SCUUJA formed in 2021 to build an alliance of South Carolina Unitarian Universalists acting for justice in partnerships that center the voices and authority of people experiencing injustice, especially BIPOC, LGBTQ, immigrant, and houseless people. SCUUJA provides mutual support of social action among UUs and partners in SC, capacity-building for sustained multicultural partnerships for social action, engaged faith-based allies, and a SC UU community thriving in justice.
The Alliance is funded in part by the Fund for Unitarian Universalist Social Responsibility
There are 10 UU congregations in SC. Those congregations with ministers who are members of the UU Ministers Association can participate in the two ministerial clusters: the Coastal Cluster and the Western Carolinas Cluster. The Rev. Dr. Pippin Whitaker and the Rev. Dr. Jean Heriot began reaching out to UU churches and partners in summer, 2021, and were soon connected with Rick Hahnenberg of the Spartanburg Church who had been making inquiries about the SC state action network. By early September they had convened 3 meetings among UUs and several with possible nonprofit partners to explore the potential for submitting a grant to the Fund for UU Social Responsibility. In the early days, eight churches engaged the meetings and expressed enthusiastic support.
In early meetings, Pippin and Jean found that most congregations were maintaining a focus on local and charitable activities, with limited capacity to engage with other churches’ activities or statewide issues. It was noted that the legacy of racism and classism in SC created cultures rooted in regional isolation (e.g., Upstate, Midlands, and Lowcountry). The structure of UUA districts and subsequent ministerial clusters followed these long-held divisions and exacerbated the divide.
This history presents barriers to sustained relationships and impactful social action in SC. Yet, our conversations among 8 churches showed much enthusiasm for bridging divides and connecting efforts. Recognizing that overcoming these barriers will require sustained leadership, the founding team prioritized seeking grant funding before a formal launch. With the support of Spartanburg UU Church as fiscal agent, the UUFP provided startup funding for SCUUJA at the end of 2021.
During 2022, Pippin and Jean visited nine of the UU congregations in the state and established relationships with multiple justice-oriented nonprofit organizations. After Pippin accepted a call to ministry in Athens, GA, the Rev. Nathan Woodliff-Stanley was hired by the Board to become Executive Director of SCUUJA beginning in September, 2022. With continued support of the UUFP, SCUUJA looks forward to connecting UUs and nonprofit partners across the state to build a sustainable partnership for justice in 2023!