Written by Anthony Moujaes
The United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association are forging a partnership around justice work — in a historic meeting in Boston the two progressive denominations discussed collaboration between the two churches and their congregations. UCC General Minister and President the Rev. Geoffrey Black said during a joint worship service on Nov. 27 that the UCC and UUA are finding themselves on the same paths.
Black is one of six UCC officers who traveled to Boston late last month to spend two days with leaders of The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). The conversation during their meeting, the first time a UCC delegation traveled to the UUA in Boston, is a continuation of a dialogue which began in Cleveland in February. The discussion revolved around how the UCC and Unitarian Universalists can work together more effectively on issues that both sides are passionate about.
"Building a new way requires, at the outset, that we are on the journey together," Black said during a shared chapel service celebrated with UUA President Peter Morales. Black added that the visits signal the two denominations are building the path for that journey. Black highlighted a few steps they can take together in working toward eradicating environmental degradation and homophobia.
"There's so much ahead of us to be explored and what we want to do together. We want to know about the things we want to do and aspire to accomplish," Black continued. "It's not about 'doing better' together, but to engage the well-being of God's creation – justice and peace among all the people."
The UCC and UUA launched the Our Whole Lives (OWL) curriculum together 15 years ago, and Justice and Witness Ministries Executive Minister the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo said both denominations will seek scientific feedback on the sexual-education program from the American Public Health Association.
"OWL is the most sought-after curriculum in the UCC," Jaramillo said at a council meeting in October, "and it's a continuing part of faith-formation."
The UCC also shared information on leadership development programs, with the Rev. Loey Powell, the newly-appointed minister for leadership development and diversity initiatives, offering up ideas. UCC/UUA executives also discussed the success of the UCC's Mission:1 campaign and upcoming Mission 4:1 Earth initiative. Mission:1 — 11 days of action and awareness in Nov. 2011 — raised $370,000 and 1.5 million food items from UCC congregations for food injustice. On the heels of the energy the hunger campaign created, the UCC is rolling out the Mission 4:1 Earth program this spring with a 50-day focus on environmental advocacy beginning April 1, 2013.
Other areas in which the denominations plan to collaborate include:
- The UCC joining UUA-partner organization and religious coalition Religions for Peace and the UUA's United Nations Office.
- An invitation by the UCC to Morales as a guest and speaker at General Synod 29 in late June in Long Beach, Calif.
- The UCC participating in the UUA's 30 Days of Love campaign in 2013.
The UUA comprises more than 1,000 congregations, 200,000-plus members and at least 800 ministers. According to its website, the UUA welcomes people with diverse beliefs. Individual Unitarian Universalists may identify with and draw inspiration from a variety of religious or philosophical traditions, including atheism/agnosticism, Buddhism, Christianity and paganism.
Black and Morales agreed to continue communicating with each other in the future, and the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of Local Church Ministries, said after the meeting that the UCC and UUA should consider themselves "partners in justice". The two might also consider working together for literacy, LGBT and climate change concerns.
Learn more about the UCC's interfaith and ecumenical partnerships.