Celebrating Nearly Six Decades of Activism UUCR has been leading the way for social justice since its founding in 1956.
At UUCR, our faith and our UU values have guided us in our work for fairness and justice in issues surrounding housing and homelessness, hunger, health care, civil and human rights, immigration, peace, sexual orientation and identity, and environmental protection. Soon after UUCR was founded, the Fellowship for Social Action (now the Social Justice Committee, SJC) was formed with 30 to 40 UUCR members and friends. The group quickly began to make a name for itself in the community by promoting an end to segregated schools and housing, participating in local politics, and making affordable housing available.
Our work in housing, homelessness, hunger and poverty has not waned in the intervening years. Throughout the 1950s, we provided a house on Georgia Avenue as a rental for a low-income family, and worked to improve housing in poor, segregated African American enclaves such as Avery Road and Lincoln Park. In the 1980s, UUCR was a founding member of the UU Affordable Housing Corporation (UUAHC, now known as OpenDoor Housing Fund), in which UUCR and members still hold investments and donate. Much of our work begun over the past 30-plus years continues today: providing meals for local homeless shelters, serving food at a Gaithersburg soup kitchen, collecting food for Manna Food Center, building homes for Habitat for Humanity of Garrett County, and sponsoring a room at Rockville’s new Mansfield Kaseman Health Clinic.
In the 1960s, we became a voice for civil and human rights, as well as prison and punishment reform. We supported Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington in 1963, and members were once again present on the National Mall for the 50th anniversary march in August 2013. UUCR Minister Dave Cole was in Selma, Alabama, when UU Minister James Reeb was killed there. Seven UUCR members traveled with Rev. Cole to Selma following the killing, and at the invitation of a UUCR member, 40 African American students from Henry Hudson High School in Selma and their chaperones visited Rockville.
During this time, we supported Rev. Bill Moors’ work for prison reform (which continued through the 1970s) and began working to end the death penalty. In 2013, the SJC passed a Resolution in Support of Maryland's Campaign to End the Death Penalty*and UUCR activists celebrated when Gov. O’Malley signed the bill repealing capital punishment in the state.
In the 1970s, Rev. Moors and members founded Group 82, Amnesty International, which still meets at UUCR. The group has advocated the end of torture, the death penalty, and imprisonment of political opponents and prisoners of conscience, including a Croatian nationalist poet prisoner who was later released and visited UUCR to thank us for our work on his behalf. In the 1980s, we debated (and defeated) a resolution for UUCR to join the Sanctuary movement, to provide a safe haven for refugees fleeing civil conflict. More recently, the Immigration Action Group was formed, and worked with Action in Montgomery (AIM) to pass the Maryland Dream Act and defend it during the referendum. The Immigration Action Group continues to educate and advocate for changes in immigration law and policy.
Although the congregation has sometimes been split on the use of force to solve international conflicts, as with the Vietnam War, the SJC has worked on peace and anti-war efforts over the years. In the 1950s, we sponsored a forum on nuclear disarmament. In the 1970s, UUCR distributed information and led a protest against the Central American wars. The Peacemaking Study/Action Group was formed in the 2000s, and the SJC passed a Resolution against Torture and in favor of withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.*
Our support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals began in the 1980s, when we started an AIDS fund and held an AIDS educational forum for the community. In the 1990s, UUCR voted to become a Welcoming Congregation for LGBT people. In the new millennium, Rainbow Youth Alliance, an LGBT group for high school youth, was established at UUCR, and we fought for and celebrated marriage equality in Maryland.
The Environment has long been an important issue for UUCR members, who have worked to promote renewable energy and conservation. That work became a congregation-wide focus in 2011when the congregation voted unanimously to seek Unitarian Universalist Association Green Sanctuary status, which we achieved in February 2015.
In response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012, Rev. Lynn Strauss initiated work to prevent and respond to violence in our community, beginning with a community forum that included State’s Attorney Doug Gansler and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, as well as representatives from local schools and several faith leaders. An interfaith group of clergy continues to meet, and Rev. Strauss was honored for her work, earning the 2013 Minister’s Award from UUs for Social Justice of the National Capital Area (UUSJ).
In much of its work, UUCR has partnered with local, state and national organizations to strengthen its voice on important issues. The congregation was a founding member of Community Ministries of Rockville (CMR), and Interfaith Works, both interfaith coalitions of congregations founded in the 60’s and 70’s, respectively, to serve those in need in the city and county by engaging faith communities in service, education and advocacy. The congregation was also a founding member of UUSJ, the UU Legislative Ministry of Maryland (UULM-MD), and AIM. We continue to support the UU Service Committee (UUSC).