Q&A on the First Parish Social Justice Council and Task Forces
Purpose of the Social Justice Council and Task Forces:
Social justice is a direct expression of our Unitarian Universalist faith and a vital part of congregational life. The Social Justice Council (SJC) amplifies our Unitarian Universalist voice in the public square, and deepen our sense of spiritual community as we build the Beloved Community together.
Each spring, the SJC coordinates a process whereby First Parish members identify and prioritize justice concerns; and then vote to commission Task Forces to act on our behalf. The SJC will coach Task Forces to support them in succeeding and also respond to matters needing immediate action.
The congregational choices for Task Forces for 2015-2016 are:
Beyond Borders – Sin Fronteras – focusing on immigration work
Environmental Justice Task Force – focusing on climate change and divestment issues
GBIO Organizing Task Force – involve First Parish members in the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization’s (GBIO) interfaith relationship-building and social justice work and explore the benefits of formal membership in the group.
The Social Justice Council also supports the work of the Middle East Education Program Group
Privileges for Task Forces:
• May reserve meeting rooms at First Parish and appear on our website calendar.
• May speak on behalf of “First Parish in Cambridge Task Force on ….” in communications and use First Parish letterhead.
• Request funding from the SJC budget (if there is any).
• Conduct fundraisers in accordance with the fundraising policy.
• Suggest service projects to covenant groups.
• Voting privileges at Program Council.
• Priority access to bulletin board space, the Meeting House News, First Parish listserv, Parish Announcements, website, and other communication tools.
• In coordination with the parish office, may reserve a table or organize at Social Hour.
The SJC may consider and act on justice concerns not represented on an approved task force, but these are given lower priority than those selected by the whole congregation. If an issue arises, and a quick response is needed, the SJC may refer issues to established task forces, the Denominational Affairs Committee, Program Council or to Standing Committee. Individuals or groups wishing to advance an issue not authorized by the congregation may apply to the SJC for approval but would not have the full privileges of a task force.
Proposed Structure of the Social Justice Council:
The SJC is made up of 5 at-large members, plus the chairs of approved Task Forces. The at-large members are nominated by the Leadership Development Team, approved by Standing Committee, and serve 3 year terms.
The SJC group works closely with the Denominational Action Committee (DAC). DAC will inform SJC about Study/Action issues at General Assembly, and also about opportunities to collaborate with members of the wider Unitarian Universalist community.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: If my project is not accepted by the congregation, may I skip this process and just be a group?
A: You may obtain a “New Group” request form. Please remember that Standing Committee will review your request with input from the SJC. A limited number of social justice related “groups” will be approved, and the SJC will ensure that overall programming reflects the fact that Task Forces are priorities of the entire congregation, while making room for new issues and groups that do not receive priority status.
Q: What if a crisis happens that needs immediate action?
A: The SJC will consider the need, and may recommend an action plan to Standing Committee or other appropriate committee. Between Parish meetings, Standing Committee makes decisions that the entire congregation would otherwise make.
Q. Does this process apply to Cambridge Forum, Paine Senior Services or Tuesday Meals?
A. No. This process does not apply to First Parish groups that are 501c3 organizations such as Cambridge Forum. Nor does it apply to Paine Senior Services which is established by our bylaws.
Q: How do I organize members to form a task force?
A: In April the SJC will distribute the Task Force applications and this explanation of the process. If you are interested in applying, please contact the SJC at-large members for help and to answer questions.