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Why MUUSJA Matters: Reflections from Jack Gaede, Intern for Justice & Religious Leadership

November 16, 2016 10:37 AM | Anonymous


"Difficult and Holy Work"

For the second year in a row, I have been serving as a ministerial intern with Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance (MUUSJA). It has been a unique pleasure and privilege to be walking side by side with the youth and adults that comprise the UU congregations of Minnesota, as we explore ways to dive deeper into social justice work that is revolutionary, intersectional, and effectual. 

One component of my internship has been to work with the youth of the Twin Cities congregations through YoUUth SOALS, training them to be Unitarian Universalist organizers and activists. We got together for monthly sessions, where we asked big questions about injustices of our world, how to put our faith and values into action, and how to take care of ourselves while we were working and fighting for justice. This leadership seminar also became very real and meaningful for me in the wake of the shooting of #JamarClark, exactly one year ago this week. As the youth were processing the tragedy of this local injustice, they were looking for ways to agitate, to challenge broken systems, and to put their feet on the ground, standing and walking and sitting and protesting for justice. MUUSJA's youth program, along with the support from their congregational leaders and RE professionals, provided them the necessary training ahead of time, in-the-moment support, and after-the-fact place for reflection that prepared their hearts, their minds, and their spirits to do the very real and very hard work of advocating for and demanding justice.

In this year's internship, I am working with many of Minnesota's congregational social justice leaders, deepening a sense of spiritual resiliency, connecting them to the work of MUUSJA, and creating strong networks of leaders who can share struggles and successes and thereby energize and sharpen their work. Mobilizing Unitarian Universalists to sustainable and impactful justice work is difficult and holy work, requiring a knowledge of congregational systems, family systems theory, collective liberation theology, grassroots power-building and organizing skills, and a deep understanding of UU identity (“Who we are”) and UU self-identity (“How we see ourselves”). I have been fascinated by the (dis)integration of justice work and spirituality. Justice work without spirituality feels draining and unsustainable, and spirituality without justice work feels cheap and comfortable. I value the dualism of affliction and comfort that MUUSJA upholds and encourages; it is an integrated tension that energizes and stabilizes social justice work. 

So far this year, we have made great in-roads with connecting our state's congregations to the work of MUUSJA. After convening an online gathering where we discussed the Dakota Access Pipeline, a large contingency of Unitarian Universalist clergy and laity traveled to Standing Rock to show solidarity. This movement has now gained momentum and is morphing into a Standing Rock Task Force, which will keep in consistent communication with the UU Church & Fellowship of Bismarck-Mandan and continue to offer solidarity, support, and resources as needed. 

These are the concrete examples of the powerful work that MUUSJA does, and it has been such a valuable and educational experience for me to work, move, and push along with other Unitarian Universalists toward justice.

This Give to the Max Day, please give generously to MUUSJA to ensure that we can keep doing the kind of impactful, prophetic ministry that we are called to do."

To make your donation to MUUSJA this Give to the Max Day, click here to give through our website, or here to give through the G2tMD official site (although please consider helping us cover their 6.9% service fee when you set up your donation there!).

Jack Gaede is a candidate for the Unitarian Universalist Ministry, a student at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, and this year's MUUSJA Intern for Justice & Religious Leadership. You can reach him at muusjaintern@gmail.com.

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