Social Justice Initiatives

Compassion & Choices

Compassion & Choices is a 501(c)(3) organization striving to expand options and empower individuals to chart their own end-of-life journey. C&C works nationwide in communities, state legislatures, Congress, courts and medical settings to educate and empower the public and to advocate for improved medical practice that puts patients and their values, treatment plans and quality of life first. We advocate for expanded options, including medical-aid-in-dying, and against efforts to restrict access to them. Check out Compassion & Choices Facebook page.

Our Central Iowa Action Team meets the first Thursday each month at 1:00 p.m. CT. Contact church members Steve and Karen Herwig at for current meeting information.

Environmental Justice

Green Sanctuary Designation

Since 2015, our church has been accredited as a Green Sanctuary by the Unitarian Universalist Association. The designation recognizes the work we’ve done in support of the UU Seventh Principle: “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”

Our Green Sanctuary Team is focused on engaging church members with both environmental justice and related social justice issues, such as energy efficiency, recycling, composting, etc., for our building and grounds. The team also promotes outside activities that our members can get involved with to improve the greater Des Moines community.

Contact: Ron Heideman, Chair |

Housing and Hunger

FEDS (Feed Every Deserving Soul)

This social justice task force concerned with hunger and hunger issues (commonly identified as the FEDS: feed every deserving soul/stomach) attempts to identify, pursue and facilitate projects for church members interested in helping to alleviate hunger in central Iowa. Activities since the FEDS inception in 2008 have included preparing and serving dinner monthly at the Central Iowa Homeless Shelter, quarterly at Children and Family Urban Movement (CFUM), and collecting for the DMARC Food Pantry.

Contact: Bruce Martin, Chair |

Immigration Justice

Our church has been deeply involved in immigration and sanctuary issues in Central Iowa. We’ve been called to this work by our personal values, by our shared congregational values, and by our denomination’s Seven UU principles.

We are a founding member of the Des Moines Cluster of the Iowa Sanctuary Movement formed under the umbrella of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). We are one of several area churches that have agreed to provide financial and other assistance to immigrants in Central Iowa who are facing hardships because of immigration policies.

In 2017, our members voted to declare our building a Sanctuary Church for people facing the threat of immediate deportation. While the need for sanctuary space has decreased in the Des Moines area and we haven’t been asked to take someone in, the need for asylum seeker support has increased. Rising to the challenge, the Immigration Justice team supports a person seeking asylum through the Congregational Sponsorship model created by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

Here are just some of the ways members of our congregation have been involved in immigration justice:

  • Hosted get-acquainted potluck dinners for our members with members of Latino and allied churches
  • Held public screenings of immigration-oriented films for community education
  • Organized speakers and panel discussions introducing our congregation to immigration issues
  • Participated in city-wide marches, rallies, and public displays, and opened our building and grounds when needed to provide community support
  • Provided financial and/or volunteer support to local organizations, including Al Exito, Central Iowa Immigration Support Fund, SURJ (Standing Up for Racial Justice), JFON (Justice for Our Neighbors), AFSC, Latino Heritage Festival, Iowa Sanctuary Movement, DACA renewal fund, Knock and Drop, the Drake Legal Clinic for Immigration Law, and Raices del Sur
  • Joined in letter-writing campaigns to elected officials regarding various immigration injustices
  • Provided transportation and served as companions for immigrants’ for court dates, ICE check-ins, and administrative proceedings
  • Hosted and supported Mexican family reunifications conducted in Des Moines by Raices del Sur (Raices del Sur on Facebook)
  • Raised funds for the commissary accounts of people detained by ICE in the Hardin County (IA) jail

Our Immigration Justice Team addresses issues as they arise, including guaranteeing financial and other support to the asylum-seekers we sponsor.  If you’d like to join our efforts, contact our Immigration Justice team leader.

Contact: Morgan Dredge, Chair |

Legislative Action

Write Here, Write Now!

Each month members of First Unitarian Church partner with the Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice (UUSJ) and participate in this project. Write Here! Write Now! is a letter-writing campaign of the UUSJ Capitol Hill Advocacy Corps. The Corps members help make the UU voice heard on Capitol Hill by delivering letters from UU’s nationwide to members of Congress and their staff. Priority issues include defending our democracy, economic justice, environmental and climate justice, immigration justice and other pressing UU issues.

Since the first Advocacy Corps Day in February, 2017, Corps members have:

  • Made over 1,827 visits to Capitol Hill offices
  • Conducted more than 430 scheduled and drop-in meetings
  • Delivered more than 9,868 Write Here! Write Now! UU constituent letters.

More than 550 of those letters came from members of First Unitarian Church!

Before the advent of COVID-19, letters were delivered in person. Until further notice, letters are being delivered via email.

Contact: Donna Jo Wallace, Chair |

Iowa UUWitness Advocacy Network (IUUWAN)

The Iowa Unitarian Universalist Witness Advocacy Network (IUUWAN) is Iowa’s state action network, working to build relationships and engage Unitarian Universalists across Iowa.  We work to experience and integrate our affirmations of the” inherent worth and dignity of every person” and the “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part,” two pillars of our Seven Principles. Representatives meet via Zoom at 6:00 p.m. on the third Sunday of each month.

Individual UUs can participate by paying a yearly $5 membership.  We also request that congregations pay a yearly membership of $1 per member. Other donations and contributions are always appreciated.

Connect with us at or follow us on Facebook. 

Contact: Linda Lemons or Terry Lowman |

LGBTQ+ Justice


Welcoming Congregation

Since 1992, First Unitarian Church has been a Welcoming Congregation, a volunteer program to take intentional steps to become more welcoming and inclusive of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. After nearly two years of work we were one of the earliest churches in the Unitarian Universalist Association to earn this designation.

Our congregation identifies Five Practices of Welcome which guide our work. Welcoming Congregations should implement each of these practices annually.

  • Becoming a Welcoming Congregation, or working to renew your designation
  • Holding Welcoming Worship Services that include honoring a milestone or rite of passage for an LGBTQ+ member of the congregation
  • Participating in Welcoming Days of Observance, which commemorate and elevate landmark days and seasons in LGBTQ+ communities (Pride Season, Transgender Day of Visibility, World AIDS Day, etc.), through worship services, public events, or other gatherings organized by the congregation
  • Supporting Welcoming Faith Formation programming that highlights LGBTQ+ issues and topics for all ages
  • Engaging in a Welcoming Project by providing monetary support to a local LGBTQ+ organization

Learn more about our work as a Welcoming Congregation, or talk about implementing a practice.


Transgender Action Group

The Transgender Action Group is working to increase awareness of transgender lives and issues within the church community, as well as provide a safe haven and resources for transgender people in need. Through education and speaking events, the group educates the congregation on what gender identity is, how it is separate from sexual orientation, and ways they can provide support and encouragement to the transgender people within our community.

Contact: Doug Aupperle, Franco Berardi, Sarah Chang |