Last year UU religious educators in the Chicago area pondered the idea of having a multiple UU church event, possibly doing a social action activity. After some discussion and realizing that trying to find a date that works for most churches and then the logistics of getting everybody to one place, it was decided that they had to come up with something different. The decision was made that the project should be a social action/social justice project, possibly year long. So a list of criteria was determined:
- Churches can work in parallel It needed to be a project that churches can participate in parallel (at the same time but in their own community),
- Meaningful It needs to be meaningful,
- Multi-generational The project should be intentionally multi-generational. Not just having adults doing one thing and youth another. But adults and youth working and learning together
- Turnkey Implementation Knowing that church leadership does not have the time to come up with extra programming, this whole program has to have a turnkey implementation. Event scheduling, resources and directions on how to participate in this project must be provided and easily available.
- Flexibility There must be flexibility built into the program because each church has its own needs, capabilities and time availability. It should be easy to opt into at any time and churches can participate to which ever level they see fit.
- Publicity Potential And lastly the project must have publicity potential, so that Unitarian Universalist churches can be known for leading, rather than an also participated.
After much discussion, homelessness was the chosen cause. As the Chicago religious educator group shared this project idea with other religious educators in the district a lot of them asked if they could participate too. That’s when it turned into a district wide project.
The next step to put the program together was to determine what components were important.
- Educational We want to provide age appropriate lessons about homelessness, from what causes it and who are the homeless and build throughout the year to learning how to do something about homelessness.
- Direct Contact We want to provide opportunities for both young and old to have direct contact with the homeless, whether it be working at a pantry handing out food or helping at a shelter. (However, this needs to be done in a way that it is not disrespectful to the homeless people. They are not on display)
- Experiential Participants should have a chance to experience what it is like to be homeless or living in poverty. Numerous activities that cross the generational gap will be provided.
- Steps to Making Change This project should have steps that lead to change. Although helping people when they are in need is important. It is just as important to work towards eliminating homelessness and finding or providing transitional housing so that those that are homeless can work their way back to a self staining lifestyle.
- Adaptable The project activities and lessons needs to be adaptable to each community – such as having resources available for each region of the district.
To provide all of this material this website has been created. This website is to be the resource center for all of the lessons, activities and information for this project. Each church participating in the project would have a chance to add their scheduled activities to the website calendar, they can read and make entries to a blog that shares ideas and experiences. The website will continue to evolve as churches provide feedback and submit their own ideas of activities, lessons and resources. So to fulfill the working in parallel part of this project a yearlong calendar of suggested activities has been created. See the Schedule for more details.