MUUSJA’s Beacon of Justice Award honors a congregation that has made significant efforts to embody our Unitarian Universalist values through justice-making, both within its own walls and in deep partnership with movements for justice in the community. This year’s Beacon of Justice Award recipient is the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mankato, who were recently recognized at MUUSJA’s recent Celebration & Fundraiser.
UUFM is a small congregation with 111 certified members, and just recently called a new minister (Rev. Rita Capezzi) after many years of being a lay-led congregation. This small and mighty congregation is a powerhouse for justice in the Mankato area, shining particularly brightly as faithful agitators for racial justice both within and beyond their congregation.
The members of UUFM have been embodying our UU values in the community by participating in awide range of racial justice initiatives. Since 2016, UUFM has been a co-sponsor of the YWCA’s annual racial justice forum, and has dedicated $1000 each year to sponsor the event. Nearly 10% of the congregation’s members have been trained as facilitators of these community conversations, with many more joining as participants.
From 2016-2018, more than 20 congregants at UUFM were involved in the Greater Mankato Diversity Council’s two year writing, reflection, and discussion initiative “Write on Race to Be Right on Race” — a program designed to bring community members together to harness the power and impact of reflection, reaction, contemplation, and dialogue on race.
This past spring, growing out of these powerful relationships, UUFM partnered with the YWCA and the Diversity Council to host a public workshop featuring MUUSJA’s own Pastor Danny givens, focused on intersectionality and direct action in racial justice work.
The congregation has also been deeply involved in a series of community dialogues that culminated in a city-wide process of answering the question, “What would racially just and inclusive housing, criminal justice, health care, and educational systems look and behave like in Mankato?” The overarching statements, possibilities, and recommendations to these questions will help guide the city as it sets its agenda and priorities for public policy and practice in the coming years.
UUFM’s leadership is deeply committed to working for racial justice both within and outside of the congregation, and understands public action as part of their duty as leaders. This year, the UUFM Board publicly worked to pass a resolution declaring the second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples Day in the city of Mankato. When the resolution passed, UUFM eagerly agreed to be part part of the educational effort to commemorate Native peoples and history, and challenge long-standing histories that erase Indigenous experience, wisdom, and struggle. And, rising in solidarity with UUs of color, UUFM joyfully accepted the challenge to engage in “The Promise and the Practice,” committing $10 per member toward helping the UUA reach their goal of giving $5.3 million in reparations to Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism.
MUUSJA is proud to highlight this faithful work for racial justice as a Beacon to the rest of our Minnesota congregations. In particular, we honor the shared ministry and widespread commitment of so many lay leaders, who have made this commitment to dismantling white supremacy central to their work without the support of professional leadership. They remind us that congregations of all sizes and structures can make–and keep–bold commitments for justice.
UUFM President Tony Filipovitch and Social Justice chair Diane Dobitzresponded to being honored with this award in the following video: