Social Action is an important element in the life of our congregation. We strive to put the ideals expressed in our UU principles into action both as individuals and as a community. Some of our most recent initiatives are included below; we welcome and encourage new ideas for action.
Springfield Warming Shelter
Our congregation has been involved in supporting Warming Shelters in our area for many years. Both the Greater Falls and Springfield Shelters are open from November through April, 7 days a week from 7PM-7AM. They are staffed by volunteers who receive training prior to staffing the shelter. Food is provided by a large number of people and organizations in the area.
The First Universalist Parish of Chester has been involved with both Warming Shelters. We currently prepare and deliver food on the first Sunday of the month to the Springfield Shelter. Children prepare one part of the meal each month as a part of the Religious Exploration Program and other members of the congregation prepare the remaining parts of the meal and deliver it to the shelter. Extra meals are prepared and frozen to be used as needed during the winter months. In previous years, our children collected toiletries, painted a mural which remains in the window at the Greater Falls Warming Shelter, and made bowls for guests with words of hope on the bottom of the bowls. One of our congregants regularly volunteers to do a night shift at the Springfield Warming Shelter.
Collections of Food & Clothing
Several collections are taken throughout the year. For example:
- Food collections for the Chester-Andover Family Center
- Donations of extra vegetables from congregant gardens to the local food shelf
- Community wide coat and blanket drive in the fall which entails collecting coats and blankets, helping to sort them at the local Catholic Church where they are distributed over two weekends in the fall, providing soup to shoppers, and packing up any left overs after the final distribution.
- Special collections depending on congregant interests. One such collection scheduled for 2017 will be for a local family seeking asylum and living in our part of southern Vermont.
Individuals are encouraged to participate in service in our community based on their interests. Our congregants are currently involved in providing service through the following organizations:
- The Nature Museum
- Rotary Club
- Chester-Andover Family Center
- Green Mountain Club
- Chester-Andover elementary, middle and high schools
- Chester Economic Development committees and other town boards and committees
- Whiting Library
- Chester Historical Society
Church Service Projects
Depending on the interests of our congregants, films, discussion groups and special service projects are undertaken at the church and are typically open to the public. Examples include:
- Christmas caroling led by our choir at the Springfield Rehabilitation Center
- Fleece blankets cut and tied and sent to Nepal
- Colorful pillow cases sewed by our children for children who are hospitalized at Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth
- White Privilege Awareness discussion group that met monthly for nine months,
- Presentation of pictures and a personal response of two people who were in Nepal at the time of the 2015 earthquakes
- Viewing of the documentary film: Two Who Dared: The Sharps’ War about the heroic efforts of two people to save children during WWII
- Martin Luther King film and discussion
- Various environmental films with discussions
- Participation in environmental protest marches
- A Seder
- Ski for heat participation in late January
In 2017, the film, I Named her Malala” will be shown and will be followed with a discussion about the importance of education for girls throughout the world.
Each month, money is collected in small yellow envelopes located in our pews, for a specific organization that helps put our principles into action. Approximately $3,000 is collected and distributed annually. Organizations supported in 2016 and scheduled for early 2017 include:
- Make A Wish Foundation
- Vermont Food Bank
- Nepal Earthquake Relief
- SEVCA (Southeastern Vermont Community Action) Jet City Stoves for Africa
- Refugee Assistance to Texas Diocese
- Springfield Warming Shelter
- Heifer International
- Southeastern VT Watershed Alliance
- CAES Playground Fund
- Baton Rouge Flood Relief
- Asylum Seekers Resettlement Assistance
- Springfield Parent Child Center
- Malala Fund
- High Fives
- Vermont Eco Center Loon Project
Community Use of Our Church Building
The First Universalist Parish is known as a friendly, welcoming church in town. Newcomers, whether they be old time Vermonters or “Flatlanders”, are welcomed into the congregation. Members understand that a strong community is based upon our ability to nurture each other and to help people feel connected to others with similar interests and beliefs. This philosophy extends outside the church community and our church building is used to foster such connections.
Misty Valley Books uses our building for its “Showcase of New Authors” program, introducing the community to new authors with diverse genres. From mysteries to memoirs, historical fiction to non fiction, there is something of interest to everyone. Vermont authors including Peter Galbraith, Paul Bremer, Madeleine Kunin, and Bill McKibben have spoken at Misty Valley events in prior years, drawing a large crowd into our building.
Our building is also available for other activities such as play readings, cabarets, concerts and other performances. An art group meets weekly in our downstairs space and a music group also uses the building regularly. Outside individuals or groups who like to use it for weddings or small intimate programs are welcome to contact us. Local churches are invited to use our building for worship in the case of displacement because of fire or other emergencies.