Protecting Ourselves, Protecting Our Communities

From the Regional Leads and Director of Congregational Life,
Unitarian Universalist Association
Dear Congregational Leader,

Like you we’re keeping an eye on the news and wondering what the next few weeks might bring in terms of increased civic unrest and more assaults on our civil rights and the most vulnerable in our communities. While it’s impossible to predict what is to come – and we pray that our streets remain calm and our electoral process proceeds appropriately – it is wise to think ahead to what we can do to manage the unexpected and help out as our communities need us.

Protecting Ourselves
Review your congregation’s safety protocols. If this is your first time thinking about congregational safety, there’s no time like the present! The UUA has a comprehensive Guide to Becoming a Safer Congregation. In it you’ll find links to Building Safety and Security and Alternatives to Calling the Police.

Have your congregation’s insurance information where it can be accessed if needed.

Do you know your UUA’s Regional contact in case something comes up? Find your connection point by checking here:

The vast majority of our congregations remain physically closed due to COVID-19, and rightly so. At the same time, we recognize that in moments of crisis, our buildings can be a critical resource for providing safe harbor to community members and movement organizing. (See the recent work of First Unitarian Church of Louisville during the uprisings there). As one UU minister recently said, “The building is open only for saving lives—and so we’re opening now.” In discerning whether your building could potentially be used during times of uprising or unrest as a sanctuary for organizers or protesters, we encourage you to think about this kind of service as harm reduction: a philosophy that compels us to support the greatest number of people staying as safe as possible, knowing that there is no perfect solution that can eliminate all risk to all people. In some cases, this may look like opening up the congregation to host protesters or medics or those fleeing imminent violence, while also trying to provide PPE, food and water, safe restrooms, and a socially-distanced safe place for people to gather.

This is a conversation for your congregation to have together, weighing the risks and benefits, and the time to start the conversation is now. There is no answer that fits all situations, but there are a lot of us asking the same questions. Look for opportunities to learn from others about what worked and what didn’t. Your Regional staff can help connect you. Don’t go it alone!

Protecting Our Communities
Is your congregation already interested in working with groups mobilizing on the streets or defending our elections? Check out opportunities to connect through The Frontline’s Election Defenders training programs and resources, and stay tuned to UU the Vote and Side With Love for ways to plug in as things evolve leading up to and after voting ends on November 3.

As we have seen with increasing frequency recently, UU congregations are answering the call to join our local movements for justice by offering our resources in solidarity. One wonderful way to support your community is to be ready with some asset mapping. That way, when local needs arise you’ll know what human, infrastructural and financial resources you have to offer. UU the Vote has created this Asset Mapping Tool for you to use to get started, along with this video conversation to guide you as you begin or deepen discussions about how your congregation can prepare to show up in bold, concrete ways. If you are able, get a working group together to go through it; you can also find connection and support for this work by joining Rev. Ashley Horan for a “Ready and Resilient” session (sign up for either October 23 or October 30, 12-1:30pm ET/9-10:30am PT) focused on offering support and strategy to congregations preparing for responses before and after November 3.

It takes a lot of heart, endurance and love to go through so many months of danger and uncertainty. We know how hard you’ve worked to keep your congregation together during this pandemic. We know how much you want to keep your community and nation together through this election with the best possible outcome. Luckily we’ve had ample time to practice the things that keep us safe in dangerous and uncertain times: connection to what matters most and to each other, and focus on a future where we are all free, including those of us most vulnerable, to prosper and thrive. We know you have the tools you need to meet this next challenge. We are here to help you as you do.

Yours, The Regional Leads

Natalie Briscoe and Connie Goodbread, Southern Region

Rev. Megan Foley, Central East Region

Woullard Lett, New England Region

Rev. David Pyle, Mid America Region

Rev. Carlton Smith, Pacific Western Region

Jessica York, Director of Congregational Life, UUA
About the New England Region
The New England Region’s mission is to support and equip congregational leaders for healthy, vital Unitarian Universalist ministries. Regional staff promotes practices of Spiritual Leadership among congregational leaders, to challenge, connect, coach, and companion.
UUA Disaster Relief Fund

UUs are covenanted to help each other during the hard times and these ones sure qualify. The DRF has been helping congregations all over the country, and needs our contributions to do so.

If you'd like to apply for aid or contribute to the fund, please visit:
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