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Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religious tradition that was formed from the consolidation of two religions: Unitarianism and Universalism. The Universalist Church of America, founded in 1793, and the American Unitarian Association in 1825. After consolidating in 1961, these faiths became the new religion of Unitarian Universalism through the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). Both religions have long histories and have contributed important theological concepts that remain central to Unitarian Universalism. Since the merger of the two denominations in 1961, Unitarian Universalism has nurtured its Unitarian and Universalist heritages to provide a strong voice for social justice and liberal religion. Unitarian Universalists promote seven principles and share a 'living tradition' of spirituality and wisdom, drawn from many sources. The seven principles and the six sources of the UUA, grown out of the grassroots of communities, were affirmed democratically and are part of who we are.
The 7 Principles of Unitarian Universalism:
1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.
3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.
4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.
6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.
7th Principle: Respect for the independent web of all existence of which we are a part.
In the 1950s there was no formal committee on social concern but rather individual members were involved in organizations such as Salvation Army, Red Cross, United World Federalists and the Clearwater Association for Mental Health. In fact Mrs. Julia Childs, Secretary for three years, stated that Unitarians are the backbone of the United World Federalists and the Mental Health Group.
In the mid 1950s the UUC archives noted that a Community Service Project gave about 1,000 books to three black elementary schools in Pinellas County at a time public schools were segregated and definitely not equal. In 1957 the recently formed Women's Alliance collected over 500 pounds of clothing and bedding which was shipped to the Unitarian Service Committee for distribution to Hungarian refugees.
The 1960s brought many changes to the Clearwater Fellowship. In 1958 the Clearwater Fellowship became the First Unitarian Church of Clearwater and in 1961 it became the Unitarian Universalist Church of Clearwater. Under the leadership of Rev. Frank Edwin Smith a group of Unitarian Universalists created a formal standing committee, the Social Responsibility Committee to develop a program for the education and inspiration of conscience. Although the 1960s was a time of many issues, the civil rights movement and desegregation dominated the landscape of social concern in Florida.
In 1966 Rev. Richard Norsworthy became the minister and participated with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the famous voting rights campaign in Selma, Alabama. In the late 1950s a group of members descended on Clearwater City Hall to speak up for the "Greenwood Ghetto," a black residential area in Clearwater. During this time the church also became active in the anti-Vietnam War movement and raised money to send several members. During the Vietnam War members did draft counseling and considered offering sanctuary.
The members of UUC continued the social justice activism in the 1970s through 1990s under the leadership of Rev. Ingram and Rev. Burciaga. In 1968 the UU of Clearwater became a charter member of Religious Community Services (RCS) and became one of twenty-five Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and other religious bodies to help the homeless and hungry in our community.
Several times during the 1980s and 1990s the UUC hosted and participated in anti-racism workshops. In 1991, the UUC was one of the first congregations to go through the Welcoming Congregation program. The church formed a sister church relationship with a Unitarian Church in Kohalom, Transylvania which later developed into the Partner Church Program. Individuals in the congregation continued to take on leadership in many social service agencies in Clearwater and the ministers continued to speak out on issues of human rights, the separation of church and state, and the peace movement.
In 1997 Rev. Burciaga resigned as minister and Rev. Knost served as interim minister until 1999. During this time the congregation was rebuilding after a tumultuous time resulting in a schism in the congregation. Our social concerns program needed time to rebuild.
In 1999 Rev. Abhi Janamanchi became the minister and the Social Concerns Committee benefited from his active participation. The structure and name of the group working on social justice developed over the next few years as our focus slowly changed from service work to systemic change. In 2003 our committee was renamed the Social Justice Committee.
The next major structural change was in 2010 when the Social Justice Committee became the Social Justice Council in order to make better use of our resources as well as meet the needs of a diverse congregation and community. The Council consists of a coordinator, a secretary, a treasurer, team leaders and liaisons. Presently we have four teams: economic justice, environmental justice, human rights and FAST (Faith and Action for Strength Together). We also have a liaison to the UUSC and a liaison to Interweave and GLBT issues.
The Council helps shape a mission-oriented approach to social justice work. The Council meets monthly and serves as the coordinating council for UUC Social Justice Work. Each team develops its own goals and activities in coordination with the UUC council's common goals. The ideal of social justice as spiritual practice is highlighted every month in worship through the "social justice testimonial."