The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
My Time Interning at UUSC
By Lóre Stevens on August 25, 2022
In preparation for ministry within the Unitarian Universalist tradition, most students undertake at least one—and often two or more—ministerial internships as part of their formation process. Internships in congregations, hospitals, and non-profits like UUSC, provide real-world experiences of ministry as well as the opportunity to integrate theory and practice.
UUSC had the privilege of hosting Lóre Stevens as a field education intern during the last academic year. She is now the intern minister with the First Universalist Church of Minneapolis.
I’d seen the little boxes before. Every year, they’d appear in a pyramid at my church, First UU Nashville. Take ‘em home, fill ‘em up. Guest at Your Table, what a nice idea. That was pretty much all I knew about the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.
After encouragement from my beloved Nashville congregation, I headed to Harvard Divinity School. There, I learned a lot more about UUSC. The UU symbol of the flaming chalice, for example, was originally created for UUSC! The new organization (at the time) had helped many Jewish refugees flee Nazi-occupied territory. One of the refugees, Hans Deutsch, had created the symbol for them. UUSC has been doing amazing work like that for 80 years! And they were currently being led by Rev. Mary Katherine Morn, who had served First UU Nashville before I arrived. I needed to do a unit of field education and the signs added up.
I interned with UUSC for the entire academic year. I was supervised by Rev. Laura Randall, who’s currently responsible for those pyramids of charming Guest at Your Table boxes I’d seen in my congregation. I joined Rev. Laura on the Development team, the folks responsible for keeping UUSC fueled to do its work across the globe.
I have learned so much about UUSC’s work. Their areas of focus are international justice and accountability, migrant justice, and climate/disaster justice. These are some of the most pressing issues our world faces today. Rather than swooping in to “save” people, UUSC does this work by partnering with grassroots organizations run by and for the people directly affected by these global injustices.
UUSC’s alignment with UU values can also be seen in the way the organization runs in Cambridge. The workers are unionized, which is rare for nonprofits. UUSC is committed to hiring Black, Indigenous, and people of color from various places across the world. The diversity of identities and nationalities is impressive and strengthens UUSC’s shared wisdom about the issues they seek to address.
The program I was most proud to work on was the Congregational Accompaniment Project for Asylum-Seekers (CAPAS). The CAPAS team helps UU congregations discern and prepare to host asylum-seekers as they await hearings. This takes Guest at Your Table to a literal level.
Imagine all the homes and communities that have been ripped apart by war or climate disaster and the people who have been forced to flee to seek safety. Perhaps some of you reading this have experienced just that. Somali-British writer Warsan Shire wrote, “You only leave home when home is the mouth of the shark.” But imagine if you run right into the jaws of another beast: detention.
CAPAS helps asylum-seekers get out of detention and into welcoming homes until they have a hearing, are allowed to work, and can begin to rebuild a sense of home for themselves. Some congregations host guests themselves, while others offer financial support or supplies for the journey. I hope that if you’re reading this, you can inspire your congregation to consider what action is right for you.
I loved the time I spent with the devoted and brilliant folks that face these enormous issues together. They do it in small, sweet ways like the Guest at Your Table boxes. They do it by working hand-in-hand with our friends and neighbors across the world. UUSC is one of the best ways Unitarian Universalism expresses its—our—values. I look forward to singing their praises in my future ministry. I hope the flaming chalice, which they first lit, never goes out.
You can learn more about CAPAS, or get involved, by clicking here.
Photo Credit: UUSC Staff