Social Justice at First Church

Guest House Meal Serving Oct. 2015(resized)

Photo: Jerry Fredrickson

Make a Difference. Get Involved!

The quest for social justice is a vital focus at First Church and of the Social Justice Council, which serves as an umbrella organization for our justice-seeking committees and action groups.

The council seeks to foster collaboration and cooperation among the church’s various social justice initiatives and help members express their values through the justice work of the church.

If you’d like to learn more about our current activities, become involved or suggest a new initiative, please contact the Rev. Dena McPhetres.

Black Lives Matter

Contact: Mary Devitt mldevitt[at]gmail[dot]com

Black Lives Matter is a movement in response to a legacy of slavery, racism and oppression in the U.S. To say that “black lives matter” doesn’t mean that all lives don’t matter. But the systemic devaluing of Black lives calls us to bear witness at this time. At First Church, we are engaged in conversations, learning and action in support of this movement, in coordination with the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Standing on the Side of Love, a campaign that seeks to harness love’s power to stop oppression.


Earth Justice Ministry

Contact: Mark Gill 1markanthony[at]earthlink[dot]net; Terry Wiggins terry.wiggins50[at]gmail[dot]com

The Earth Justice Ministry has focused on the Unitarian Universalist Seventh Principle, respect for the interdependent web of life of which we are a part, and it has now taken on the responsibility of working on the other principles. It remains a goal to engage the congregation in the planning and execution of activities that promote spiritual growth through a connection with nature.

Fair Trade Holiday Bazaar

Contact: Nick DaVia nicholas_davia[at]yahoo[dot]com

First Church hosts a Fair Trade Bazaar in Otto Hall on the first Sunday following Thanksgiving. Fair Trade products from many countries are offered, with the proceeds going to a worthy charity. This is a great opportunity to get a jump on your Christmas shopping! Volunteers are needed to help set up, handle money and take down. You can sign up to help at the Social Justice Table.

First Friday Films

Contact: Bernice Popelka 2013bbp[at]gmail[dot]com

First Friday Films is an inspiring series of solution-focused films on the first Friday evening of the month, with a break over the holidays, at 7:00 p.m. Each film is selected to educate, spark conversation and stir the viewer to act on issues of social justice, ecological responsibility and more. The discussion which follows is engaging and enlightening.

Immigration Issues Action Group

Contact: Lorraine Jacobs jacobslm[at]sbcglobal[dot]net

This group expresses the UU principles of justice, equity and compassion in human relationships by offering learning opportunities for the congregation and the larger community.  Our goal is to foster deeper understanding of the immigrant experience in our Milwaukee community and globally.

Share the Plate

Contact: Bob Monahan r_monahan[at]ameritech[dot]net; Nancy Spransy nspransy[at]gmail[dot]com

Each Sunday, First Church donates 50% of all non-pledge cash in the offering plate to a worthy non-profit organization. Share the Plate recipients are selected from proposals submitted by members of the congregation. STP facilitates the financial support of our values in action.


Outside Faith-Based Organizations:

  • Cathedral Center Shelter. First Church also provides periodic meals at the Cathedral Center for women and families, located at 845 N. Van Buren St. in Milwaukee. Look for notices in the order of service, e-nnouncements and in the Chanticleer for when First Church members will be providing and serving food at the Cathedral Center. Volunteers may sign up at the Social Justice Table.
    • Contact: Sam Mueller sammueller84[at]gmail[dot]com


  • Common Ground is a non-partisan organization comprised of small businesses, congregations, non-profits, colleges and labor unions. We live and work in four counties in Southeast Wisconsin (Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee).  Common Ground believes in growing its leadership base and, along with mentoring, offers Common Ground University— a Leadership training course to teach volunteers the basics of organizing.
    • Contact: Jerry Fredrickson bikehead5[at]yahoo[dot]com


  • Greater Milwaukee Hunger CROP Walk. CROP is an acronym for Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty. CROP Hunger Walks take place all over the world to raise money to support worldwide efforts to fight hunger and poverty. Funds raised go toward international relief and development, local poverty and hunger-fighting advocacy. First Church participates in the annual CROP Walk in October.


  • Guest House of Milwaukee. First Church provides periodic meals at the Guest House Shelter for men, located at 1216 N. 13th St. in Milwaukee. Look for notices in the order of service, e-nnouncements and in the Chanticleer for when First Church members will be providing and serving food at the Guest House. Volunteers may sign up at the Social Justice Table.


Interchange Food Pantry: Each month the Interchange Food Pantry provides nearly 1,000 guests with healthy and nutritious food at no cost, and First Church is proud to be a part of this worthy effort. First Unitarian Church has been a member of the Interchange Food Pantry since 1971, the year of its creation in response to the economic and social displacement of the 1960s — 41 years! Thousands of people — seniors, children, families, our neighbors — depend on Interchange each year for food and personal care needs they otherwise could not meet.

  • Contact: Bryna Goeckner bryna.goeckner[at]gmail[dot]com

Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee is an organization through which the regional leaders and adherents of 13 member denominations and faiths meet to build relationships, conduct educational programs, and work together on social justice issues. Several non-member faiths also participate in the planning and running of many of our events and activities.  Some of the events Interfaith initiates and supports include the CROP (Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty) Walk, Amazing Faith Dinners, Ground for Hope-Wisconsin, Interfaith Annual Luncheon, Interfaith Day at Miller Park, March Speaker Series, and a variety of educational presentations and lectures.

  • Contact: TBD


Milwaukee Innercity Congregations Allied for Hope (MICAH) is a multi-faith social justice
organizing group that works through its member congregations. MICAH is part of the statewide interdenominational “WISDOM”organization. MICAH works on WISDOM initiatives and through its Task Forces.

  • Treatment Alternative and Diversion works against poverty-based jailing and discriminatory “mass incarceration,” emphasizing community development and initiatives and treatment for addiction and mental health issues.
  • Jobs and Economic Development current work includes enforcing minority hiring promises and demanding community-enhancing land-use and development policy.
  • Immigration Task Force works on local and state policies affecting immigrant communities including the Dream Act, resisting discriminatory law enforcement policies, and “Hands Across the Viaduct” cooperation campaign.
  • Education has played a key role in statewide initiatives. Recent work has included working with MPS to explore the Community Schools model.
  • Contact: Pete Koneazny pkoneazny[at]lasmilwaukee[dot]com; Bob Monahan r_monahan[at]ameritech[dot]net


NAMI Walk. The National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. First Church participates in the annual NAMI Walk held in May.

  • Contact: Maggie Krochalk krochamb[at]yahoo[dot]com

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaboration. In more than a dozen countries throughout the world, UUSC fosters social justice and words toward a world free from oppression.

  • Contact: Lousie Ptacek luluinestes[at]yahoo[dot]com