Chicago UU Young Adults Putting Faith into Action

Chicago UU Young Adults Putting Faith into Action

Crowdfunding Completed: December 23, 2015

Amount Funded: $10660

Project Owner: Peoples Church of Chicago

Short Description of Project

Chicago Chalice Connection is a ministry of Unitarian Universalist young adults in the Chicagoland area joining in supportive community to cultivate spiritual/religious growth and engage in local struggles for justice. We ask for your support as we grow…

How was this project connected to UU?

Over the past three years our community has been supported by several UU bodies, including the MidAmerica Region, the UU Funding Panel, and several local congregations. We have young adult members from 5 area congregations: First Unitarian Church of Chicago, Second Unitarian Church of Chicago, Third Unitarian Church of Chicago, Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Park, and the Unitarian Church of Evanston. Earlier this year, the People’s Church of Chicago, a joint UU and UCC faith community, became our fiscal sponsor. All of these congregations have opened their doors to us, allowing us to host events in their space. Second Unitarian has provided us with in-kind donations such as printing and office space. The Universalist Unitarian Church of Joliet donated their monthly plate sharing to us once this year. This project is in line with the UUA’s reprioritization of youth and young adult programming from a national to a local and regional focus. A series of recommendations were made, and resolutions passed, around youth and young adult ministries, including this 2008 resolution: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: The 2008 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association urges the Unitarian Universalist Association, its congregations and district structures to: • invite ministerial support to youth and young adults through inclusive worship and intentional presence; • invest financial support in youth and young adult leadership bodies and programs when viable; • provide support for youth and young adult staff and volunteers to receive suitable training and resources, including self-directed anti-racism and anti-oppression trainings; and, • attend to the needs of youth and young adult constituents with marginalized identities by providing resources and opportunities within the congregation and at the district and Association levels. In keeping with UUA reprioritization of youth and young adult programming, we have developed a local network that minister to and build the skills of UU young adults. We believe this grassroots approach will be a rejuvenating force in local young adult programming and can serve as a replicable model for implementing the recommendations and resolutions around the country. This faithify campaign seeks to move our support for young adult programming beyond words and into material support for the young-adult driven ministry of Chicago Chalice Connection.
Chalice Connection was born out of the needs of young adults who grew up UU but who felt disconnected from UUism and one another. Regional staff provided the financial resources, via a Chalice lighter grant, to hire a part-time Community & Justice Coordinator to organize local events and develop the leadership of participants. The staff and the volunteer board are primarily made of up people who identify as UUs. Though we may not all call ourselves Unitarian Universalists, we do share the values of Unitarian Universalism. The 7 UU principles guide our spiritual reflection as well as our justice work in our communities.

Full Description of Project

Chicago Chalice Connection is a ministry of Unitarian Universalist young adults in the Chicagoland area joining in supportive community to cultivate spiritual/religious growth and engage in local struggles for justice. We ask for your support as we grow into our fourth year and work towards a sustainable future.

Chicago Chalice Connection (CCC) is made up of educators, retail workers, baristas, organizers, parents, software programmers, nannies, students, musicians, comedians, ministers. Some of us are unemployed, and many of us underemployed. Some of us are life-long UUs; others came to UUism just in the past year; and a couple of us don’t call ourselves Unitarian Universalist, but love the openness of Chalice Connection and Unitarian Universalism. Our spiritual paths are as much of a spectrum as the neighborhoods we live in across our great city. We believe that our connection to ourselves, each other, and our neighbors is our greatest strength as we try to build the world we dream of.

What Our Ministry Looks Like

We gather at least three times a month to build community, connect spiritually, and engage in local work for justice. Some of our social justice actions/events over the years have included:

Ongoing actions in support of the #SayHerName campaign and the effort to fire Dante Servin, the Chicago police officer who shot and killed Rekia Boyd. Support has included attending marches and rallies; speaking out at police board hearings; showing up at Servin’s trial; leading songs in candlelight vigils; protesting and shutting down the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference
The annual Chicago Dyke March to raise awareness of issues impacting incarcerated LGBTQ people with our friends at Black & Pink Chicago;
The “Free Minds, Free People” conference, a weekend-long national education justice conference focused on local fights against regressive policies that privatize schools, destroy unions, and rely on high-stakes testing
A day-long fast commemorating the 22nd day of the California Prisoner Hunger Strike that culminated in an Iftar Dinner with members of the Coalition on American Islamic Relations
Community events have included:

Community birthday celebrations over karaoke
A Full Moon ceremony honoring pagan connections to the earth
A storytelling event, planned by the Immigration Justice Action Team that focused on family migration stories. Through telling our families’ histories of migration we connected our political organizing work with Latino Union and the Chicago Coalition of Household Workers to our own experiences and personal stake in immigration policy
Touring of the Baha’i House of Worship in the northern suburbs
A Thanksgivukah/Day of Mourning potluck followed by opening night tickets to the latest Hunger Games movie
Several times a year we send members to local conferences, workshops, and trainings as part of our leadership development work. Last year, we started up our first Grassroots Fundraising Team that raised our first bit of local funds. This Faithify campaign is the next step in building a more financially stable future for UU young adult ministry in Chicago.

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CCC’s History

Chicago Chalice Connection (CCC) began in late 2012 with funding from the Central Midwest District Chalice Lighter committee. District staff were hearing from numerous people around the country who knew young adult UUs who had moved to Chicago but were either not comfortable in the area congregations or weren’t interested in “traditional” congregational Unitarian Universalism. They were, however, interested in being connected to UUism in some way. Around this same time, Peter Morales and Terasa Cooley encouraged fieldstaff to explore ways to connect people to UUism outside of congregational walls: And so, the District hired a 10 hr/wk staff person to begin gathering UU young adults from across the city for monthly events. At an early meeting, the group chose the name Chicago Chalice Connection for themselves.

In the past three and a half years, CCC has grown in several significant ways. We’ve grown from a membership that primarily consisted of young adult members from one area church to having participation and leadership from five area congregations: First Unitarian Church of Chicago, Second Unitarian Church of Chicago, Third Unitarian Church of Chicago, Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Church, and the Unitarian Church of Evanston. We’ve had over 100 young adults ages 18 – 35 worship, laugh, and protest with us. Funds from the Unitarian Universalist Funding Panel allowed us to continue and expand our work by doubling the staff hours of our Community and Justice Coordinator from 10 hours to 20 hours/week. Since doubling staff time we have grown from having one monthly event to now hosting at least three that are focused on building community, spiritual connection, and engaging in local work for justice.

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CCC’s Future

If we are successful in raising funds through Faithify we plan to grow our work in a few important ways. We’ve learned much about what it takes to create meaningful young adult programming and to build a community of support over the past few years. In this next year, we will strive to create a community that is accessible, develops strong leaders, supports young adults in congregations and those without, and is connected to a wider intergenerational community.

One of the reasons we’ve successfully engaged young adults in this ministry is that we are investing in accessibility. We’ve learned that accessibility is about far more than securing a wheel-chair accessible space. Several of our members are not financially able to join a dinner at a restaurant due to unemployment/underemployment. Some can’t afford childcare to attend events or meetings for our volunteer leadership. This year we plan to increase our ability to make events financially accessible to our members by making food available at all community events and meetings, and to reimburse travel upon member request. We are committed to offering childcare at our meetings for any parents who want to take on a volunteer leadership role. We are learning that accessibility can mean so many different things, and so, we have tasked our Community and Justice Coordinator to use time during her one-on-ones with new members to inquire about any accessibility needs someone may have. Once we are aware of people’s needs our board can act to make sure our programming meets those needs.

Volunteer leadership is vital to the health of our work. However, meaningful volunteer roles require support, mentorship, time and energy that only paid staff can provide. Without the work of our Community and Justice Coordinator, and our former Spirituality Coordinator, our ministry would not be possible. As a community of people with a broad spectrum of class identities and backgrounds, paying a living wage to our staff is an important economic justice issue. In keeping in line with our values of accessibility and fairness we are raising our Community and Justice Coordinator’s wage from $15 per hour to $17 per hour. We understand the difficulties of a half-time position that requires staff to seek additional employment. We are so thankful for Megan’s 3.5 years of service and we will continue to strive to pay her a living wage that is in line with our principles.

Several area congregations have emerging or struggling young adult groups. This year we will be re-structuring our board to more effectively minister to congregational young adult groups. Our goal is to have one representative from each of the 5 area member congregations, as well as at-large positions for members who are not connected to a congregation. Board meetings will now go beyond the planning and implementation of the 3 monhtly city-wide events we host and will include time for young adult leaders to share and reflect on what is happening in their congregation’s young adult groups, ask questions of each other, and get support. The board will be a place for them to share and learn best practices. This is an important new step in our leadership development work to build up both our individual leaders, as well as the congregations from which they come.

We hosted our first intergenerational event this year - a dance party/talent show/fundraiser. It was a lot of fun and we saw so much value in connecting with the older and younger folks in our congregations that we want to make intergenerational worships a regular part of spiritual practice. We plan to host semi-annual, intergenerational worship services. They will provide an opportunity for the young adults of CCC to connect to the larger UU community in Chicago and for us to share the young adult styles of worship with people of all ages.

We are looking forward to this work ahead and appreciate everyone who is donating to turn our dreams into a reality.