In 2006, with a new minister, Forrest Gilmore, the UU Congregation of Princeton surveyed its congregants to find out what would be a very exciting commitment in the social justice arena. Three areas were selected to fund and initiate: tutoring in Princeton, working with Habitat for Humanity, and working to establish a UU legislative ministry in New Jersey. With the enthusiasm of these three initiatives pledging increased considerably that year. A $60,000 fund was dedicated to establishing the UULMNJ. Once established, UUC/Princeton declared that they will continue to provide a high level of support per year to UULMNJ.
In 2007, UUC/Princeton appointed a five person committee to spearhead this effort lead by Elaine Nigam and Doug Rhodes. New Jersey congregations were contacted and UUs in the state began considering the formation of this social justice network.
In 2008, a statewide Steering Committee, Co-Chaired by Rohn Hein of Cherry Hill and Lynne Quinto of Washington Crossing, surveyed UUs across the state for priority issues. Economic Justice, Health Care, and the Environment were chosen. A process was developed for governance of a UULMNJ network.
In 2009, a plenary elected our first Board of Trustees, ratified bylaws and a budget. Thirteen congregations affiliated with the network. In July we hired our first part-time Executive Director; Task Forces were formed to research issues and positions and recommend actions. Congregational Action Teams are forming to support and carry out actions in congregations.
In 2010, Task Forces led advocacy through the Congregational Action Teams and with other like-minded faith based and secular organizations in the priority issues noted above. The Task Forces led research and education efforts. Especially strong efforts were organized around affordable housing and the Emerging Issues of Marriage Equality and Immigration. Rallies and hearings were attended; lay members and clergy spoke at events which were reported in the press, television and other media. The network advocated through letters, petitions, and office visits to legislators. One such visit resulted in stopping, reevaluating and rewriting of an unacceptable affordable housing bill. A member worked with a legislative committee to rewrite the affordable housing legislation. The legislation passed, but was vetoed with conditions by the governor. Affordable Housing in New Jersey is now before courts.
To date in 2011, Rev. Craig Hirshberg became our half time Executive Director after Rev. Julia Hamilton accepted a position as a minister in Santa Barbara, CA. Sixteen of the twenty-one UU congregations in New Jersey are affiliated, and most of the others participate in the network. The major funding for the UULMNJ Inc. is from the congregations. Fundraisers for the UULMNJ PPN Inc. are conducted yearly. The application for 501(c)(3) non-profit status for the UULMNJ, Inc. was submitted to the IRS and is pending approval; the UULMNJ PPN Inc. application for 501(c)(4) non-profit status was submitted and approval has been received.
- April 2011