50th Anniversary Summary of Social Justice Actions through the Years

By Bob Ciernia

First, an apology. The members of UUFN who were active in Social Justice causes prior to the digital age get short shrift here, both because few are here to represent them and because there was no easy to share photos and remembrances. With that caveat, I offer the following:

November 27, 1966. A clothing drive is the first service committee project.

December 1970. The children in Sunday school have made things to raise money for a hospital and daycare center for Vietnamese children sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee.

October 1974. Halloween party for UNICEF. First annual(?) happened several years.

1994: 1 of 3 founding churches of the ongoing MLK Community Celebration

About 1995: we participate in our first CropWalk.

Late 90s: we join the Cannon River Watershed Partnership for a clean up of the Cannon River.

Late 90s: We were partners with the Friends and Moravians in sponsoring a homeless man.

Late 90s: We begin delivering Meals on Wheels.

Summer 1999: We join the City’s Adopt-A-Park Clean Up program and for three years we spruce up Riverside Park.

November 1999. Youth group visit a homeless shelter in Minneapolis and prepared and serve a meal.

Early 2000s: For several years, we join other Northfield churches and help pack meals for Feed My Starving Children.

Early 2000s: We mail postcards advocating a ban of landmines.

Early 2000s: We participate in the UU Service Committee’s Guest at Your Table Program for the first time.

September 2001: Members of our congregation join the Quakers in establishing a weekly peace vigil on Bridge Square. Four or five of us (plus a Catholic) continue to vigil on Thursday mornings during the school year at the corner of Woodley & Division. While clearly anti-war for the first 10 or 12 years, we now advocate for a variety of social justice reforms.

September 2001: Members of our congregation help establish People for Peace and Goodwill, a group that vigiled and met regularly for 10 years following 9/11.

February 2003: We send a letter signed by most members of the congregation to the Northfield News asking that the U.S. government find an alternative to the military invasion of Iraq.

2000s: Work on three different Habitat for Humanity homes, as well as the Manger Inn.

2004: With other churches, UUs organize a community Food Forum that brings together a variety of farmers, consumers, and activists to talk about our foodshed. The following year, we help bring the president of Oxfam USA to Northfield to discuss the politics of food, global food production, and the inequity of food distribution.

Mid-2000s: We start a First Friday Film Festival and screen many movies promoting social awareness, justice, and action.

January 2006: With a near-unanimous vote, UUFN goes on the record as opposing the so-called Defense of Marriage Amendment then under discussion at the State Capitol.

April 2006: We lobby with other members of MUUSJA (Minnesota UU Social Justice Alliance) at the State Capitol against the Marriage Amendment and later that

Late 2000s: For two or three years we sew pajamas for the Community Action Center’s Christmas Sharing project.

2009: Initiate the Adult R.E. program, Return to the Earth Project, honoring the ancestry and remains of our Native peoples. This restorative justice project culminated in the sewing of burial cloths and the construction of burial boxes which were then delivered to Oklahoma.

March 2009: We hold our first Standing on the Side of Love event, a concert of congregational and other local musicians. Richard LaFortune spoke the following day for the Sunday service and proceeds went to Two Spirit Native Media. For the next two or three years, a dinner was added to the event and proceeds of several hundred dollars were shared with worthy organizations.

Fall 2009: We join the State’s Adopt-a-Highway Program and do our first Highway Clean-up out on Interstate 35. After two years and a hiatus, we take on a section of Highway 19 east of Northfield.

2011: In support of Marriage Equality, we begin making rainbow pins and tabling at events such as Winter Walk and the Defeat of Jesse James Days.

2012 & 2013: We serve meals at Thursday’s Table, a project sponsored by the Northfield Community Action Center.

2013: To bring greater attention to the problem of climate change, we sponsor the screening of Bidder 70, a movie about UU Tim DeCristopher’s spur-of-the-moment decision to “purchase” 22,000 acres of Federal land and keep them from being developed by oil and gas conglomerates.

December 2013: Members of the congregation appear before the Northfield Human Rights Commission and lobby for a resolution acknowledging the genocide of Native peoples in our State. Resolution passed.

2013: Share-the-Plate was adopted at UUFN and we began donating half of our Sunday plate collection to Unitarian and other social action groups.

December 2013: Tabling at Winter Walk promoting the Northfield Area Climate Summit. (All told, 800 people signed up for the event – not all due to tabling – and over 600 showed up during a blizzard!)

2014: We help launch the UUA DOVE (Demonstrating Our Values through Eating) Program and explore the ethics and complexities of eating with forethought.

Summer 2015: Reading and discussing The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

Because the Standing on the Side of Love event has been a major event, I’ll include with this summary:

2010: Theologian David Weiss presentation, parent of transgender daughter & community dinner

2011: UUA LGBT Ministries Director Delfin Bautista & community dinner

2012: Interfaith Marriage Equality Forum & panel discussion

2013: Dakota 38 Film & Community Conversation

2014: Enrique Barcenas, CTUL (Center for Workers United in Struggle) on workers’ rights and the immigrant experience

2015: Lena K. Gardner from Black Lives Matter (and a UU minister with the Church of the Larger Fellowship), followed in March by a dinner and conversation with Police Chief Monte Nelson

2016: Judge Kevin Burke on criminal justice reform