In 2005, three Unitarian Universalist congregations experienced the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures that shut down New Orleans and wreaked havoc along 250 miles of Gulf coastline. Two years later, these resilient congregations together created the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal (CELSJR). The center became the home of the New Orleans Rebirth Volunteer Center, and in 2012 it continues the vital work of rebuilding one of the most unique cities in the United States.

In New Orleans, Unitarian Universalism has offered core leadership in linking spirituality to social justice as well as discovering the synergy, renewal, and sustenance that arises when faith is in dialogue with the needs of the world. Experience this vital work for yourself in upcoming service-learning trips with the UU College of Social Justice (UUCSJ).

In a few days, the three UU congregations in New Orleans will go even further together on their faithful journey toward justice. On Monday, November 12, 2012, Community Church UU, First UU New Orleans, and North Shore UU together will ordain Deanna Vandiver into the Unitarian Universalist ministry and celebrate her new community ministry as CELSJR’s executive director. “It is extraordinary to be welcomed to serve as a minister in the place I love best — New Orleans!” said Vandiver. “My ministerial formation has been clearly shaped by this place, as well as by the love and support of Unitarian Universalists around the globe. It is an honor and a blessing to answer my call to ministry right here in New Orleans.”

Rev. Kathleen McTigue, UUCSJ director, said of this event, “At its heart, ordination is the commitment of the community and the ordained minister to continue the work of our faith in the world. Deanna’s work through the center provides a strong foundation upon which to build this commitment.” UUCSJ has partnered with CELSJR this year to offer three opportunities for service-learning trips to UUs from around the country.

CELSJR’s mission is to be a catalyst in the New Orleans and Gulf Coast region for nurturing a sustainable, equitable, and inclusive community by promoting social, racial and economic justice. With community relationships that are deep and wide, an anti-oppressive analysis, and the blessing and support of the founding UU congregations of the Greater New Orleans area, it is clear that CELSJR can offer a practicum of faith as unique as the city it calls home.

As a new day dawns on UU faith in the Greater New Orleans area, UUCSJ and CELSJR invite you to come be a part of the transformation.

Written by CELSJR Executive Director Deanna Vandiver.

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