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.
The rise of civil unrest, and extreme violence, coupled with disruptions from climate change around the world mean that increasingly people are forced to leave their homelands to seek safety and a secure future for their children elsewhere. The reasons for leaving are diverse and complex: extreme poverty, threats from gang violence, war and religious or social persecution, or devastation from draughts and extreme weather. As the United Church of Christ, we have a moral responsibility to walk alongside immigrants and welcome them to be part of our church, no matter what their immigration status, and no matter where they are on life’s journey.
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.
Things you need to know about UCC stance on Immigration:
The United Church of Christ has a long history of solidarity in the struggle for dignity and human rights for immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees regardless of their immigration status. We do this through a network of grassroots leaders in the UCC National Collaborative on Immigration (sign up here) working to share a prophetic stance and lift up the voices of impacted leaders. General Synod Resolutions over the last decades show the continued support from our denominations. We also work at the federal level to advocate for just and equitable immigration policies.
How to Take Action
UCC pastors and lay leaders are taking action through becoming an Immigrant Welcoming Congregation and joining the Sanctuary Movement. Together we have worked with immigrants’ rights partner organizations to stop deportations, support Sanctuary cities, accompany asylum seekers and advocate for just immigration reforms that include a pathway to citizenship. Sign up to register as a Sanctuary or Immigrant Welcoming Congregations
Join the UCC National Collaborative on Immigration - The UCC National Collaborative on Immigration is working at the grassroots level to create more Immigrant Welcoming and Sanctuary Congregations that can lend a prophetic and bold faith voice to the larger movement for immigrants and refugee rights. Sign up now.
Recent Statements and Action Alerts
How to Support UCC Congregations with People Claiming Sanctuary
Many congregations in our denomination have stepped up to heed the call when someone is in danger of family separation due to a deportation order, opening their congregation to create a safe space of Sanctuary. See more about how you can support below UCC congregations that are physically accompanying undocumented people who are claiming Sanctuary in a house of worship, thus avoiding deportation and keeping their families together.
Shadow Rock United Church of Christ, Phoenix, AZ
Protecting Our Immigrant Neighbors
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. A hallmark of the Trump Administration’s immigration policies have been to deny the humanity of those seeking a new life or asylum at the border. The practice of separating families, increasing immigrant detention, and redefining access to asylum are abhorrent and undermine our values. To this date, the administration continues to separate families and hold immigration families in unsafe detention facilities. During this COVID Pandemic that has not changed. Many immigrants are being held unjustly in detention placing them at even greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Reports of immigrant women being forced to undergo unwanted medical procedures to the ongoing terrorizing of our immigrant neighbors by interior ICE enforcement, to the exporting of COVID on deportation planes are all horrific outcomes of the administration’s white supremacist agenda and war on immigrants.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.)
- 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.
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.
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.)
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.