One year ago, in the fall of 2021, I started working with a group of area clergy to start a congregational-based community organizing network in Lincoln. Over the last year this group, under the auspices of the Direct Action Research and Training (DART) Network, has organized itself, passed bylaws, secured funding, is hiring a full time organizer, and is beginning to do the hard work of organizing people of faith in Lincoln to change our community for the better. The lead organizer, Ben MacConnell, spoke at UCL last year, and much of my annual report in May was about this effort.
As part of that work, nine facilitators invited over 230 members and friends of the Untarian Church of
Lincoln to participate in ten ‘listening sessions’ over the month of October (if you did not get an
invitation, it is because we ran out of facilitators! More ways to get involved as described below). These listening sessions were organized around a single question: “when you wake up at 3:00AM and can’t get back to sleep, what do you worry about?” In the listening session that Stacie and I hosted, we heard stories about racism, the future of our planet, health concerns, and the anger that seems ever-present in society right now. In addition to our listening sessions, twenty churches around Lincoln have been participating in the same process. We’re working to find themes in the hundreds of stories we gathered – two of these themes will define the issues that the network takes on in the coming year.
On November 10, members from our congregation will join folks from the other 20 congregations at a Community Problems Assembly, held at Eastridge Presbyterian Church at 7:00 PM. At that assembly, we’ll vote on three big things:
1) The name of the new organization.
2) The two issues we will take on first.
3) The officers for the coming year.
I am very excited that the Unitarian Church will be one of the charter members of this new organization. Community organizing, using this model, is one of the most effective ways for us as Unitarian Universalists to make change in our community. Bill Moyers wrote that “the only answer to organized money is organized people.” This is the essence of community organizing: by gathering people together around an issue that affects their lives, we can challenge entrenched interests and organized money. I hope you’ll join us in this work, starting on November 10.
Rev. Oscar Sinclair serves as the Settled Minister for The Unitarian Church of Lincoln, Nebraska.