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
Bentley de Bardelaben
Executive for Administration and Communications 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.
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.
Open Table & Free2Be LGBTQ Advocacy & Youth Services
Every weekend, a congregation of the United Church of Christ in Alabama opens up space for LGBTQ teens to feel safe. Ordinarily, these teens might not step foot on church property, explains the Rev. Ellen Guide Sims, pastor of Open Table UCC in Mobile, Ala., because they may have been hurt by the message of some churches that they are unwelcome.
But Open Table, with the help of an LGBT-advocacy organization in the state and a $10,000 grant from UCC Justice and Witness Ministries, is showing these teens that there is a place where they can be themselves.
"This is a safe space we provide every Saturday for LGBTQ teens in Mobile," Sims said. "No exceptions." The church has been able to provide that space for the last 16 months.
Mano en Mano | Hand in Hand
Formally incorporated in 2005, Mano en Mano | Hand in Hand is the “go-to” agency in Downeast Maine for Latino/Latina, immigrant, and farmworker issues. As a 2010 Neighbors in Need grant recipient, Mano en Mano provides a wide variety of direct services in English and Spanish. The three general programmatic areas are:
- Educational Services & Scholarships comprise the bulk of our programming and the heart of our mission. From free English classes, to college scholarships, to one-on-one tutoring and after school support, Mano en Mano believes that education is a tool that can make dreams possible and realize social justice.
- Outreach & Community Events ensure that Mano en Mano can effectively reach and serve their constituency while building bridges between various and diverse communities.
- Affordable Housing provides farmworkers who want to settle in Milbridge, ME with an opportunity to live somewhere that is safe, decent, and designed with their needs in mind.
Program Director, Bethany Woods shares “when we first started adult English classes several years ago, the goals were based on language acquisition. But the project has evolved into much more, providing social resources that are not often readily available to new immigrants.” Ms. Woods further states, “Our adult students attend every week after long days working, exhibiting a high level of dedication to their own progress. The social activity and community development that has grown from these English classes is just as significant. Even more importantly, our students have become resources for one other, offering a supportive environment to encourage each other's learning and look out for their fellow peers.”
In service to their clientele, Mano en Mano | Hand in Hand believes in removing barriers within their community. This philosophy is similar to the core values of United Church of Christ: changing lives, continuing testament and extravagant welcomes. To learn more about Mano en Mano visit http://www.manomaine.org/.
San Francisco Night Ministry
Taking a stand against poverty and injustice, the San Francisco Night Ministry (SFNM) strives to be living crucibles of Christ’s care, compassion, and concern for those who find themselves on the streets, or in bars or coffee shops, alone, afraid, and hopeless. As a Neighbors in Need 2010 grant recipient, the SFNM mission states that they will provide middle-of-the-night compassionate non-judgmental pastoral care, counseling, referral and crisis intervention to anyone in any kind of distress every night of the year.
Associate Night Minister, the Rev. Thom Longino reports, “Many nights I start my nightly walk by going to a Burger King near our home base of operations. I have gotten to know several of the guys who panhandle there. There is one in particular, “Mason,” with whom I have had extensive conversations – sometimes over coffee and donuts, but mostly standing there while he panhandles at the drive-thru.”
Rev. Thom further adds, “Mason panhandles for money to pay bills, and to have money for food. Since I have known Mason, he has gone from sleeping on the streets and sometimes on friends’ floors, to having his own room in a residential hotel. Mason has also started to think about what he wants to do for money by not panhandling. Mason is thinking of gardening or working as an in-home health aide. I do not claim responsibility for this. However, Mason has said that our on-going conversations have often been the impetus for his thinking about his future. I am just being faithful to the call God has put on my life to love, talk and walk with our sisters and brothers.”
The San Francisco Night Ministry staff endeavor to witness and example the teachings of Christ Jesus. This crucial witness is akin to the core values of United Church of Christ: changing lives, continuing testament and extravagant welcome. To learn more about SFNM visit http://sfnightministry.org/.
Church of the Apostles United Church of Christ (COAUCC)
Understanding their call to work and witness for justice and peace, 2010 NIN grant receiver, Church of the Apostles United Church of Christ (COAUCC) of Lancaster, PA uncovered a new purpose. They discovered in the local newspaper a ministry to at-risk adolescents as an alternative to street gang membership. The ministry, DigIt, teaches life skills through youth centered programs with a focus on sustainable agriculture. Following the prompting of the Holy Spirit, contacts were made, relationships were built and a partnership ensued.
In March 2010, COAUCC offered part of their 21 acre green space at no rental fee to DigIt so the organization could add gardening space to grow, harvest, and sell more produce while transforming the lives of area youth. COAUCC fertilized, plowed and tilled the soil at no cost. DigIt promotes gardening without chemicals and pesticides. Harvested vegetables are sold in the city. Produce is also taken to urban low cost housing communities and sold at affordable prices door to door.
According to COAUCC Senior Pastor, the Rev. Rebecca Meyer transformational experiences arose within the church from their work with DigIt. “Three distinct generations shared gardening space and social interactions began. Relationships developed slowly and intentionally. We are taking small successful steps. Regrettably, we note that racism is alive and well. So as God transforms our congregation, God continues to nudge our conscience toward loving ‘the other’. Change takes time. We know it will come gradually with lots of ‘God moments’ which were not part of ‘our plan’. This serves to let us know that God is still speaking and if we watch and listen, the transformation in us will be revealed.”
The enterprise between Church of the Apostles UCC and DigIt underscores the core values of UCC: changing lives, continuing testament and extravagant welcome. To learn more about COAUCC visit http://www.apostlesucc.org/. For more info on DigIt visit http://www.thresholdpa.org/.
Just Economics (JE) is a small non-profit, advocacy organization whose mission is to educate, advocate, and organize for a just and sustainable local economy in Ashville, NC. JE works on issues of economic justice primarily centered on root causes of poverty including wage disparity. In 2010, Just Economics received a Neighbors in Need grant for their Economic Justice program entitled Voices. Voices is an eight-week leadership training program designed to help low-income people find their Voice and advocate for themselves and others.
Executive Director, Vicki Meath, tells of a student advocate named Bea as a reason that JE works tirelessly to end economic injustice. Vicki states, “Bea moved to Asheville with a very young son to escape a dangerous domestic violence situation. She was unable to live near her family for safety reasons. When Bea first moved to town, she lived on the streets with her child. Bea often felt very alone and vulnerable; sometimes they stayed at the Salvation Army, other times they slept in a doorway or under a bridge.”
Vicki further shared, “Eventually Bea moved into a public housing development. She was unable to receive certain services because North Carolina policy requires a single mother to file for child support in order to be eligible. Bea refused fearing that the man who repeatedly beat and threatened to kill her and her child in the past, would find them.”
“Bea felt trapped in a system that often seems hopeless. She joined a Voices class in 2010. She soon found community and felt inspired and empowered. Bea learned about community organizing and the slow road toward creating systematic change, but she felt like if she was not part of working for change, she did not have a right to complain about what was wrong. Soon, Bea found herself addressing Asheville City Council members in a meeting where they were discussing living wages for City contractors. She spoke eloquently during the public comment period about extending the living wage requirement to workers on City contracts. That night, City Council approved the measure! Bea continues to find her voice. Her leadership skills have blossomed. She has assisted with the Full Plates project which dramatizes America’s wealth disparities.”
Just Economics staffs bear witness to the core values of the UCC: changing lives, continuing testament and extravagant welcome. For more info on JE visit http://justeconomicswnc.org/.
“A free paper for free kids”, is the slogan for IndyKids, a progressive news publication for young people. Educating and informing kids about issues of social justice, racism and human rights, IndyKids encourages them to form their own opinions. Founded in June of 2005 and based in New York, NY, a group of independent journalists, students, parents, teachers and activists, with the help of the NYC Independent Media Center, recognized the need for kids to be exposed to progressive current events news. It was the desire of this group that the material would be presented in a way that would interest and engage young people between the ages of 9 to 13 (or in grades 4 to 8).
xAs 2009 a Neighbors In Need grant recipient, IndyKids Editor, Ms. Amanda Vender, states that since the publishing of issue #1 in the fall of 2005, “IndyKids has grown into a vital current-events resource for teachers, parents and students. IndyKids currently produces 15,000 copies of every issue. IndyKids also reaches kids in 30 states across the nation through more than 200 classroom and individual subscriptions.”
Additionally, IndyKids can be found and followed on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. There people can connect and learn more about current events and the newspaper. A recent magazine featured important articles that focused on issues tagged as Supreme Court - “Choosing a New Justice”, Immigrant Rights - “Arizona Law Sparks New Fight for Immigrant Rights”, and Environmental Spills - “Oil Spill Out of Control in Gulf of Mexico”. Moreover, each publication often contains book reviews, history lessons and letters to the editors written by the kids addressing current events. To subscribe or read past issues, visit www.indykids.net.
Workers Interfaith Network (WIN)
Understanding their mission is to witness for justice, Memphis, Tennessee’s Workers Interfaith Network (WIN), is a humble, yet powerful group of people who assists workers protect their rights as employees from exploitative employers. WIN has developed a reputation in TN as the organization that can assistance a worker recover monies when they have suffered “wage theft” by an unjust employer. Unfortunately, wage theft is becoming a common act of withholding an employee’s wages by the employer. When employees these face economic hardships at the hands of their employers, it is their family’s that suffers this unimaginable injustice as their basic needs are no longer met. This forces some to further struggle to move out of hunger or poverty.
As a 2009 Neighbors In Need grant recipient, WIN’s goal is assist workers learn their rights, even that to organize and form unions. Currently, they are collecting hundreds of petition signatures to present to the County Sheriff, urging him to recognize wage theft as a criminal offense. Workers Interfaith Network’s Executive Director, Rev. Rebekah Jordan Gienapp, reports good news. “WIN demonstrates to a vulnerable population that when workers and people of faith join together, we are a powerful force for justice. We enabled to eight workers to recover over $113,000 in unpaid and workers’ compensation payments.”
Furthermore, Workers Interfaith Network was honored as one of ten grassroots organizations nationwide that received the 2009 Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Award. The award provides a $7,000 grant to groups who have been “judged outstanding for the innovative approaches to fighting domestic hunger and poverty”. For more information about WIN visit www.workersinterfaithnetwork.org.
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI)
Taking a stand against injustice, Des Moines, IA’s Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) is a grassroots organization that empowers and unites grassroots people of all ethnic backgrounds to take control of their communities. CCI involves them in identifying problems and needs and in taking action to address them; and to be a vehicle for social, economic and environmental justice
Executive Director, Mr. Hugh Espey, states that “CCI has helped thousands of its members across Iowa from all walks of life – whether urban or rural, black or white, immigrants and lifelong Iowans - we work together to get things done. CCI staff has over 100 years of combined experience to provide training and expertise. However, it’s our members that provide the focus and the leadership and the power in numbers”.
Furthermore, Mr. Espey shares that as CCI celebrate three decades of assisting ordinary people transform their own lives we are “one of those organizations that is truly by the people and for the people. We believe you don’t have to stand by and just let things happen, which is probably why were growing so much.”
As a 2009 Neighbors In Need grant recipient, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, whose current slogan is “We talk. We act. We get it done.”, understands that their success hasn’t anything to do with money; it isn’t titles; it’s the power that comes from thousands of citizens standing together and getting things done.
In April 2010, the series finale for PBS’s “Bill Moyer’s Journal”, a weekly public affairs program, featured a 20 minute segment about the powerhouse known as CCI. You can follow CCI events on Facebook and Twitter. For more information about CCI visit www.iowacci.org.
Erase the Hate
Being an intentional witness for justice, while envisioning a world free from discrimination and oppression, Toledo Area Ministries (TAM), the Erase the Hate (EtH) Campaign is a growing collaboration of Toledo, Ohio area religious, educational and community organizations and agencies working together to develop programs that promote a their vision of a community where all races, religions and cultures live in peace, harmony and mutual respect. Moreover, the Erase the Hate mission is to encourage an appreciation of diversity even as they work to eliminate discrimination and racism.
As 2008 Neighbors In Need” grant recipient, TAM Executive Director, Rev. Stephen D. Anthony, is focused on taking the Erase the Hate campaign to a new level. “We are trying to reach more individuals and recruit more organizations to join in our efforts. We have leased six billboards displays within the Toledo area, printed 2500 campaign fliers and produced over 1000 EtH buttons and t-shirts which are handed out at our events”, he states. “Additionally, we are looking to present ourselves on social networks such as Facebook where people can connect and learn more about EtH.”
The Erase the Hate message has been spread for more than eleven years. It is the goal of Rev. Anthony to reach more church youth groups, high school and junior high youth via EtH poetry, media and art contests which will take place during the spring of 2009. Fortunately many businesses within the community of Toledo, including a newspaper, a television station as well as the Toledo Art Museum, support the campaign with advertising and workshops to help promote EtH efforts. For more info visit: www.erasethehatetodelo.org
Urban Mission Experience/St. Louis
Understanding their call to witness for justice, Urban Mission Experience/St. Louis, a program for youth in grades 6 -12, strives to implement to provide youth groups with a meaningful “mission” experience within the city of St. Louis, Missouri. New program coordinator, Ms. Sue Kupfer, confesses that several incidents have moved her heart during her brief tenure. Furthermore, she is “touched by the youth that come to work with us and the transformation that occurs for some as they experience how God's love and grace touches lives”.
One such story is that of seventh grader, "Josh". Sue shares that “Josh was part of a middle school group from a St. Louis suburb. The group worked in food pantries, a low income day care center, and a shelter for woman and children of domestic abuse. Additionally, they took part in a walk through downtown St. Louis that depicts, in a small way, the path a homeless person would need to travel to have their basic human needs met.”
After “walking "The Trail", Ms. Kupfer writes, “Josh wanted to talk about how he felt. He stated that after this experience he would not view people in the same way. When noticing a person walking around with a backpack, he would not assume they were a student, and when noticing someone carrying a suitcase he would not assume that they were a traveler. With tears in his eyes he said very softly, "They could be homeless and need our help". Josh’s message brought tears to my eyes. It meant that he "got" what we hope that the youth coming to UME/STL will understand.” As a 2008 Neighbors In Need grant recipient, UME/STL’s goal is to try to open the eyes of young people to things that go on in their city; issues of poverty, hunger, oppression and discrimination. For more information visit: www.umestl.org.
Taking a stand against injustice, New York, New York’s Poverty Initiative (PI) is a program “dedicated to raising up generations of religious and community leaders committed to building a movement to end poverty”. A key element to this program is that it’s “led by the poor”. PI Program coordinator, Dawn Plummer, states “we seek to train and network grassroots antipoverty, church and community leaders in to re-ignite the “Poor People’s Campaign” and finish the unfinished business of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Given the unfolding economic crisis, such training and opportunities to join poor people’s organizations and struggles together are needed now more than ever to strengthen work on the ground to end poverty and hunger.”
Moreover, Ms. Plummer believes that “new victims of poverty will increasingly turn to those positioned at the community level to best meet their immediate needs, point to the moral outrage of poverty, and demand its end.” During 2008 -2009, Poverty Initiative Scholars Program will train over 150 people from more than 35 low income communities. The training sessions will be convened over a series of three, four day “Strategic Dialogues” in New York City as well as a weeklong “Leadership School” which takes place in Charleston, West Virginia.
The signature event of Poverty Initiative is the Poverty Truth Commissions which are inspired by the Truth Commissions held in South Africa and elsewhere. As a 2008 Neighbors In Need grant recipient, Poverty Initiative is determined to “finish the unfinished business of Rev. Dr. King” to eradicate poverty. Additionally, in 2007-2008, PI commemorated the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s, “Poor People’s Campaign” during which numerous educational and public events were sponsored. Visit www.povertyinitiative.org for more information.
Center for Artistic Revolution
In 2007, Center for Artistic Revolution (CAR), an organization that works tirelessly for Fairness and Equality for All Arkansans, saw many successes. They were able to see a three-year campaign win the removal of all American Indian culture and imagery that was used as mascots. CAR served as an anchor group in the coalition to defeat SB 959 within Arkansas legislative session. This bill would have prevented lesbians, gays and unmarried heterosexuals from adopting or providing foster care. It would also have prevented these individuals from adopting their blood relative’s children.
Being a witness for justice, envisioning a world free from discrimination and oppression, CAR co-hosted the 1st Annual Arkansas Queer Coalition Conference continues work to increase the capacity and participation of LGBTQ Arkansans. Their work with the Citizens First Congress generated an HIV/AIDS Minority Task Force being appointed by the Governor to examine and then make recommendations regarding the disparities in access to prevention, treatment and other resources experienced by People of Color.
The organization’s youth program, Diverse Youth for Social Change (DYSC) is open and affirming to all youth and young adults 14-23 regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ability, etc. Currently, DYSC has over 65 members who work in an intergenerational model that shares the power and decision making for the organization.
This “Neighbors In Need” grant recipient, partnering with their sister organization, Arco Iris Earth Care Project, will work to see that the Earth School Project is built on a land trust managed by Arco Iris. Together, they will implement rural micro enterprise projects, Child of the Earth Camps that focus on sustainable living practices and permaculture, retreats for community members, activists and organizers, a natural healing clinic, and a training school for organizing and advocacy skills. For more information visit: http://www.artisticrevolution.org/content/index.php.
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 6, 2019 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.