Last month we learned that the New Brunswick chapter of the NAACP chose our congregation to receive this year’s community service award for faith-based advocacy. It was a joy when I received the unexpected call from Bruce Morgan, President of this local chapter. He was tickled to be able to pass on the good news of this honor.
Later, I asked Toni Hendrix, who is in charge of the awards luncheon, why they choose The Unitarian Society. She was clear that they did not decide because of just one thing or one person. She said, though she personally is grateful for our sponsoring the Lost Souls Public Memorial Project, this was not the sole reason.
She said it was because we are a congregation that understands we cannot be insular. We have put out on the road for all the world to see our Love is Love sign with its important messages. That we show up in the community when there is a need. Pointing to the “Black Lives Matter” wristband that I was wearing, she noted that we attempt to live into this statement during these fraught times. That we are planning to honor the Dr. King holiday on January 21, 2019, with a day of learning how to be an upstander and how to interrupt hate and harassment.
If you would like to attend the 45th Annual Freedom Fund Luncheon on November 10 in Bound Brook, representing the congregation, you can buy a ticket here: https://nbanaacp.wordpress.com/2018-freedom-fund-community-awards-luncheon/. If you won’t be able to attend, I want to share with you the bio of our congregation that will be in the event’s program, as well as the picture of the congregation I submitted (which was a creative challenge, since the award goes to the whole congregation, not just one person). While it doesn’t tell our whole story (no bio with a 450 word limit ever does), I hope you feel that it conveys important aspects of our congregational life, both historical and present-day. Also included here is the advertisement of gratitude that we took out on the program, acknowledging Unitarian Universalism’s long relationship with the NAACP, incuding its founding.
I am blessed to be on this journey with you,
The Unitarian Society – A Brief Biography for the NAACP – New Brunswick
Engaging in community service and social justice is how Unitarian Universalism lives out our religious and spiritual values. Honoring theological diversity within its membership, Unitarian Universalism is a non-creedal religion.
The Unitarian Society, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation (https://www.unitariansociety.org/), is located on a wooded parcel of land on Tices Lane in East Brunswick. Founded in 1955 by a group of lay leaders, they rented space in local schools and the YWCA, until they erected their building in 1964, where the congregation continues to meet every Sunday at 10:30. The Unitarian Society also operates The Unitarian Montessori School (http://www.unimont.org/).
Reverend Karen G. Johnston serves as the congregation’s 7th settled minister. Previously a clinical social worker for twenty years, Rev. Johnston’s priorities include dismantling white supremacy in our midst (and in the hearts of white people — Rev. Johnston identifies as white); cultivating interfaith understanding and partnership; and sharing her spiritual practice of befriending death, helping others to face this human reality with less fear. Rev. Johnston is the adoptive mother of two young adults whom she adopted out of the foster care system. There was a time she was a grassroots performance poet.
The Unitarian Society is a Welcoming Congregation, which means that we actively and affirmatively welcome folks who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, straight, transgender, cisgender, and/or genderqueer. The Unitarian Society’s commitment to community service and social justice has taken many forms. In the 1960’s, members of the congregation were influential in establishing Human Relations committees in East Brunswick and Franklin Township (Somerset), as well as promoting an Open Housing Covenant, which stated:
I believe that discrimination is undemocratic and violates basic human rights and dignity. Therefore, I will welcome anyone into our neighborhood regardless of color, religion, or national origin.
Current social justice activities include
- Support for the Lost Souls Public Memorial Project, including as fiscal agent, as well as coordinating the project’s efforts to raise community awareness about the 144 African Americans sold into permanent slavery in 1818 by a corrupt Middlesex County judge and growing community involvement in establishing a memorial so that these lost souls are re-membered back into our community. The LSPMP recently was given an Incubation Grant from the NJ Council for the Humanities;
- Refugee Student Fund, helping to financially support students from war-torn nations, including Bosnia and Albania and currently Afghanistan, while attending Rutgers University;
- Our longest continuing project is cooking monthly in the kitchen for guests at Elijah’s Promise, the New Brunswick soup kitchen.
The Unitarian Society invites you to take part in our daylong “MLK@TUS” event: “Be an Upstander, Not a Bystander,” honoring Dr. King’s legacy on Monday, January 21, 2019.