Doing justice, seeking peace and building community are central to the identity of the United Church of Christ. We invite you to explore the breadth and depth of the UCC's justice work. Join us in building a stronger faith-based movement for peace, justice, equality and inclusivity. Our work is rooted in the teachings of scripture and the policies of our General Synod. Questions about anything you see here? Send us a message.
To explore JWM issue areas, click on the categories below.
Through your generous gifts to Neighbors In Need, the United Church of Christ is offering hope to millions of people; we are transforming lives, the nation, and our world. These grants support work for human and civil rights, environmental justice and/or economic justice in one of the following ways:
- Direct Service ($1,000 - $3,000) – provides funding to meet the immediate needs of an individual or group (i.e. food, clothing, utilities).
- Advocacy ($3,001 - $5,000) – offers funding to assist communities who wish to change policy on a state or federal level via an advocacy campaign.
- Grass Top ($5,001 - $10,000) – is a highly competitive tier which seeks to award uniquely innovative programs which can be replicated in other settings.
For Grant Recipients:
If you were a recipient of a Neighbors in Need (NIN) grant, help us inform our members whose contributions to NIN have made your grant possible about how lives have been transformed because of their generosity. Access the reporting form.
Grant Recipients for 2017 by UCC Conference
Northern California Nevada Conference
First Congregational Church of Oakland / Rooted in Love
Building relationships, capacity and reflective practice of restorative and transformative care in faith communities of Alameda County
- Shadow Rock UCC Sanctuary Action Team - Hope Station
Southern California Nevada Conference
Central Atlantic Conference
- Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE)/Leadership Training in Civic Engagement and Organizing
- MicroBanking for Baltimore
- Hands On Hartford / Faces of Homelessness (FOH)
- First Congregational Church of New London - Urban Outreach Project
- UCC of St Augustine / Unity Enabled Day Camp
- First United Church of Christ of Tampa
- First United Church of Christ of Tampa Hispanic Ministry
- Friedens UCC / Weekenders Food Pack Ministry
- Blessings in a Backpack - Elkhorn Valley Schools
- Plymouth Settlement House - Youth Homeless Shelter
- First Parish Church of Newbury Community Food Pantry
- South Congregational Church / Pioneer Valley Project - Springfield Interfaith Sanctuary and Solidarity Project
Hadwen park Congregational Church, UCC - LGBT Asylum Task Force
Multi-family home for LGBT persons seeking asylum in the U.S. due to persecution in their native country.
- Lakota YouthStay
- World Voices
Missouri Mid-South Conference
Community Congregational UCC
Scholarships for summer camp at Camp Minanagish
New York Conference
South Central Conference
- Slumber Falls Camp / Twill Do Accessibility Project
- Friends Congregational Chruch / Interfatih Network: Building Sanctuary
- MOLO Village CDC - Restored Village Recovery & Reentry Program
- Oyster River Community Read: Addressing Racial Justice through Learning Together
- Alfred S. Forrest Elementary School Summer Enrichment Program
Justice and Witness Ministry is pleased to welcome and announce to our staff team, The Rev. Dr. Velda R. Love as Minister for Racial Justice. Rev. Dr. Love began her ministry with us February 1, 2017. Located in the Cleveland, OH office, Velda brings with her a wealth of knowledge to the United Church of Christ. She has decades of experience in critical race theory, leadership development, community outreach, workshop facilitation, preaching, teaching, and writing. (Read more.)Read more
Justice & Local Church Ministries
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, OH 44115
Community organizing has long been recognized as an effective way to improve lives and bring justice to places where it is lacking. For churches, community organizing offers a tangible means for being disciples engaged in the public square while strengthening their congregational life and mission.
Congregation-based community organizing (CBCO) is community organizing rooted in faith bodies that come together in answer to God’s call to love our neighbors, stand with the marginalized, and work with God for a more just society.
Numerous UCC congregations around the country are members of local CBCO efforts. These ecumenical or interfaith networks of congregations work to address the needs and injustices present in their communities. Pastors report that participation in CBCO can be a transforming experience for congregations, individuals, and communities. Congregations gain new vitality and, often, new members.
According to research, participation in CBCO:
- equips church leaders to more powerfully engage with their congregations and communities for the sake of justice and on behalf of all that God is creating;
- strengthens participants’ leadership skills in ways that benefit both their congregations and communities;
- teaches organizing skills and ways to use these to build strong congregations and religious organizations;
- sparks renewed vitality both within congregations and the larger community; and
- provides a way to work together ecumenically and across faiths to transform our communities, states, and nation to more closely reflect God’s vision for God’s people.
Read a UC News report from March, 2016, about Plymouth Congregational UCC's experience (in Lawrence, KS) with a newly formed CBCO organization.
The collective impact of CBCO efforts is a powerful reshaping of communities and wider society, according to the Building Bridges, Building Power report published in 2012. The study found that currently, organizations comprising institution-based community organizing in the U.S. include “approximately 3500 congregations and 1000 public schools, labor unions, neighborhoods associations, faith –based organizations and others (and) collectively represent over 5 million Americans.” Community organizing, according to the report, “has the organizational capacity to make a powerful impact on democratic life, especially if best practices spread across the field.”
CBCO is a natural fit for UCC congregations given our strong commitment to justice as well as to ecumenism and interfaith work. While many UCC congregations are already engaged in CBCO, countless others would benefit from participation in this method of developing leaders and building congregations while simultaneously increasing the presence and power of our values in the public square.
There are four larger CBCO networks and two smaller ones that support local interfaith or ecumenical coalitions across the country. The networks provide training opportunities for congregations and organizers, and facilitate work among the local coalitions. There are many valuable resources on their web pages.
Direct Action and Research Training Center (DART) : 20 organizations in six states, primarily in the Midwest and FL, based in Miami.
Gamaliel Foundation : 60 affiliates in 21 states, based in Chicago, IL. (Barack Obama worked as a community organizer with this group)
Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF): 57 affiliates in 21 states, based in Chicago.
People Improving Communities Through Organizing (PICO) : 50 Federations in 17 states based in Oakland, CA. Also works in rural areas.
Intervalley Project : 7 affiliates in New England, based in Newton, Mass.
Other Resources on CBCO
The Unitarian Universalist Association has an excellent webpage on CBCO with many good resources.
In Praise of Faith-Based Community Organizing by Heidi J. Swarts in Shelterforce, Fall 2008, the journal of the National Housing Institute (“The journal of affordable housing and community building”)
Saul Alinsky goes to Church, March/April 2000, Sojourners Magazine
Barack Obama’s 1990 article on community organizing
Neighbors in Need is a special mission offering that supports works of justice and compassion in the United States and abroad. Two-thirds of the Neighbors In Need receipts support program initiatives and direct grants offered through the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries.
Neighbors in Need makes available annual grants. To that end, this page highlights some of the ministries who have received a grant and how they found success with it in their communities. We are excited to share these stories of faith and transformation with you and hope you find value in their witness too.
Houston teens learn wage activism from working adults like them
This summer, with a grant from the United Church of Christ's Neighbors in Need offering, 24 high school students from an economically challenged Houston neighborhood learned about activism and carried out a local campaign for a $15 minimum-wage law.
The idea came from the basic insight that many Houston residents find it hard to make ends meet, especially workers in fast-food and other service industries. The Rev. Darnell Fennell serves some of those people in both his callings. He is pastor of Just Love Church, affiliated with the UCC and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He also teaches high school social studies.
With a background in community organizing, Fennell knows people don’t have to sit still for economic injustice. He knows the wider UCC feels the same, as seen in statements such as a 2017 General Synod resolution, "A More Just Economy: $15 Minimum Wage, Living Wages and Job Creation." So he sought the NIN grant to introduce young people to local activists in the national Fight for $15 wage campaign and involve them in learning by doing.
Hope Station Nogales to provide reverse sanctuary to deportees in Mexico
A United Church of Christ sanctuary church offering immigrants refuge in the Arizona borderlands will soon be offering a place of hospitality, support and hope on the Mexican side of the border for people who find themselves deported from the United States. The Shadow Rock UCC Sanctuary Action Team and the Rev. Ken Heintzelman, in an extension of the spirit and intent of their ministry of sanctuary in Phoenix, are in the process of establishing Hope Station Nogales, in Sonora, Mexico.
The thought is Hope Station, which was funded in part by a $10,000 grant from Neighbors in Need, can be a place of transition, a place where people who are deported but have family in the U.S. can find a meal, safe lodging and assistance.
A Tiny House aims to provide big solutions for South Carolina LGBTQ community
When LGBTQ individuals near the campus of Clemson University, in the areas of upstate South Carolina unexpectedly find themselves without a home or a place to feel safe, Peace Congregational United Church of Christ will be ready to meet them.
Congregation members and the Clemson community are working side-by-side in the design and construction of a tiny house, a mobile residency for a person in the LGBTQ community who is no longer welcome in at home. The $20,000 project is in progress with the help of a $10,000 Grasstop Grant from UCC Justice and Witness Ministries. The first occupant could be ready to find refuge there in January.
Neighbors in Need (NIN) is a special mission offering of the United Church of Christ that supports ministries of justice and compassion throughout the United States. One-third of NIN funds support the Council for American Indian Ministry (CAIM). Two-thirds of this offering is used by the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries (JWM) to support a variety of justice initiatives, advocacy efforts, and direct service projects through grants. Neighbors in Need grants are awarded to UCC churches and organizations doing justice work in their communities. These grants fund projects whose work ranges from direct service to community organizing and advocacy to address systemic injustice. This year, special consideration will be given to projects focusing on serving our immigrant neighbors and communities.
Most UCC congregations will receive the NIN offering on October 4, 2020 as part of their World Communion Sunday observance. However, some local churches select another date. NIN contributions can be made on-line at any time here.
When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
In a world becoming increasingly globalized, more people are leaving their homelands to seek better lives and opportunities in new countries. Their reasons for leaving are diverse and complex: economic necessity, war, or persecution. The U.S. has long been a nation of immigrants and we have consistently been conflicted about this. We gratefully welcome immigrants and their contributions, and we exclude them, discriminate against them and, at times, inflict grave harm upon them.
As Christians, we are called to love our neighbors. The Bible is unambiguous in calling us to welcome aliens and strangers in our land, and to love them as we love ourselves. In these times, let us listen to the voice of the still-speaking God. We will learn how to respond to these new sisters and brothers residing among us.
Download the toolkit for Communities Supporting Central American Families Seeking Asylum by Rev. Randy J. Mayer
Week of Faithful Witness at the Border
United Church of Christ churches, clergy and congregants are reaching out with hope and in faith to migrants at our borders and immigrants across the country. Many more are asking what they can do to respond to the government policies that detain and separate families. The Southwest Conference UCC, acting with Justice and Local Church Ministries, has issued two calls to action, one for a faithful witness AT the border, in Arizona at United States border with Mexico August 26-30, and another for a faithful witness FOR the border this fall, in cities and towns across America.
Faithful Witness AT the Border
The Southwest Conference is calling for a week of Faithful Witness at the Border, August 26 – 30, 2018 that will include:
- A humanitarian mission to the Mexican side of the border to visit and take supplies to asylum-seekers in shelters and camped out at the ports of entry due to a slowdown in applications being received.
- Solidarity actions at the detention facilities in Eloy and Florence where parents of kids separated from their families are being held.
- Training and strategy sessions around ‘Being an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation’ and ‘Acting as an Advocate and Ally’ with members from the UCC Washington office
- Conversations with local ministry partners in Arizona - The Samaritans and other immigration ministry groups.
- A visit to Operation Streamline immigration court where parents whose children were taken away are appearing in the hope of finding their kids.
Faithful Witness FOR the Border
We also call congregations and conferences to host their own local Faithful Witness for the Border events that might include:
- Begin the process for becoming an Immigrant-Welcoming Congregation
- Organize and attend town halls and candidate forums and ask questions about how candidates would approach immigration policy. Set up in-district visits with your members of Congress to share your UCC faith witness on immigration. Submit letters to the editor and editorials in your local and regional papers.
- Raise money and collect supplies for humanitarian relief at the border—PLEASE USE THIS VERY SPECIFIC LIST OF SUPPLIES.
- Write letters of welcome IN SPANISH that can be distributed to asylum seekers as missives of love and welcome, an alternative message to the government.
- Fundraise to support living expenses of migrants seeking asylum and who are prohibited by law from holding employment in the US while their case is processed.
- Participate in an immigrant detention visitation program in your area
- Partner with local immigrant rights groups to join/organize a rally at an immigrant detention facility for adults, ICE office, or border patrol station nearby.
- Host a fellowship event with a local migrants/an immigrant group in your community to get to know one another and listen to their stories.
- Contribute to the UCC Neighbors in Need appeal
Keep Families Together
The Administration continues to take significant and dangerous steps that are eroding the foundations of the immigration system and the international law that upholds access to asylum for those fleeing danger and violence. These practices of separating families, increasing immigrant detention, and redefining access to asylum are abhorrent and undermine our values. The Administration recently issued updated policies routinely separating children from their parents. In the past three months more than 2,200 children were forcibly and cruelly taken from their parents. This dehumanizing process puts children at risk and sets our country up to willingly participate in human rights violations on a mass scale. The Executive Order signed by Mr. Trump does not alleviate the problem. The Administration has no plan for reuniting separated families and the zero-tolerance policy remains firmly in place, meaning as more parents are deported more families will be broken apart.
- Act - Tell Congress that, as a person of faith, you oppose the forcible detention and separation of families and want them to support polices that protect and unite immigrant and refugee families. Looking for other ways to act? Download the Interfaith Immigration Coalition's toolkit.
- Give - Donate to the UCC Neighbors in Need appeal
- March - If you are participating in a rally, vigil or witness in your community, download this free art work for your signs, shirts and banners.
- Reflect - Condemning the unconscionable assertion that migrant children should be separated from their parents because of ‘orderly and lawful processes that protect the weak and lawful,' — a Biblical statement used to justify U.S. immigration policies — United Church of Christ National Leadership has issued a pastoral letter, urging the people of the denomination's almost 5,000 congregations to take action now!
- Hear voices on the ground - Rev. Bill Lyons, conference minister for the Southwest Conference UCC, shares a powerful update and call for help from our southern border.
- Pray - Download our Litany for Families Separated at Border by Rev. Tracy Howe Whispelway
- Watch a recording of the webinar: Keep Families Together: UCC Webinar on Family Separation at the Border (June 21, 2018)
United Church of Christ emphatically affirmed an Immigrant Welcoming Church
Underscoring the love of neighbor, with several speakers proclaiming that no human is illegal, delegates to General Synod 2017 overwhelmingly declared itself an Immigrant Welcoming Denomination in July of 2017 and called on all settings of the United Church of Christ to do the same.
'Love will triumph someday' – California pastor opens up about immigrating to U.S.
July 03, 2018
The Rev. Rhina Ramos knows all too well the fear and the struggle facing migrants coming to the United States, hanging on to the hope of building a better life. She lived it.
At DC immigration rally, Traci Blackmon calls on people of faith to live by moral law of love
July 02, 2018
The Rev. Traci Blackmon brought greetings from the UCC to 30,000 people gathered at Lafayette Square across from the White House, site of the "Families Belong Together" rally in Washington, D.C. on June 30, urging them to keep fighting for love.
Voices at DC immigration rally speak up, speak out against family separations
July 02, 2018
People across America, young and old, lifted up their voices at more than 700 'Families Belong Together' rallies on June 30, calling for change in the government immigration policies, and the immediate reunion of migrant families separated at the border.
Heeding the sacred call to give sanctuary to the vulnerable
By Rev. Traci Blackmon and Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner | April 18, 2018
(RNS) — Our immigration enforcement agencies are becoming agents of family separation. Read more.
Dream Act - Stand with Immigrant Youth
- Observe the Dream Sabbath 2017 : Join us to Stand in Solidarity with Immigrant Youth
- Action Alert: Stand with Immigrant Youth
President Trump has announced that he will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Our immigrant neighbors deserve dignity, welcome, and the opportunity to flourish. As an immigrant welcoming denomination, we are called to speak out now. Tell Congress to protect dreamers!
Building Sanctuary For All... All of Us
"Shouldn’t our sanctuaries offer this same kind of Sanctuary...to anyone? Wouldn’t we want this grace, and do we not call upon this kind of love every Sunday?" Read more of Rev. Julian DeShazier's reflection on Immigrants Rights Sunday and intersectionality.
The resurgence of the Sanctuary Movement works to provide protection in our houses of worship for those facing violence, discrimination, and deportation. We organize as people of faith and moral courage accompanying the most marginalized among us targeted by President-elect Trump's hateful rhetoric and policy proposals. We lift up the prophetic and moral witness of communities of faith against the unjust systems of power and privilege that keep our communities from living with the safety and dignity they deserve as human beings.
Now, more than ever faith communities from different traditions are coming together to take a bold and prophetic stand against President-elect Trump's harsh immigration proposals and threats to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival.
- Sanctuary FAQ - Webinar via UCC Insurance Boards - Heather Kimmel, General Counsel for the United Church of Christ, addresses the current interest of faith communities in operating as sanctuary churches, the legal risks, and ways churches can minister to undocumented persons. Watch the recording. (Note: Although you have to enter your email address and name, the webinar can be viewed by anyone.)
- Sign the Most Recent Pledge - We Pledge to Resist Deportations and Discrimination through Sanctuary
- Learn more about how to engage in this sanctuary movement and download the rapid response toolkit via SanctuaryNotDeportation.org
- For churches offering sanctuary to refugees and immigrants, the ACLU has compiled an FAQ sheet.
Raids Rapid Response: Toolkit for Faith Allies
"As faith allies, we are called to be in solidarity through rapid response mobilization to stop these raids, stop these deportations and support impacted communities. In the face of President Trump's extremist anti-immigrant agenda we must respond with a prophetic and bold voice." Download the toolkit via SanctuaryNotDeportation.org.
UCC advocates put 'bodies on the line' at border wall with Mexico
The push for humane immigration reform brought veterans, clergy, activists and UCC advocates to the border wall dividing the Nogales, Arizona, and Mexico communities, as part of a joint rally calling for a new model of border justice that builds bridges and relationships instead of walls and policies that create fear and division. (Read more.)
115 UCC Leaders Send Letter to Congress
The United Church of Christ works to offer an extravagant welcome to all of God’s children regardless of their national origin or citizenship status. Many of our congregations are working to become Immigrant Welcoming Congregations because we understand we have a moral imperative to welcome the most vulnerable in our midst. Together 115 UCC leaders sent a letter to Congress, urging all members to speak out in support of deferred action for families and pursue commonsense immigration reform; asking them to tell the Administration to stop the raids and end Operation Border Guardian;and calling on them to respect current U.S. asylum law, honor existing protections for victims of human trafficking, and expand legal assistance. Read the letter.
Blood on our hands: Stop the raids - The Hill
By Rev. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ
Over the last several months, discussions around immigration policies have devolved to extremist sound bytes, with political candidates creating a new wave of anti-immigrant rhetoric to further their own agendas. Sadly, these hateful words have manifested themselves in how the United States treats immigrants. The actions of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are endangering the lives of thousands of asylum seekers fleeing violence, persecution, and devastating poverty in Central America. (Read more.)
UCC Supports Sanctuary Cases to Stop Deportations
In Tucson and Tempe Arizona United Church Congregations Good Shepherd UCC, First Congregational of Phoenix and Shadow Rock United Church of Christ have all offered letters of support to help immigrants facing deportations to stay with their families. Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson has offered Rosa Robles Loreto Sanctuary allowing her to live at the church for proection from immigration authorities while she seeks to win deferred action to stop her deportation order. You can stand with Rosa by signing the Groundswell petition here. Earlier this summer, Shadow Rock UCC had offered Sanctuary to Marco Tulio which helped him win an order of supervision to stay with his family.
Letters of support for Rosa Robles Loreto and Southside Presbyterian Church:
- Shadow Rock United Church of Christ in Phoenix AZ
- First Congregational United Church of Christ, Phoenix
- The Good Shepherd United Church of Christ
Our work on this issue is rooted in policy voted on by our UCC General Synod. You can find General Synod Resolutions on immigration from GS XXXI (2017) GS XXVIIII (2013) GS XXVI (2007), GS XIII (2001), and GS XXII (1999).
Become an immigrant welcoming congregation. The Journey toward becoming an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation involves multiple study and reflection sessions. Download this wonderful toolkit created by our UCC Southwest Conference.
No Longer Strangers: The Practice of Radical Hospitality, a book by UCC pastor Rev. Wendy J. Taylor, explores the lonely and difficult lives of migrant farm workers in Northern California and follows one woman’s compassionate response to their plight.
Behind the Wall
Video by Rev. Art Cribbs. Made possible through a grant by Neighbors in Need.
A Community Resource on Anti-Deportation Education and Organizing - revised May 2010 is a curriculum prepared by the Detention Watch Network, Families for Freedom, the Immigrant Defense Project of the National Lawyers Guild.
Understanding the DREAM Act
The education of immigrant children is not only a smart investment; as an expression of the call to love our neighbors ad ourselves, it is also a moral imperative. The issues of immigration and immigration enforcement affect the children in immigrant families and the public schools that serve those children.