View from the Pew – UUSC Sunday

The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, the UUSC, is an organization with an impressive history of 65 years of protecting human rights worldwide. It has a mission to advance human rights and social justice around the world, partnering with those who confront unjust power structures and mobilizing to challenge oppressive policies. The UUSC envisions a world free from oppression and injustice, where all can realize their full human rights. The UUSC currently is focusing on four major issues:

  • 1. Advancing economic justice with a focus on defending workers’ rights and supporting a living wage.

  • 2. Defending civil liberties and access to the democratic processes in a world threatened by terrorism and increasing authoritarianism.

  • 3. Promoting environmental justice and specifically defending the human right to water especially in communities facing water-service privatization and resource depletion.

  • 4. Protecting individual rights in humanitarian crises while responding to natural and man-made disasters, focusing specifically on defending the rights of the marginalized and oppressed.

The UUSC is an international organization affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association, of which we as a congregation are a part, but receives no funding from the UUA. Rather it depends on individual memberships and responses to appeals to fund its programs. We are the grass roots from which the good works flourish and, this year alone, our church has contributed directly to the UUSC through our holiday Guest at Your Table program – raising over $1,100.00 – as well as the outreach to Katrina victims with a total gift of $4,443.00 from our congregation alone.

First Parish has a long commitment to the UUSC, none more intimate or dedicated than the involvement of Helen Fogg, whose name you may recognize – particularly as a result of this congregation receiving her generous financial bequest, now known as the Fogg Trust. Many of us had the privilege of knowing her during her active and life long membership here – her family pew, where she always sat when attending services, is marked with a brass plate. Helen and her family (direct descendants of this church’s first minister, William Wetherall) had an impact not just on this Parish and the town of Norwell, but also the wider world. During World War II, Helen served in the Red Cross in the Pacific theater. Upon her return to the US she became a volunteer worker with the fledgling Unitarian Service Committee (renamed the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee after the two denominations merged) and initially was involved with the resettlement of European children after the war. She served as an administrator of UUSC’s overseas programs for nearly 20 years. After retiring at age 65 she remained active with this church serving on the Service Committee, the Music Committee, and the Parish Committee. Those of us who knew her were continually inspired by her strength of personality, compassion, and wonderful sense of humor. Her memoir, Where in the World, compiled by our own Ruth Bailey, shares much of her life history. Copies are available in our church library as well as at the James.

We are lucky to have some words by her recorded and archived - and which we can hear today. Listen as you hear Helen, in her lovely New England accent, describe what are the basic beliefs of the UUSC – beliefs that are unchanged from when she spoke them some 50 years ago:

(2 minutes of Helen speaking - 2M mp3 file)

She speaks about three goals that drive the programs of the UUSC, first is to recognize the dignity, the worth, the potentiality of every human being; second is to work with people not for them; and third is to multiply the efforts and money of UUSC projects by building upon the professional leadership already existing in a community. Helen often promoted the UUSC with the adage: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you help him feed himself for a lifetime.” As you heard, she was an advocate of this “multiplier effect” – local talent and leadership spreading their knowledge and skills to others, thereby multiplying the benefits. Our minister emeritus, Dick Fewkes, once said of Helen that “She demonstrated her deep faith in God and human nature by doing the works which her faith demanded of her, and, in the doing she inspired others to do likewise.”

Today there are many of us who wear a sticker on our nametags indicating that we are contributing members of the UUSC – hopefully I have accurately labeled each and every one of you! However, I have more stickers available and will be happy to add one to your nametag. A membership envelope is in your order of service and explains the various membership categories. Some of you may be active members, but simply need to renew for the coming year. Consider how your membership will continue the legacy of Helen, of helping others to help themselves, of recognizing the dignity of every human being, of protecting human rights worldwide. Join the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and “inspire others to do likewise.”