It is hard to believe, but August is just around the corner. This has been a challenging and fast-paced year for justice advocacy, and it is important to take time in the midst of the struggle to renew and re-energize body, mind and soul. But the lazy, hazy “dog days” of August are actually a critical time for justice organizing and mobilizing. Here are some ways you can take advantage of August opportunities to influence public policy and prepare for the November elections.Read more
The Poor Peoples Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival is uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation. The United Church of Christ is proud to be a co-sponsor of this effort.
The Third Reconstruction: A devotional series for UCC congregations.
This devotional series is intended to be a compliment for UCC congregations and individuals as they reflect on the seminal book by the Rev. William Barber and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, The Third Reconstruction. May this reflection inspire not only awareness but responsive action to bridge racial divisions and truly live out God’s love by loving our neighbors.
Download the devotional series | Purchase The Third Reconstruction by Rev. William Barber and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
40 Days of Action
May 14 launched the Poor People's Campaign 40 days of action and advocacy in state capitols and in Washington, DC. The 40 Days of Action featured public witnesses at more than 30 statehouses and the U.S. Capitol calling for voting rights protections, programs to address poverty, attention to ecological devastation and measures to curb militarism and the war economy.
Anecdotes from the 40 Days of Action:
In Annapolis, Md., clergy of the UCC Central Atlantic Conference joined people from all walks of life to speak out against what the Rev. Marvin Silver called "the distorted moral narrative of this country."
"When 44 percent of people in Maryland are poor or low income, and the income for the top 1 percent has grown 160 percent, while the income for the bottom 99 percent has increased a mere 26 percent, there's a moral crisis that needs to be addressed," the CAC Associate Conference Minister continued. "There were disabled people, clergy, people of faith, people not of faith — all there to bear witness and raise our voices." Eleven people, including two UCC leaders, were arrested for blocking traffic.
In St. Paul, Minn. the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable Justice at Lynndale UCC in Minneapolis, led the prayers at the statehouse rally for a living wage. She said hundreds gathered there in the pouring rain, "because they are coming for the innocent and we are called to put our bodies in the way. We are here today at the Capitol because corporate interests are trying to pass pre-emption."
About forty of those advocates opposing pre-emption took action. Armed with signs which read "preemptive means poverty" they occupied the office of Rep. Pat Garofalo (R). He authored a bill designed to allow state law to pre-empt local community ordinances, taking away the municipality's ability to pass $15/hour wage laws or laws that protect sick time. Thirteen people were arrested, including two men from Lynndale UCC.
"As people of faith, as targeted communities and co-conspirator communities, we stand against pre-emption and for a living wage because we affirm the Creator's sacredness in humanity and in creation," Voelkel said.
In Des Moines, Iowa, the Rev. Jessica Petersen, who serves Congregational United Church of Christ in Newton, organized a group of participants hoping to have a word with Gov. Kim Reynolds. Ten people were held by Iowa State Patrol officers for refusing to leave the capitol building. Petersen told the local paper her group is "calling for change in our nation's moral discourse."
In Topeka, Kans., 31 people were arrested outside the Kansas capitol. One of the group's organizers, Rachel Shivers of First Congregational Church in Manhattan, Kan., said, "It's not only tragic — but also immoral and unacceptable — that millions of people in the U.S. lack access to adequate, affordable healthcare and housing in one of the wealthiest nations in history. It's my personal conviction and commitment to use any power, privilege and resources I have to help lift up the voices of vulnerable groups of people who are suffering under oppressive practices and policies."
In Boston, Mass. more than 300 people gathered to pray and sing on the statehouse steps. Three UCC ministers — the Rev. June Cooper of the City Missions Society, Rev. Cathlin Baker, pastor of First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, and Rev. Kelly Gallagher, Associate Conference Minister of the Massachusetts Conference — shared a call to "bring good news to the poor."
"Stories of impact from women who have suffered from inadequate services for PTSD, immigration and healthcare were interspersed with calls from communities of faith to come together and repair the breach dug so deep between us," Gallagher said. "Clergy and congregation members from many UCC churches across the state joined hands with ecumenical and interfaith siblings, and claiming faith in humanity as together we sang, 'Someone is hurting our people, and it has gone on far too long!’”
Denominational Press via UC News:
Poor People's Campaign pushes to change public policy, starting with Saturday mass rally in D.C.
June 25, 2018
D.C. pastor shackled, held 27 hours for praying on Supreme Court steps
June 13, 2018
Poor People's Campaign advocates rally in D.C. around 'right to live'
June 12, 2018
UCC pastor: I pray with my body in the Poor People's Campaign
June 06, 2018
UCC minister arrested as Minnesota Poor People's Campaign takes on ICE
May 25, 2018
Six Massachusetts Conference members arrested at Poor People's Campaign action
May 24, 2018
Prayers, rallies and arrests mark Poor Peoples Campaign launch in D.C. and at U.S. state capitols
May 15, 2018
UCC Staff Blog Posts:
As communities of faith, we respect and care for one another as a sacred imperative that expresses our endeavor to "love our neighbor as ourselves." But American society as a whole is called to be a place where we delight in the value of each and every person and gladly accept a mutual responsibility for one another's wellbeing.
Government of, by and for the people is a vital forum for promoting the common good, cultivating basic virtues, and ensuring that no one is left behind. All of us have something to contribute to our life together, and none of us is excluded from our circle of mutual care and concern.
A federal budget that is faithful to these convictions must promote a compassionate and comprehensive vision for the future. As communities of faith, we call on our elected leaders to craft a Faithful Budget that fulfills our shared duty to each other in all segments of society. A Faithful Budget prioritizes the well-being of those who are struggling to overcome poverty or are especially vulnerable, as well as our obligation to future generations through our collective responsibility as stewards of creation. It is a budget that addresses and remedies the inequities that result from institutional racism and systemic injustice and a broken immigration system, creating a world where everyone may realize the potential of all that God intends. It is a budget that enhances the transformation of conflict with creative and courageous nonviolent peacebuilding, thus cultivating a more sustainable just peace.
Our message to our national leaders--rooted in our sacred texts--is this: Act with mercy and justice by serving the common good; robustly funding support for poor and vulnerable people as well as peacebuilding, both at home and abroad; and exercising proper care and keeping of the earth.
In the current political and economic climate, neither party is giving sufficient voice to the needs of the families who are struggling to overcome poverty. A Faithful Budget will maintain a strong safety net while creating jobs, revitalizing communities, and ensuring a living wage. It will advance fiscal responsibility by means of an equitable tax system based on fairness and by prioritizing true human security and development. A Faithful Budget will also seek to save lives and advance human flourishing among our neighbors around the world who struggle to overcome hunger, poverty, disease, human rights abuses and forced displacement. A Faithful Budget will offer assistance to resettle refugees and will not provide funding to further militarize our southern border resulting in separation of families.
The way to a thriving nation is not to close our hearts to the poor, but to heed the words of the Prophet Isaiah who assures us, “[I]f you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday . ..you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in”(58:10-12).
As faith communities and Americans of conscience we stand with those whose need is great and we call on all of us to act together as the American people with mercy and justice, and to re-arrange our national priorities to focus on the common good.
“The time is always right to do what is right.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
The words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoken decades ago, are as true today as they ever were. Moving into a new year, one that holds tremendous challenges and opportunities, your faithful advocacy is now more important than ever.
We are here to partner with you – to support you, struggle with you, celebrate with you and share your story as we work for justice and peace in 2017 and beyond.Read more
Not sure how to start engaging your congregation in the elections? Here are some answers to questions we frequently receive from our organizers -
Can churches engage in the elections?
Yes - with some exceptions. Because the political activities of churches are limited due to their IRS Tax exempt Status, it is important to know what your rights are. This guide from the Our Faith Our Vote campaign will help you understand what kind of nonpartisan election activities UCC churches can undertake to raise our voices in the elections in ways that are legally protected.
- IRS Code Prohibitions on Political Campaign Interventions,” Memo from UCC Office of General Council.
- Consequences of Losing Tax-Exempt Status," Memo from UCC Office of General Council.
- See full IRS Guidelines
How can I register to vote?
Each state has it’s own rules and in most cases you can register in person, by mail or online. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission created a website that will connect you to your state election commission so you can register. Go to vote.usa.gov/.
You can also register, confirm your registration status and request an absentee ballot via VOTE.ORG.
Where do I vote?
The Voting Information Project (VIP) is a tool from our partners at the Election Protection Coalition that allows you to find key voting information like your polling place and ballot information.
Members of my church are serving in the military or living overseas. How can I help them?
The U.S. Vote Foundation is a great resource. Use them to access absentee ballot requests and voter registration services for all U.S. voters abroad.
Some members of my congregation have been previously incarcerated. What are their rights?
Voting rights for returning citizens vary by state. The Brennan Center for Justice provides a breakdown of criminal disenfranchisement laws across the U.S.
Do I need an ID to vote in my state? If so, what kind can I use?
Across the country, there is much confusion about voter ID laws. To help educate and empower voters, VoteRiders has created voter ID Information Cards in a convenient wallet size. They have them in English and Spanish for all 50 states + DC. Each card contains information on what IDs are valid for voting in your state, and a toll-free National Voter ID Hotline number (844-338-8743) for any questions or for help to secure an ID to vote.
Something is not going right. Where can I turn for help?
Sometimes things don’t go right. Maybe you’ve forgotten how to register, where to vote, or encountered a problem while attempting to cast your ballot. Perhaps you’ve noticed act of intimidation at the polls, or false or misleading information being disseminated in your community. Don’t worry, we have partners who are here to help.
Election Protection provides Americans from coast to coast with comprehensive voting information on how they can make sure their vote is counted through a number of resources including:
- Voter helplines:
- 866-OUR-VOTE administered by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
- 888-Ve-Y-Vota administered by the NALEO Educational Fund - Voters will receive bilingual assistance (English/Spanish).
- 888-API-VOTE administered by APIAVote & Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC - Voters can leave a message in Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi and Tagalog and the call will be returned in 1-2 business days.
- Digital tools including 866ourvote.org, @866ourVote, and facebook.com/866OurVote
Will there be any ballot initiatives voted on in my state?
Twenty-six states, as well as Washington, D.C., offer initiative and/or veto referendum rights for their citizens. You can see what’s on the docket in your state via Ballotpedia.
Have a question you don't see here? Contact Sandy Sorensen.
Last week we saw a historic and unprecedented Democratic sit-in on the House to urge its members to take up what it has long ignored – gun violence prevention. Now it is now up to us as people of faith to take this message to our legislators.
Your Representative is home for the July 4th Recess and this is a perfect time for you to remind them that ignoring the epidemic of gun violence will not protect public safety. Every day 91 people in the United States are killed by a gun. Yet, the House and Senate continue to act as if this is not happening.
Take this opportunity to let them know yow you feel. Use this toolkit to organize a letter drop through your Congregation. Urge your Rep to expand background check and ban assault weapons.
Interested in taking your OFOV witness to the next level? This year we are making five OFOV grants available in the amount of $2,000 for local organizing efforts to register voters, provide issue education and to encourage voters to go to the polls in November. These efforts should be strictly nonpartisan and focus on key issues of concern in your community.
In the 2014 midterm elections, congregations in Wisconsin and North Carolina used OFOV grants to empower and educate voters about their state’s voting laws. A congregation in California used an OFOV grant to develop voter registration and issue education opportunities to educate voters about a school board ballot initiative. Each setting has its own unique needs and opportunities for engagement. What might you do in your community?
Our Faith Our Vote, which seeks to engage and empower the public witness of the UCC, is deeply informed by our Christian faith and theological grounding.
Vote Faithfully Sunday
We invite you to join with our Ecumenical partners in observing the Sunday before election day as "Vote Faithfully Sunday." This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and uplift every voice in our community, reflect on our commitment to the common good and prepare to cast our ballots.
How will you observe Vote Faithfully Sunday? Here are some ideas:
- Download the Vote Faithfully Sunday Ecumenical toolkit: This toolkit provides helpful, nonpartisan resources for engaging with your congregation and community on Vote Faithfully Sunday. It includes:Worship Resources & Prayers; Action Steps including a Voter Pledge, Voter Mobilization Tips, FAQs & Election Protection Info; And more!
- Worship: Use the worship materials in the toolkit and below to celebrate Vote Faithfully Sunday
- Pledge: Invite your members to commit to casting a Ballot on November 8th. Download these "Vote Faithfully Pledge Cards" and collect them through your offering. Send them back to our DC office if your members want to join our UCC Justice Network!
- Get Out the Vote: Make sure every member of your congregation knows where they can turn for help if they have trouble casting their ballot. Share information about the Election Protection hotlines from our partners.
We have included worship resources to help congregations lift up and affirm the connection between corporate worship and the living out of faith in the public sphere. In this section you will find liturgical resources that reflect our call to pray for a more just, peaceful and compassionate world, and to engage in political and public efforts that will help bring it about.
- UCC Worship Ways: Seeds for Election Season Prayers
- UCC Worship Ways: Prayers to Help Counter Fears
- Trusting in the Source - Service Prayers for a Sunday in Election Season
- Prayer: Prayer to the God of Love, Relationship and Community
|Possible Song Choices from Sing! Prayer and Praise
13 Love and Justice
16 Come to the Water
50 Song of Mercy
69 God Weeps
77 Blessed Are You
86 Taste and See
101 Make Us All One
112 Come to the Table of Grace
120 Dream God’s Dream
127 Dance of the Spirit
137 Come Sweet Justice
170 We Share a Hunger
178 Here Are Our Hearts
199 Go Make a Difference