Social Justice Ministries



Environmental Justice Ministry

This Ministry endeavors to educate the congregation on environmentally responsible activities, such as switching to renewable power, driving hybrid or electric vehicles, eating less beef/pork, and basically reducing consumption, reusing and recycling. We also advocate for legislation to reduce global warming. Be sure to check out our Facebook page!

Contact: John Keevert or Susan Steepy

Immigration Ministry

The current political and cultural environment has endangered the lives and welfare of many citizens of Rochester and surrounding communities, largely undocumented workers who work to put food on our table, provide hospitality services, and care for our homes. There are also new arrivals in our country, here legally, exposed to a new language and culture with little or no network of support we ourselves have developed over a lifetime. The Immigration and Refugee Ministry at First Unitarian seeks to raise awareness of the specific issues each of the populations in our community, and to partner with organizations and other faith communities in support of them – in spirit, in time, and in treasure. Both groups need allies, advocates, and volunteers.

Contact: First Unitarian Immigration Ministry via email here.

Criminal Justice Ministry

First Unitarian’s Criminal Justice Ministry provides opportunities for the congregation to partner with community organizations to address anti-racism and related issues in our criminal justice system that have affected the citizens of Rochester for generations.

The Criminal Justice Ministry is an active member of the Rochester Alliance of Communities Transforming Society (ROC/ACTS) Criminal Justice Task Force, and of the Police Accountability Alliance (PAB). The PAB has changed legislation to ensure police oversight by civilians is transparent, accountable and legitimate. A referendum will be held for city residents in November 2019.

The Criminal Justice Ministry advocates for changes in solitary confinement, bail reform legislation and monitors implementation of the Raise the Age bill. Within the congregation, we also create educational opportunities in collaboration with the ministries of Adult Spiritual Development and the Religious Education.

The work of this ministry and its allies depend on volunteers and advocates. Please join us!

Contact: Ellie Stauffer or Penny Townsend-Quill

Honduras Partnership Ministry

The Honduras Ministry supports a relationship among our congregation, the Global Health Program of Family Medicine at University of Rochester Medical Center, and the people of San Jose, San Marcos de la Sierra, Intibucá, Honduras. We work together to improve the quality of life for this 2,000-member community.

This relationship has educated the youth and members of the congregation about injustices in the lives of our southern neighbors. As such, projects have involved including middle and high school scholarships for over 100 Honduran students, curriculum development and delivery to the 35 elementary school teachers in the region, development and delivery of improved cook stoves, latrines, and improved water availability and filters. In 2017, the project expanded to include two more nearby communities who appreciate the relationships from which their neighbors have benefited. Public health projects and education for teachers have been delivered in the last two years to these communities as well.

Contact: Barbara Gawinski

Rochester Area Interfaith Hospitality Network (RAIHN)

First Unitarian hosts local homeless families who are our guests for one week at a time. Every 14 weeks, classrooms on the second floor are turned into bedrooms, and Gilbert Hall becomes a hospitality room where guests relax, socialize, do homework and enjoy leisure activities.

The RAIHN Network is composed of 36 local congregations, with a Day Center and Director who provides supportive services with the goal of getting families “back on their feet” and achieving a sustainable independence.  RAIHN serves single fathers with children, same sex couples, and does not segregate families by gender.

This volunteer program at First Unitarian is for all of us – singles, couples, families, elders, teens, classes and small groups. Please contact us if you are interested in helping with a future rotation or for more information about RAIHN.

Contact: First Unitarian RAIHN Team

Rochester Alliance of Communities Transforming Society (ROC/ACTS)

First Unitarian members have listened to the stories of people on the margins, signed postcards, attended meetings, marched, made phone calls and lobbied legislators. Our small work, when combined with the small work done by members of the other 23 Roc/ACTS groups, becomes the “Great Work that is Moving the Needle.”  Projects include:

Childcare Subsidy Funding – we won a small increase in 2017 and continue the fight for full funding in the 2018 county and state budgets.

Raise the Age – we were a major force in getting our state senators to support passage of Raise the Age legislation and we continue to monitor implementation in Monroe County.

Police Accountability Board – we turned out 230 people for a Candidate Forum and 500 people for a Public Meeting supporting City Council creation of an independent Police Accountability Board.

Raise the Wage – we have a new campaign to raise the wages of Home Health Care Workers.

Contact: Ellie Stauffer or Jon Horne