History and Impact of Social Action Grant Making at First Parish in Concord: 1968-2010
Social Action is a key component of faith for most UUs. At First Parish in Concord, it is our historic tradition.
From the hosting of the first Provincial Congress in 1774, to fervent abolitionist work in the 1860s, to civil rights and Vietnam War activity in the 1960s, to a 500-person Anti-Iraq War march in 2003, our church and our ministers have long been involved institutionally in work for social justice.
Also, groups of parishioners have worked consistently for social change. A random handful of current examples includes Amnesty International, Gulf Coast WorksBridge to Biloxi, Common Cathedral, Concord Prison Outreach, Communities for Restorative Justice, Crop Walk, Domestic Violence Network, Green Sanctuaries, Jericho Road Project, Open Table, and many decades of involvement in the UU Urban Ministry program in Boston.
In addition to direct parishioner activity, First Parish has for more than four decades systematically committed part of its budget to “go out into the world” to support organizations and activities that promote, or provide, social justice. We make Social Action grants. We share part of our collective organizational wealth with others less fortunate, and those working to aide the less fortunate, just as many parishioners do through personal charitable giving.
This report is a chronicle of 42 years of our Social Action Grant giving history. Parishioners John Lowe and David Dawson have carefully, comprehensively, and lovingly reviewed parish records, interviewed knowledgeable parishioners, documented findings, and analyzed many facets of this important dimension of our ministry. They deserve deep gratitude for this extraordinarily comprehensive labor of love.
The purpose of this report, as part of First Parish’s 375th birthday celebration, is to document and celebrate 40+ years of Social Action giving through our SAC Grants program. It may also alert parishioners to the importance and effectiveness of this key part of the work of the First Parish (FP) Social Action Community (SAC). Over the years, social action grants have served as seed money for new and critical social justice initiatives, as a mechanism to connect parishioners with social action projects, and as a statement of congregational support for social justice and liberal religious causes.
This report does not attempt to describe all First Parish social justice philanthropy. Individual parishioners, the ministers, and many groups within the Parish, including the Women’s Parish Association (WPA), the Music and Religious Education programs, the Transylvania Partner Church, and others, have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to dozens of worthy causes through the years. Our church archives, from our founding in 1636 to the mid 20th Century, are replete with accounts of Parish generosity in the face of needs in the community and in the world. For example, during the mid-20thcentury from pre-World War II, until the end of Rev Daniels’ tenure (in 1956), contributions from the Parish—at one point as high as 20% of Parish income according to Daniels, were given away either by the minister, or by WPA, or the Trustees (which included Trustees of Parish Donations and Trustees of WPA).1
This rich tradition of FP financial support for social causes and social needs sets the stage for the Social Action Grants program that continues our legacy of social concern, “going out into the world,” that we continue today.
This report focuses primarily on the Parish’s Social Action (SAC) grants program since 1968. It includes commentary on Parish policies concerning the amounts of funding, themes and topics of social action support, the impact or outcomes of grants, and the structure for, and process of grant making. We also note the important roles played by the ministers, Parish staff, and key Parishioners in the process of making social action grants.
The report proceeds chronologically through the 45-year history of organized Social Action activities and grants. Narrative on particular social action projects appears in the period when they started or first received a social action grant, even if they continue to be active to the present time. Appendix 1 shows more-detailed reference information, including selected data from pre-1965 FP Annual Reports. Appendix 2 shows notes from interviews conducted from December 2010 to April 2011 with the ministers, key staff members, and more than a dozen parishioners knowledgeable about particular grant recipients and/or the history of First Parish Social Action grant making.2 We are indebted for their participation and contributions.