Rev. Sarah Stewart, UUA Trustee
Little kids and youth in bright t-shirts stood in a circle in the open, inviting parish hall in Roxbury. They were invited to share their favorite thing they had done during the day camp offered during school vacation week. The children answered: games, making friends, playing football. As one girl spoke in a quiet voice, she pulled the arm of her teen counselor around her shoulder. The youth smiled at her and encouraged her to speak more loudly, to share her voice with the group.
This school vacation camp is just one program offered by the Unitarian Universalist Urban Ministry (UUUM), housed at the First Church in Roxbury. Members of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Board of Trustees visited UUUM before our April board meeting to learn more about their programs.
The vacation week camp is part of UUUM’s Roxbury Youth Programs, offering an after-school program for middle- and high-school youth, weekend activities for elementary-school children, and summer employment and camp opportunities for children and youth. UUUM also offers Renewal House, a domestic violence shelter and resource program for women and men; and United Souls, a support group and network for urban men, including those transitioning home from prison.
In all these programs, UUUM relies on volunteers, many of whom are members in Boston-area Unitarian Universalist congregations. The Ministry is rigorous in screening and integrating volunteers. UU volunteers provide weeknight dinners for the Roxbury Youth Program. The counselors in the vacation week camp were drawn half from UU congregations and half from students in the Roxbury Youth Program.
UUUM is facing some new frontiers in their work. The Ministry is reaching out to Roxbury’s growing Somali and Dominican immigrant communities. Renewal House is seeing stays in its shelter increase as the struggles of domestic violence victims are compounded by immigration challenges. Through all these challenges and new opportunities, the Ministry is capably and faithfully led by the Rev. Catherine Senghas and her staff.
The Board of Trustees looks for opportunities to connect with sources of our faith both within and beyond congregations. Although housed in an historic UU church building, UUUM is a true community ministry, inspiring us to expand our understanding of what a church can be in the world. The UUUM is supported by Unitarian Universalists, their congregations, and charitable foundations. To learn more about the work of UUUM and to support its mission, visit www.uuum.org.