First Universalist seeks to transform ourselves, our community, and our world through advocating for economic, environmental, LGBTQIA+, immigrant, and racial justice. You'll often find First Universalist members putting their faith into action at protest marches, prayer vigils, and homeless shelters; marching in the Pride parade, cleaning up Washington Square Park, and collecting school supplies for School No. 7. We follow the Unitarian Universalist (UU) tradition of "deeds not creeds." If you share these values and are looking for a place to get involved, we welcome you to join us in our justice ministries.
Race in a Brave Space (RiBS)
Dialogues with Verdis L. Robinson
This series of dialogues creates a brave space to learn, grow, and act toward antiracism – all in the context of our UU principles -- especially concerning the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Participants will engage in real talk about race in relationship to (1) American History, (2) the Unitarian Universalist faith, (3) local Rochester history, and (4) an inspiring meditation to lift up racial justice. All sessions will be virtual from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
10/16/20 Dialogue #1: “What My History Teacher Never Taught Me”
Drawing from Mr. Robinson’s teaching African American history and decolonizing American history, we will explore hard truths by lifting up marginalized voices and experiences. We will learn what was intentionally left out of the historical narrative, why, and what to do about it.
11/13/20 Dialogue #2: “Wilderness Journey”: Unitarian Universalism and the Black Empowerment Controversy
Participants will preview the film, Wilderness Journey: The Struggle for Black Empowerment and Racial Justice within the Unitarian Universalist Association, 1967-1970 (found on YouTube). We will reflect together on its lessons, what is currently plaguing our religious tradition, and imagine what our future as UUs could look like.
1/22/21 Dialogue #3: Rochester’s History of Systemic Racism
From the fiery destruction of Frederick Douglass’ home to the uprising in July 1964 to the
perpetuation of residential segregation, will explore the systemic racism in Rochester’s history. What have we really learned? What is being done? What is OUR vision for our community?
3/19/21 Dialogue #4: Enduring the Long Night: A Meditation
Mr. Robinson will share an interpretation of Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” What does it take for the joy to come? We will create a collective meditation on enduring the long night of racism to get to that glorious morning together.
Verdis Robinson’s guest leadership is being sponsored by the FIRE team of the First Universalist Church. Congregational members will receive zoom links to the virtual seminars. Free-will donations will be greatly appreciated – money received will support other activities toward achieving racial equity.
We are proud to support the following organizations through monetary donations and hands-on involvement.
Clara's Cupboard/Community Garden
Initiatives to reach out to the local community include our community garden and little free library (known as "Clara's Cupboard") located on the southwest corner of the building. Both of these provide free food, supplies, and literature to workers, residents, and visitors to our downtown neighborhood.
On the second Sunday of each month, we take up a collection of toiletries, paper goods, and non-perishable food items during our service to benefit the Community Food Cupboard on Nester Street. Our congregants continue to give generously each month.
We participate in Interfaith Impact of NYS, an interfaith consortium that takes on community problems.
Metro Justice is a member-driven, grassroots organization dedicated to social, economic, and racial justice in Rochester, NY. This past year, First Universalist members and friends participated in efforts to ensure all American workers earn a wage of at least $15 an hour.
We march in the annual Rochester Pride Parade every year to show our support to the LGBTQ+ community of Rochester.
Rochester Area Interfaith Hospitality Network (RAIHN) is a non-profit organization of faith communities assisting homeless families in achieving sustainable independence. Every fifteen weeks, we host RAIHN guests here at the church, and our volunteers prepare rooms and cook meals throughout the week, among other tasks. Our upcoming RAIHN host weeks and training opportunities are announced through our newsletters and weekly announcements.
Roc/ACTS is a faith-based community organization project of multi-racial, interfaith, urban & suburban congregations and groups that train and empower citizens to create systemic change. Roc/ACTS focuses on issues related to education, poverty/jobs, and criminal justice.
We provide tutors, as requested by teachers, for students in various grades at School 7 in the Rochester City School District.
Social Justice Plate Collection
On the third Sunday of each month, our Sunday morning plate collection is donated to an organization involved in social justice work. Most recipient organizations are local and often underfunded. Some past recipients from the last year are Flower City Pickers, Enough is Enough, REACH, NCBI Rochester, and ROCovery Fitness.
This year's recipients TBA!
Planning a church event? Here's a handy checklist
to help you plan!
Learn more at uua.org/justice
Becky Elwell, Heather Jones, & Joy Leccese
To learn more about our Social Justice Circles and how to create your own Social Justice Circle, click here.