This year, UUSC’s Justice-Building unit has been supporting a cadre of Justice Building Innovators (JBI) as they deepen the work of social justice within and beyond the walls of their congregations. Kat Liu, a long-time member and leader of First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco is a current JBI. Kat’s leadership has brought together a rich array of programming for all ages with varied elements of education, witness, action, and advocacy on climate and environmental justice issues as they apply to San Francisco, the state of California, and the planet as a whole. Working closely with the Environmental Justice Working Group of her congregation, she helped coordinate and organize participation by a wide variety groups within the church including: children’s religious education, the young adult group, the pagan circle, UU animal ministry, and others, to help the First UU church celebrate their third annual Climate Justice Month.
Kat Liu writes of the project:
Melding worship with justice themes generates greater awareness and more emotional energy around social justice issues creating motivation to act. Much of the current congregational observances of justice events (e.g., Earth Day) center on a single day. We know from modern psychology that when new information is introduced, it takes several repetitions before it is retained. Having a full “season” or month devoted to a theme creates a container for that essential repetition. Moreover, while it’s obviously not the sole purpose of liturgy, the way that social activism is tied to liturgical seasons in progressive Christian and Jewish congregations builds energy and (presumably) motivates people to act.
This year they are looking at climate change with an intersectional lens, tying themes of racial and economic justice with those of environmental justice. For example, this intra-congregation coalition has recently also partnered with a number of external groups, including a guest from Standing Rock, the Marine Mammal Center, and Communities for Better Environment.
As they have done for the past two years, the congregation is also working with Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) to encourage members and friends to sign postcards to senators and make other, more substantial, spiritual, personal, and systemic commitments during Climate Justice Month. These commitments continue to grow and deepen as people come to expect this call to action and have allowed themselves time to fully engage. Many extend their pledge to act beyond the month as they come to understand the urgency of the times and the need for greater involvement. Kat’s leadership has helped to strengthen the capacity of the congregation through witness, worship, education and engagement. Climate Justice month at First UU San Francisco will conclude on Sunday, April 23 as the congregation celebrates Earth Day.