Mission and History

 
  • Every religious tradition on which we draw has a reverence for life. We are a part of an intricate web of life. Every tradition on which we draw teaches that the ultimate expression of our spirituality is our action. Deep spirituality leads to action in the world. A deep reverence for life, love of nature’s complex beauty and sense of intimate connection with the cosmos leads inevitably to a commitment to work for environmental and social justice.–Rev. Peter Morales, President, UUA

Our Mission

The mission of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of New Jersey is to provide the comprehensive structure for New Jersey Unitarian Universalists’ non-partisan activism.  We work for a socially just public policy in collaboration with like- minded organizations through Education, Research, Advocacy, Witness, and Service.

Charitable activity has traditionally been important in UU congregations. However, when poverty, environmental degradation, inequitable access to health care, and deficiencies in education are part of the structures of society rather than unforeseen exceptions, charity is not enough. Our faith calls us to challenge and change policies and structures that inhibit human development, harm the environment, and destroy communities. The research, education and structuring of our efforts will complement and expand the deeds of social justice service we already do within our local communities. An important component of the activities of UULMNJ, a statewide network of the 21 New Jersey Unitarian Universalist congregations, will be to strengthen social justice programs at the congregational level, facilitate communication among congregations and serve as a source of information.

The UULMNJ:

  • Is anchored in our UU faith, and informed by its history and principles,
  • Shares information and policy expertise, particularly from member UUs, and Legislative Ministries,
  • Can inspire and mobilize coordinated action through a network of mutual support and accountability,
  • Trains new leadership, with special attention to involvement of youth and young adults,
  • Is celebratory, sustainable, and fun,
  • Raises the visibility of Unitarian Universalism and its values to policymakers and the larger community,
  • Collaborates with other faith ministries and groups on like-minded issues

Representatives from the UULMNJ are available to visit your congregation.  Is there a particular issue that the UULMNJ is addressing that your congregation wants to find out more about?  Do you want information about affiliation?  Perhaps you are looking for a way to energize your social justice committee?  This is also a great opportunity for nearby congregations to come together and host a joint meeting or special worship service.  If your congregation would like to invite a UULMNJ representative to come to your area, please contact a member of our Board, or send us an e-mail at director@uulmnj.org.

A Brief History

In 2006, with a new minister, Forrest Gilmore, the UU Congregation of Princeton surveyed its congregants to find out what would be a very exciting commitment in the social justice arena. Three areas were selected to fund and initiate:  tutoring in Princeton, working with Habitat for Humanity, and working to establish a UU legislative ministry in New Jersey. With the enthusiasm of these three initiatives pledging increased considerably that year. A $60,000 fund was dedicated to establishing the UULMNJ. Once established, UUC/Princeton declared that they will continue to provide a high level of support per year to UULMNJ.

In 2007, UUC/Princeton appointed a five person committee to spearhead this effort lead by Elaine Nigam and Doug Rhodes. New Jersey congregations were contacted and UUs in the state began considering the formation of this social justice network.

In 2008, a statewide Steering Committee, Co-Chaired by Rohn Hein of Cherry Hill and Lynne Quinto of Washington Crossing, surveyed UUs across the state for priority issues. Economic Justice, Health Care, and the Environment were chosen. A process was developed for governance of a UULMNJ network.

In 2009, a plenary elected our first Board of Trustees, ratified bylaws and a budget. Thirteen congregations affiliated with the network. In July we hired our first part-time Executive Director; Task Forces were formed to research issues and positions and recommend actions. Congregational Action Teams began forming to support and carry out actions in congregations.

In 2010, Task Forces led advocacy through the Congregational Action Teams and with other like-minded faith based and secular organizations in the priority issues noted above. The Task Forces led research and education efforts. Especially strong efforts were organized around affordable housing and the Emerging Issues of Marriage Equality and Immigration. Rallies and hearings were attended; lay members and clergy spoke at events which were reported in the press, television and other media. The network advocated through letters, petitions, and office visits to legislators. One such visit resulted in stopping, reevaluating and rewriting of an unacceptable affordable housing bill. A member worked with a legislative committee to rewrite the affordable housing legislation. The legislation passed, but was vetoed with conditions by the governor. Affordable Housing in New Jersey is now before courts.

In 2011, Rev. Craig Hirshberg became our part  time Executive Director after Rev. Julia Hamilton accepted a position as a minister in Santa Barbara, CA.

At the end of 2013, nineteen of the  twenty-one UU congregations in New Jersey are affiliated.  The major funding for the UULMNJ Inc. is from the congregations. Fundraisers for the UULMNJ PPN Inc. are conducted yearly.

The non-profit status of UULMNJ, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit, has been approved by the IRS.