Over 170 of you from 20 UU congregations participated in UUANI gatherings around the state this year – in Palatine, Springfield, and Mt Vernon. We followed up with a number of you, and heard that many of you would like to gather more often: to get to know each other better, to learn from each other, and to explore ways of collaborating. So we are organizing cluster gatherings in the Rockford and Chicago areas early next year, and a statewide gathering in Alton on April 5 (before the start of Regional Assembly in St Louis). Please contact us at email@example.com if you’re interested in helping plan these or other events.
Another thing we heard is that our Actions of the Week are helpful, and that you appreciate hearing what results they’re producing. Over the past two years, nearly 1000 UUs across the state have sent messages to our elected officials to advocate for our UU values. For one of our recent actions, we joined the UUA, UUSC and UUs around the country in opposing increases to the federal budget for immigrant detention and deportation. In Illinois we sent 249 messages to 19 members of Congress (almost the entire IL delegation), and at least one of our congregations made calls as well. UUSC reported back to us:
“This advocacy is having an impact. Because people are speaking out against the proposed budget increase for detention and deportation, the DHS appropriations bill as drafted was not approved. Instead, DHS is currently among the agencies being funded on a temporary Continuing Resolution through December 7. When the full DHS appropriations bill comes back up for approval in early December, we will need to continue to demand no new funding for detention and deportation.”
In Illinois this year, you helped pass two criminal justice reform bills, a prohibition against registries of immigrants and Muslims, and state ratification of the ERA.
On the other hand, several other bills were either vetoed by the Governor or stalled in the legislature, and we all know the difficulties we face generally in Congress. So we are continuing to focus on the upcoming elections. UUs from 23 congregations have publicly pledged to vote our values, and at least ten congregations are doing some form of a Voting Our Values campaign. We heard this from the Unitarian Church of Hinsdale:
“We were surprisingly busy. We had several questions about voting locations, two people changed their addresses, and one young adult registered to vote for the first time!”
If you haven’t checked it out yet, here’s a voter guide from the League of Women Voters.
Meanwhile, several congregations are participating in the “Listen, Lead, Share” environmental listening campaign of the Illinois Climate Table, of which UUANI is a member. These community conversations, in each legislative district in the state, are gathering local input into how we can create green jobs and foster economic development as we transition to a 100% renewable energy economy in Illinois. We expect this to lead to a major legislative advocacy campaign starting next year.
Finally, UUANI is launching a program to create a Social Justice Leadership Corps, with teams from congregations around the state participating in a six-month program to develop our capacity for spiritually grounded and strategically effective action. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested or would like to nominate someone.