As Unitarian Universalists we are called to work together for a more just and equitable world. I value justice work that is spiritually-grounded, relational, rooted in partnership, and built on an intersectional analysis of injustice.
There are many approaches to justice needed: engaging in service projects, supporting organizations financially that share our values, getting educated about important issues, engaging in acts of witness, advocating for more just legislation, and getting involved in community organizing, especially with our interfaith partners. This spectrum of justice work invites in the possibility of the youngest to the oldest members of our communities finding a way to act on their values to help heal the world.
I also believe that we need to invest in developing social justice leaders who are strategic, know how to speak from their faith and values, and have practices that can sustain them spiritually when the work is hard. I have developed and facilitated social justice leadership trainings on the congregational, district and state-wide level. The content of my trainings is informed by my work in community and labor organizing, my undergraduate and graduate studies in social movements and labor history, my engagement with the Mosaic Makers Conferences organized by the UUA, and my collaboration with San Diego Organizing Project, a local PICO affiliate.
As the first Social Justice Ministry Team Coordinator at the First UU Church of San Diego, I had the opportunity to put into practice a vision of social justice grounded in faith and a commitment to challenge systemic oppression. In collaboration with social justice lay leaders we developed an effective structure for organizing justice work that was focused and responsive, collaborated with key community partners, and focused on leadership development. We grew from a congregation where there were a few leaders working on over sixteen issues, to a social justice ministry that was focused on five key areas of justice and owned by the congregation. In one year, over seventy percent of the average Sunday attendance were engaged in some aspect of justice work in the areas of racial justice, economic justice, reproductive justice, environmental justice and civic engagement.
One of the most meaningful aspects of my work was supporting the development of SOLACE: Souls Offering Loving and Compassionate Ears, an Interfaith Detention Center Visitation Program. This work involved educating visitors about our broken immigration system, providing pastoral support to lay leaders, training visitors in deep listening, coordinating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, overseeing the logistics of the program, and collaborating with local and national immigrant rights organizations. Living and working on the US-Mexico border, this ministry brought us into deeper relationship with our community, met an important need for those who were detained, and transformed our volunteers understanding of our immigration system. I watched SOLACE volunteers grow into committed advocates working for comprehensive immigration reform and human rights in our detention system grounded in relationship with immigrant communities and partner organizations.
I look forward to working with UU congregations to build effective and spiritually-grounded social justice ministries so that we can help to realize the beloved community.
Above is First UU's decorated trolley in the annual Pride Parade
“In 2011, I invited a few people whose justice leadership I highly respected to be 'thought partners'-part of a brain trust to further the development of spiritually grounded justice ministry in congregational life. As part of that justice ministry brain trust, Kristen led several workshops at our annual statewide retreat for lay and clergy involved in justice ministries. The workshop she led on Social Justice and Spirituality was one of the best I have seen. Kristen brings a confident, centering, invitational and healing presence that encourages participants to engage with authenticity and heart.” -Rev. Lindi Ramsden, Director of Partnerships and Emerging Programs, Starr King, former Executive Director of the UU Legislative Ministry of CA
“Working with Kristen taught me a lot about relational, justice-making ministry. She modeled collaborative leadership, accountability, and deep caring in a way that I admire and strive for in my own ministry. She helped build the kind of multicultural, spiritually-grounded congregational culture that our congregations deeply yearn for.” -Rev. Elizabeth Bukey, Minister, First Church in Jamaica Plain