A congregation needs to serve something beyond itself. A mission, a sense of existing to help others or make a difference in the world, is essential for a healthy institution. It is too often easy to mistake Unitarian Universalist congregations for social clubs that meet on Sunday mornings. We need an outward focus. And we need to focus outwardly together, as a community. So many of our members are involved in so many marvelous ways in justice work, and our congregations support them. Yet a congregation that sees the reason for its existence as serving more than its own members and friends is an exciting place to be.

As a minister, I have worked with congregations to broaden their focus. My work has included participating in groups and activities in the community, with congregants and on my own, and joining with other clergy on statewide issues. I participated in CROP walk in both Midland and Keene. During my sabbatical, I spent two weeks in New Orleans, two years after Katrina, reconstructing homes and landscapes. I have led or participated in vigils on various occasions going back to September of 2001 (9/11).

One of the best ways to raise awareness around important issues and get wide congregational involvement is through the UUA’s Welcoming Congregation and Green Sanctuary programs. I was proud to help achieve both certifications at Midland and Green Sanctuary at Keene.

In Atlanta, I formed a Social Justice Coordinating Team and worked with them to establish priorities. This group is charged with overseeing the various social justice groups within the congregation, and the congregation’s involvement with various groups outside the congregation, including both denominational and local groups.

In Ithaca, I was involved in racial justice and support for the local Muslim community. I urged and supported efforts to move social justice from the fringes of congregational life to the center. We focused congregational attention and effort primarily on racial justice, putting up a Black Lives Matter banner and engaging in workshops and worship to address issues of white supremacy in the nation, in Unitarian Universalism, and in our own ways of perpetuating systems.

© 2018 by Rev. Jane Thickstun