thank abortion providers in Massachusetts and across the US.
  • Collaborations- Continued participation in larger women’s rights communities. Members of AWE are represented in the Boston Red Cloaks, Mystic Valley Action for Choice, and a statewide coalition for women’s rights. These collaborations included podcasts and interviews with candidates & legislators regarding women’s health bills this session.

Goals for 2020-21:

We hope to return to in-person get-togethers to advocate, volunteer, and build community.  We will continue LUNAFEST and other activities to increase education and awareness for women’s issues, as well as continue to be leaders in the fight for women’s health legislation.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Amnesty International Group 15

Author: Nancy Lyons

This year, Immigration and asylum issues have continued to be a focus for Group 15, with a member of our group attending the F.P. Concord Immigration Justice Task Force meetings and joining it in a successful effort to release Ugandan Pastor Steven Tendo from detention in Texas. Group 15 has advocated for immigration-related bills in the Massachusetts legislature, including The Safe Communities Act and the Work and Family Mobility Act, as well as for the safe release of people in detention, jails and prisons. Locally, we support the work of Dignity in Asylum, which has been vetted by Amnesty/USA to qualify for “community sponsorship” from other Amnesty groups.

Regular monthly meeting activities (currently on Zoom):

—Urgent Action Letters: We each send a minimum of two letters internationally, advocating for human rights activists who have been imprisoned or face other punishment for peaceful protests.

—Individual at Risk program: We celebrated the death-row release of the Sudanese schoolboy we’d been championing for some years,  and took on a new case: Maria Ressa, executive editor of the news outlet Rappler, who is facing several lawsuits after publishing articles critical of Philippine President Duterte.

—Abolition of the Death Penalty in the US. This year our focus shifted from an emphasis on individual states to actions supporting the abolition of the Federal death penalty, including thanking those MA delegates who co-sponsored the Durbin/Pressley bills.

—Criminal Justice and Solitary Confinement Reform: We continue to educate ourselves on and advocate for efforts to reform the criminal justice system in Massachusetts.

Looking ahead:

Group 15 will continue regular monthly activities, including a focus on immigration, our new Individual at Risk case and, when Covid restrictions allow, outreach activities within Concord and surrounding communities. We expect to continue joining with other human rights related groups and organizations, including First Parish Concord Immigration Justice Task Force and DIAS.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Diversity Committee

Author: Sara Ballard

Due to Covid, our committee did not meet in person this year, and our communications were mostly done via email. We have seven members and associate members.

We are in the process of redefining our purpose and rewriting our Mission Statement, as our primary focus has become the task of recharting our status as a Welcoming Congregation, which is now required by the UUA on a regular basis.

We submitted an application for the OUT Metro West organization to be a Share the Plate recipient next year, which was accepted.

We’ve been in contact with the new Congregational Life Committee, and expect to collaborate on some activities and initiatives.

We look forward to being able to meet in person, hopefully in the near future, when we can make an effort to invite some new members who want to help us work on our Welcoming Congregation rechartering process.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Environmental Team

Author: Gail Kharidia

 Overview

As with other social action groups at First Parish in Concord, we dealt with COVID 19, the turmoil of the Trump election, maintaining our focus on bringing timely information to the congregation about climate change and how the congregation can make a difference, various environmental legislative initiatives and setting up the Greening the Campus Task Force. 

Communications

The Environmental Team met monthly on zoom and stayed in contact throughout the year by email. Our Social Action Director Adrienne Betancourt kept us connected setting up the zoom links and informing us of activities in other Social Action groups and in UU.  FP Weekly was a life saver for communicating with the congregation and promoting our events, such as the hosted webinar on “Zero Carbon Home”. With the pandemic, the Team relied heavily on the internet and took advantage of the opportunity to expand web communications with the community.  When hosting an education webinar, “Zero Carbon Home” for FP and the community, team members promoted the event to local organizations and offered co-sponsorships. This resulted in the creation of a contact list of local UU’s and organizations which will be expanded

Greening of the Campus Initiative

Moving at the speed of COVID, the Environmental Team took our cues from Reverend Dana and our standing committee liaison Peter Nobile and worked to build a broad based and representative steering committee for the Greening the Campus Task Force.  Environmental Team members Peter Lowitt, Brad Hubbard-Nelson, Ted Bayne, Kel Keleher, Michael McAteer, and Gail Kharidia helped get the committee off the ground, with its charter approved by the Standing Committee in the fall and its committee makeup in the spring, the Committee held its first meeting in April 2021.  Tim Whitney, Roselyn Romberg, Bruce Davidson, Regina Corraro, Holly Cratsley and Jen Izzo (invited), Standing Committee liaison Peter Nobile, and an invitation has been extended through Amy Freedman for a youth representative.  The Task Force hopes to build off the work of the Environmental Team and the generous anonymous gifts the Parish received to initiate a project to insulate the Sanctuary over the summer and hire a mechanical engineering consultant to draft specification for a campus wide energy project.

Legislative Initiatives

The team worked to keep the congregation informed about state climate change legislation and how they might impact its passage through coordinated lobbying, (Adrienne Betancourt kept us informed of UUA and UU MassAction opportunities) and team members participated in meetings with other UU Congregations in the region to track Climate Change legislation and share information on programing in their communities and congregations.  Massachusetts legislature passed Climate Change legislation and overrode Governor Baker’s veto this winter in an important victory for our Commonwealth and the Planet. 

Climate and Environmental Justice Activities at FP
Besides the two initiatives above, $60K or more in anonymous donations to date was raised for Greening the Campus, much of it coming from ET members who are committed to this project.  Jim Snyder-Grant submitted an individual nomination to Share the Plate for a Boston area grass roots group, Alternatives for the Community and Environment (ACE), whose goals align with our environmental and racial justice missions. This organization received large support from our members. Religious Exploration under the direction of Rev. Amy Freedman held many climate and nature programs, including Earth Day and Connecting with Animals Programs for Family RE Connect and a nature program for the Coming of Age youth.  In addition, ET members participated individually in activities associated with the Reclaim Our Democracy Group, specifically, “Get out the Vote” and “the Environment Voter Project”, and Bradley Hubbard-Nelson lit the Social Action Candle in support of Environmental Justice this past Spring.

Climate and Environmental Justice Activities Beyond FP

The pandemic and restrictions for gathering at the church afforded the time and inclination to reach out more to the community, as mentioned above. The ET hosted a free webinar, “Zero Carbon Home”, given live by consultant David Green. It was so popular, two webinars were held, with more than 50 attendees at the first and more than 20 at the second.  Mr. Green presented fact-based information with charts and graphs, evidence from personal experience and cost estimates for reducing the carbon imprint of a home.  Changes in heating systems, windows, insulation and electric generation through solar panels were covered.  He devoted 2 hours to answering individual questions and provided a free e-book copy of Zero Carbon Home. Gail Kharidia organized the event and Bradley Hubbard-Nelson was webinar host. Members contacted local organizations and newsletters to publicize the event, providing the opportunity to start a local resource list of organizations, media and contacts beyond FP.  Some of these are Concord League of Women Voters, Concord Can, Concord Library Sustainability Committee and more. To further support community action, Bradley Hubbard-Nelson set up a website, “Cooler Concord”, which will be expanded next year.

Looking Ahead

As the ET approaches Fiscal 2021-2022, our Chair Peter Lowitt, stepped up to assume the role of Chair of the Greening the Campus Task Force and Gail Kharidia was elected the new chair at the May 2, 2021 task force meeting. Gail facilitated a Round Robin decision-making process and each person made one goal or initiative recommendation for the forthcoming year. Continuing around a second time, each member who wanted made a second recommendation. Altogether, 16 goals and initiatives were recommended. Some are large scale goals which will be addressed by sub-groups; others are small task goals which individuals will pursue.  The members agreed to take action on the goals and initiatives they recommended. These were grouped into three categories: Education, Legislation and Advocacy and Personal Actions – actions FP and community members can take as individuals for our planet and the environment.

The importance of some additional directions were recognized:  a) Increase ET Membership and provide opportunities for FP members to participate in Climate Change and Environmental Justice activities, even if not ET members, b) collaborate more with other FP Social Action Teams and Groups (Racial Justice, Immigration Justice, Reclaim our Democracy, Women’s Parish Association and Advocates for Women’s Empowerment c) deepen connections with national and regional UU organizations – UU for Social Action, UU Mass Acton,  UU’s Create Climate Justice and UU Ministry for Earth –  and other climate and environmental organizations and resources.

At the end of Fiscal 2020-2021, and as the Greening of the Campus task force is underway and we are moving past the pandemic, the ET is looking forward to new and expanded activities in Fiscal 2021-2021.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Immigration Justice Task Force

Author: Laurie Van Loon

The mission of the First Parish Immigration Justice Task Force (IJTF) is to support vulnerable migrants and to take action in response to immigration injustices in our country, and to educate ourselves and our fellow parishioners about this continuing crisis.

The IJTF is a First Parish Concord Social Action program launched in February 2017. Our regular meetings are the first Monday of each month; sometimes sub-committees meet at other times. Meetings during this church year have all been via Zoom. The pandemic has not seemed to have affected our group’s cohesion. Attendance averages 9-12 of our membership of over 20. Members are also involved in immigration justice related activities on their own, including many types of volunteering and activism. While we are invested in immigration policy impact and reform nation-wide, we focus primarily on the greater Boston area.

Primary contacts for the IJTF are Tony Rodriguez (trod.rodriguez@gmail.com), Laurie Van Loon (lvanloon11@gmail.com), and Regina Corrao–also our primary publicist (reginacorraoconsulting@gmail.com). Jane Blumberg manages our QRT postings (see description below).

Internal communication: A Google group, Facebook page, and frequent emails help keep our members connected with each other and informed.

Communication to the FP congregation: To engage the congregation we have leveraged First Parish’s methods of communication, especially important in a pandemic with no in-person opportunities: notices of upcoming events in First Parish Weekly, and notices on the First Parish Facebook page as well as the Social Action area of the website, with the support of First Parish Social Action Manager Adrienne Betancourt. As immigration justice issues emerge, we attempt to make it easy for the congregation to know of and participate in IJTF’s efforts and related activities.

This year we instituted the Quick Response Team, developed by and managed by Jane Blumberg, with input from others. The QRT is composed of FP members who wish to participate in immigration activism for matters that are urgent and quickly addressed. Anyone in the congregation is welcome to sign on. Currently 21 FP members receive QRT notices—over a dozen this year. Assessment of the program’s success via a questionnaire to participants revealed a universally positive reaction, and frequent follow-through to take action.

Internal task force sharing: In addition to activities backed by the whole task force, over the years the IJTF has evolved into a clearinghouse for sharing individual interests and efforts related to immigration justice. By email and during meeting time, individuals and subgroups bring to the TF information about IJ-related events, policies, and opportunities for education, outreach, volunteering, and activism. These are at local, regional, national, and international levels. During the pandemic, this aspect of the TF has continued as before through an informal system of “point people” taking the lead in specific areas. For example, Rachel Wheeler sends us frequent information gathered from news sources and from Physicians for Human Rights.

Internal task force development: The IJTF again held a half day September retreat facilitated by Regina Corrao to look back on the previous year, refine our goals and actions going forward, track initiatives and progress, and confirm which members have volunteered for specific actions or areas of attention. We have found this organizing structure helpful in managing such a multi-faceted mission. After reviewing the status of our existing goals this May, we will be refining our future focus over the summer and early fall.

Sanctuary Level 2 – Along with all the members of the Sanctuary Coalition of 10 congregations, our task force is delighted to report that in March our Sanctuary guest in Bedford, Maria Macario, was able to safely leave FP Bedford after three years of residency there. She has a legal “stay of deportation” for one year, allowing her to pursue legal alternatives to remaining permanently in the US if she chooses to do so. Congressman Seth Moulton was helpful in interceding on her behalf. A special zoom gathering to say farewell was organized by FP Bedford.

Over the course of her stay, we noted that Maria became a spokesperson for Sanctuary guests in the Boston area and part of a nation-wide advocacy group of Sanctuary residents. She appeared in videos and was interviewed for newspaper and radio.

IJTF is extremely grateful to Abby Buhle for her hundreds of hours of coordinating work with volunteers and direct service to Maria, to Tony Rodriguez for being a vital part of the FP Bedford core support team, and to all those from FP Concord who provided ESL tutoring, errands, resource procurement (ex, medical) and other needed services, support, and friendship. Support continues to Maria and her family, including to her eldest son who was deported to Guatemala, and to her other children in the Boston area.

In-church education and connections: A few connections with other FPC groups were made through attending others’ meetings or contacts with their reps, such as WPA, AWE, RJAG and ELT. Holli Jones-White presented information from the report from the UUA on the Committee on Institutional Change. Members from both IJTF and RJAG are joining in supporting the Boston area Ujima project, a ground-breaking community-controlled economic model.

Two TF members presented homilies at monthly FP Open Door services: Abby Buhle reflected on the deep meaning of her connection through the years with Sanctuary guest Maria, providing a history of her presence with us and of Maria’s own growth as an advocate. Laurie Van Loon reflected on transforming reactive energy against cruelty into justice work.

Jane Blumberg, working with RE Director Amy Freedman, developed a children’s message given by HS youth, framed as letters from a young migrant from Honduras.

Social Action Candle (at Sunday services): Tony celebrated our Sanctuary guest’s freedom. Nancy Kerr spoke about MISN/Casa (Metrowest Immigrant Support Network/Worker Center). Laurie tied the STP for NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) to the mental health needs of immigrants.

Funding and donations: Our nomination of La Colaborativa in Chelsea was selected for the Share the Plate program for next year. Members of our TF have contributed to a fund to help our Sanctuary guest’s family. Members of our TF have sent contributions to Centro Arte para la Paz and locally-based Dignity in Asylum. Multiple other organizations related to IJ have received donations from individuals.

Beyond-FP outreach and education:  Thanks to the initiative of IJTF members Joyce Pulcini and Carl Proper, we sponsored a presentation on April 25 by Muzaffar Chishti of the Migration Policy Institute at NYU, moderated by Regina Corrao. A sub-committee of IJTF, with support from Adrienne Betancourt, and participation from Anne Englehart from Follen Church Lexington, held multiple meetings to organize and publicize this up-to-the-minute analysis of current immigration policy direction under President Biden. After learning of this coming event, the Concord-Carlisle League of Women voters asked to co-sponsor. Approximately 80 registrants zoomed in, and we sent a video of the presentation and other follow-up materials to the 130+ people who had originally registered.

Beyond-FP partnering and connections: Our task force member from Amnesty International has continued to provide important information and initiatives. A few of our meetings have been attended by people from other congregations. (Zoom has made this easier.) We again welcomed Laura Wagner from UU Mass Action to our meeting for a comprehensive update of issues for direct activism. The Concord-Carlisle League of Women Voters and Follen Church in Lexington co-sponsored our April presentation (see above). We will offer QRT listings to other congregations if they are interested in joining us.

A co-founder from DIAS and a lawyer from KIND gave comprehensive presentations at our regular group meetings. Task force member Jessica Bethoney, who has worked with IINE (International Institute of New England) described its mission.

Our members continue to connect to, volunteer with, and/or track the work of multiple organizations, local, regional, and national. Some of these are UU Mass Action, UU College of Social Justice, UU Service Committee, First Parish Bedford Sanctuary Coalition, MISN/Casa (Framingham), BIJAN, Dignity in Asylum, Centro Presente, MIRA (Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocate Coalition), the International Institute of New England, RIAN, De Novo, ACLU-MA, Kids in Need of Defense, Physicians for Human Rights, RAICES, and the American Friends Service Committee. Information from these sources often forms the basis for action, or for further education of our group. Our list of IJ-related organizations continues to grow.

Note: Our previous support of BIJAN lessened during the pandemic due to the impact of the coronavirus on its use of volunteers to provide accompaniment to court hearings, check-ins at ICE and other required appointments in Burlington. We expect this to change with gradual societal opening and continue to support fundraising for BIJAN to pay bonds and legal fees.

Under discussion is the potential value in additional joining with other UU SA groups which are focusing on immigration at a national level.

Lobbying and related activism: Legislative activism this year, as in the last, has focused on the Safe Communities Act, and the Family and Work Mobility bills, lobbying to ensure they are released from committee for votes on the floor. At the annual UU Mass Action Advocacy Day, members of IJTF and FPC trained and then lobbied virtually with many others for these and other pending legislative decisions. We joined other groups such as Indivisible and Reclaim Our Democracy in writing postcards and making phone calls to support justice efforts.

Covid-related activism: The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on immigrant communities. Hence our nomination of La Colaborativa in Chelsea for STP. We continued to lobby for the release of all detainees in light of health risks from the coronavirus, joining our voices with the ACLU and physicians’ organizations. We continued to partner with Casa/MISN to increase food security in the Metrowest area.

Looking ahead: In the first half of this church year, cruel immigration policies and practices continued and were amplified under the previous administration, intensifying emergency conditions for arriving immigrants and refugees and fear among the undocumented. Under the new administration, policies are shifting extremely rapidly in more positive directions, but with a great many open questions and likely push-back. Our task force remains alert to how we might best adjust our goals and efforts. We will continue to strive to balance the three pillars of education (to ourselves and to the congregation), support to grassroots and other organizations, and activism for policy change. We will continue to explore collaborations with other FPC social action groups to underscore shared missions.

“““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““`

Racial Justice Action Group (RJAG)

Author: Leslie Fisher

Participation

Number of people on RJAG Google Group mailing list: 56

Number of people attending some or most monthly meetings: 10-15

Share the Plate

The September Share the Plate was RJAG-sponsored Black Ballot Project (a project of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods in Jamaica Plain) and featured a Sunday service presentation by their Executive Director, Horace Small.  $3,218 was raised for the non-profit.

UU the Vote

Throughout the fall, leading up to the elections of 2020, RJAG members focused on coordinating, promoting, and engaging in non-partisan work via postcarding, letter writing, texting, and phone banking to citizens – mostly people of color – in states where voter suppression is greatest. Several members were part of FPC’s UU the Vote Steering Committee and at least 76 First Parishioners and their friends participated..

Beloved Conversations Virtual

Wendy Holt promoted and facilitated the fall program enrollment when 19 First Parishioners participated in the 6 small group sessions and 3 worship services for white lay people. One staff member participated in a parallel program for white religious professionals. Adrienne Betacnourt and Liz Weber facilitated the spring program enrollment of 23 people, which included 6 staff and 7 people who had taken a Beloved Conversations workshop previously.

Jamaica Drive

RJAG again assisted Jennipher Burgess to gather and ship tools and other resources, which she conveyed to and distributed in the community of Carawina, Jamaica in October 2020.

UUUM

Several RJAG members attended a September Zoom information and brainstorming meeting with UUUM staff about their initiative to increase awareness of Roxbury’s Black artists beyond their community. The link to UUUM’s new Artist Directory was provided to the RJAG Google Group and FP Weekly prior to the end-of-year holidays. Leslie Fisher worked with Beth Norton and UUUM to develop a June Zoom event with Roxbury artists (see Events below).

UU Mass Action

Several members of RJAG participated in the December 10 Advocacy Day Zoom meetings with Tami Gouveia to hear about, express support for, and ask how we could help move forward several social justice priority bills that were awaiting action before the end of the 2020 legislative session. Information on follow up was provided to the RJAG Google Group. In February, 7 members of RJAG attended UU Mass Action’s quarterly meeting of the Black Lives Matter Working Group. Some RJAG members also attended April 13 Advocacy Day with Tami Gouveia’s aide, Emily Odgers and Mike Barrett’s aides, Evie Hobbs and Dina Nathanson about current bills. In the fall we hope to meet with UU Mass Action to discuss priority bill selection for the next legislative session.

Antiracism Work in Concord

After some challenged the outcome of the November 2020 election, RJAG placed a letter to the editor in the Concord Journal calling for the need for national legislation to protect the right of all citizens to vote and be counted. Pat Brewer kept us apprised (and encouraged RJAG Concord residents to write in support) of the proposed establishment of a DEI position in the Concord schools, which was subsequently adopted. She is making connections between COAR (Communities Organized Against Racism) and FPC Religious Education. RJAG petitioned the Standing Committee to write the Concord Select Board in support of a League of Women Voters’ request that the Town of Concord establish a DEI commission.

UUA Commission on Institutional Change

Several members of RJAG are serving on the Widening the Circle of Concern committee and/or have attended workshops on the 8th Principle.

Events

“Voter Suppression: An Online Interview with Ray Arsenault,” hosted by Kerem Shalom, was co-sponsored and promoted  by RJAG & ROD, January 10.

“Healing Embodied Racism.” Dana Snyder-Grant, CC King, Jiffy Read, and Liz Weber facilitated a series of monthly workshops and weekly practice sessions, based on Resmaa Menakem’s My Grandmother’s Hands. Started in January; ended May 1. FPC participants – 15

“Deeper Than The Skin” (music & storytelling event on January 30) was facilitated by Cindy Soule with other UU congregations in Stow/Acton, Littleton, Harvard, the Greater Littleton Interfaith Council and the Maynard Anti-Racism Alliance. Attendees – 357    

“Concord Conversation with Fania Davis,” 2021 Greeley Scholar for Peace Studies, April 11. Several RJAG members (Marilyn, CC, Sally) facilitated the event, which was co-sponsored with WPA. Attendees 88

“Ancestral Homeland: Journey to Transformative Narratives – A Conversation with Artists”, June 6, 7-8:30.  Zoom event co-sponsored with the Music Ministry and hosted by UUUM with Roxbury’s Christle Rawlins-Jackson, poet and singer, and Gloretta Baynes, multimedia artist.  ##TBD attended to hear about their work and inspiration.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reclaim Our Democracy

Author: Fred Van Deusen

Our group was formed in 2014 when the Denominational Affairs Committee at First Parish embraced the UUA Congregational Study Action Issue of Escalating Inequality. We sponsored activities in 2014 and 2015 that led to the formation of the Americans for Economic Fairness group in May of 2015.  We learned that the issues surrounding escalating inequality are complex, intertwined, systemic and deeply rooted in our culture. The most compelling issue that the group identified was the impact of escalating inequality on our democracy. 

In June of 2016 the UUA adopted a new Congregational Study Action Issue The Corruption of Our Democracy which was focused on the negative influence that huge amounts of money from corporations, billionaires, and special interest groups has on our national elections and on the effectiveness of congress. This issue fit in well with our previous work and we began focusing on it in September of 2016.  We adopted a new name and created a new mission statement.

Reclaim Our Democracy is an inclusive, collaborative, multi-partisan movement. Our goal is to reclaim our democratic rights as citizens of the United States of America to have a government that truly represents and supports the needs and desires of all people.

We currently have 16 people on our planning team and about 300 people on our mailing list. Fred Van Deusen is the current leader of the group.

We continued to meet via Zoom throughout the year in spite of the pandemic. The focus of our activities from July, 2020 through November, 2020 was on the UU the Vote program. The intent of the nationwide UU the Vote initiative was for UU’s to help get out the vote for the 2020 elections. It was grounded in our Unitarian Universalist faith and Fifth Principle that supports the use of the democratic process in our society, as well as in our congregations.

At FPC members of our Reclaim Our Democracy team joined with Social Action Manager Adrienne Betancourt and members of the Racial Justice Action Group to form a 9-member steering committee for the First Parish UU the Vote program. It was the major focus for FP social justice during this period. Our two goals were to:

  • Involve as many members of the congregation as we can
  • Have an impact on the 2020 election that reflects our values as Unitarian Universalists

We partnered with Concord Indivisible, a local group started by First Parish members.

We kicked off our fall effort on September 10 with a Zoom event featuring inspiring UUSJ UU the Vote organizer Kelsey Cowger. During the event we asked attendees to complete a survey to select actions they were interested in taking as part of the program. We then supported and promoted a number of weekly actions including at various times:

  1. Encouraging members and their friends and families to register to vote
  2. Watching voter education films
  3. Participating in bi-weekly Concord Indivisible “huddles”
  4. Sending Reclaim Our Vote postcards with registration information to residents of selected states
  5. Taking part in a variety of family friendly activities including a Religious Exploration class on voting
  6. Participating in the Ask Your College campaign to encourage student voting
  7. Text banking with various organizations in different states
  8. Phone banking organized by the UUA UU the Vote and other groups
  9. Providing financial support to the UU the Vote program and to other groups fighting voter suppression
  10. Helping out at the polls
  11. Preparing for a potential coup

In the end the work we did not only increased voter turnout, mitigated voter suppression, and defended democracy, but also forged alliances with community-based justice partners, casting a bright light on UUs living their values. We motivated families, youth and kids to Get Out the Vote; supported UU the Vote from the pulpit; held a concert; wrote over 12,000 Reclaim Our Vote postcards to counter voter suppression in the South; sent 57,000+ texts to various key states; sent letters to many college presidents as part of the Ask Your College program; engaged hundreds in phone-banking calls; helped manage mail-in ballots; served as poll workers; pulled together new coalitions to respond to election-related concerns; and trained and signed up to be rally marshals. 

At the national level UU’s made over three million contacts with individuals throughout the country. It was a very successful program and we certainly did our part.

After the UU the Vote work was completed, in December we reassembled the whole Reclaim Our Democracy group for monthly Zoom meetings and did the following:

  • Continued to develop and promote our educational website called org that has attracted approximately 75,000 visitors from around the world, and our Reclaim Our Democracy Facebook Group
  • Published a bi-monthly newsletter with information about events we are sponsoring and other events of interest
  • Collaborated with the Environmental Action and Immigration Justice teams on the UU’s for Social Justice (UUSJ) Write Here! Write Now! monthly letter writing to members of Congress
  • Created actions in support of HR 1/S 1 – For the People Act
  • Participated in UU Mass Action lobbying days
  • Held a facilitated session to develop a Democracy System Chart to help us better understand the various components of the democracy system and how they interact with each other
  • With Don Miller’s help we organized and planned a June Ranked Choice Voting event
  • Started planning events for the fall

We are currently working directly with a number of non-profit organizations that are also working to reclaim our democracy including UU Mass Action, UU’s for Social Justice, League of Women Voters Concord-Carlisle, American Promise, and Concord Indivisible.

For more information, email Fred Van Deusen at fredvandeu@gmail.com or visit our website:  http://reclaimourdemocracy.org/ or our Facebook group; https://www.facebook.com/groups/ReclaimOurDemocracy/.  All are welcome to join our mailing list and attend our events.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Women’s Parish Association’s Social Action Activities in Brief

 Author of larger WPA Report: Janet Bailey

 In fiscal year 2020-2021, the Women’s Parish Association was well-represented in our Parish’s social action offerings.  The WPA sponsored Open Table for Share the Plate, and WPA Co-Chair, Janet Bailey, was one of the two Share the Plate speakers at Sunday service on behalf of the non-profit in October. The WPA provides ongoing funds and volunteer services to Open Table, which addresses food insecurity.  On January 19, the WPA co-sponsored, with the Enviromental Team, a webinar by David Green about achieving a Zero Carbon Footprint Home. Participants learned how to reduce their heating bills, electric bills, and use of fossil fuels. The WPA sponsored and participated in the annual World Day of Prayer Concord Commemoration on March 5th.   Participants prayed and stood in solidarity with the People of Vanuatu in their struggles to survive the negative impacts of climate change.  A March 19th , zoom Tea Talk program, by Paul Angellini, discussed tea and its impact on human life, work and economies.  Alongside the Racial Justice Action Group, the WPA co-sponsored a zoom conversation with Dr. Fania Davis, National Voice for Criminal Justice Reform, on April 11th. Fania Davis, this year’s UMass Lowell Greeley Scholar for Peace Studies, discussed restorative justice and its potential to mitigate harsh prison sentencing, offer alternatives to the “school to prison pipeline” and allow for compassionate accountability for all involved in the criminal justice system. She discussed  how restorative justice relates to racial and immigrant justice, human rights and women’s rights.  Finally, the WPA presented a May 14 zoom author talk by Barbara Berenson which highlighted her latest book “Massachusetts in the Woman Suffrage Movement.”