News briefs: Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, church recognized for racial justice work; historic Tarpon Springs, Florida, church reopens after restoration; first Universalist church in America achieves carbon neutrality.
In October 2019, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, received the President’s Award from the NAACP of Champaign County in recognition of the congregation’s racial justice work. The award is bestowed each year on the individual or organization that best reflects the values of the NAACP.
Over the past four years, the congregation established a Racial Justice Initiative, put up a Black Lives Matter banner, and dramatically increased financial support for racial justice organizations; a Faithify campaign raised nearly $9,000 for transitional housing for people returning home from prison. “The award is aspirational,” said the Rev. Florence Caplow. “I feel it gives us really important responsibility to not stop the work we’re doing.”
In October 2019, after a massive six-year restoration project, the UU Church of Tarpon Springs, Florida—the oldest church in the city—reopened its doors. The 1908 building includes a restored sanctuary and a rare collection of eleven paintings by landscape artist George Inness Jr.
The first Universalist church in America, Gloucester UU Church in Massachusetts, is now one of the first historic houses of worship to achieve carbon neutrality. The congregation and its partners—Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation and TownGreen2025—worked together to address the 1806 building’s preservation needs through the lens of sustainability, including protecting it from water infiltration and thermal loss. Achieving carbon neutrality involved a partnership with international organization Reforest the Tropics, whose founder, Harry Hintlian, gave two hectares of forest to sequester the congregation’s remaining carbon footprint. Hintlian made the gift in recognition of the work of GUUC and its partners to minimize the building’s environmental impact and raise awareness of how to address historic preservation through sustainable practices.
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Elaine McArdle is a UU World senior editor and a member of First Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon. An award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she has also written for the Boston Globe, Harvard Law Bulletin, and others.