Deed, not Creed – Building ESB Capacity to Practice What We Preach

Submitted by Andrea Perrault

A long-standing commitment of Ethical Societies has been “Deed, Not Creed”.  In discussions spurred by our long-range planning effort, members have expressed a need to revisit how the Ethical Society of Boston exemplifies this principle.   Our current practice seems to be limited to supporting or engaging in advocacy campaigns on social issues which we as an organization embrace.  While such action is important and will continue (on single payer health care, death with dignity, opposing Supreme Court decisions on campaign funding), some members have suggested that more locally-based grassroots efforts direct action efforts be part of how we live the “deed, not creed” philosophy.  Indeed, such action does bring a strong spirit of communal energy to members toward our causes, and often brings a stronger connection with other non-ESB members who are similarly engaged.

An ethical action activity for many years in the past was sorting food at the Boston Food Bank. A cadre of ESB folks would join with other groups in this direct service to benefit those in need in our community.  Lately, our Society’s capacity to live up to past standards of direct action has waned.  Clearly, we need new energy to dedicate to such activities. It may be found through collaboration with the Humanist Hub community, especially with their Values in Action (VIA) initiative. In November, VIA mobilized a massive effort to sort food for distribution to food banks in Middlesex County; four members of the Ethical Society participated in this effort.  In this spring semester, VIA is working to assist and support homeless youth in Cambridge.  Several ESB members attended the Hub Sunday program introducing the effort. It featured speakers from local shelters as well as homeless youth themselves; they described the services of the shelters and the young people communicated their real circumstances and experiences.  This semester, the VIA effort was compatible with ESB’s decision to give the 2014 Humanist of the Year award to Dr. James O’Connell, President and Founding Member of Health Care for the Homeless – a serendipitous occurrence! The VIA staff promoted our event, and we’ve promoted their next food distribution event on April 27th (similar to the November event).

In the summer as future ESB planning occurs, the Board will discuss our interest in expanding ethical action efforts to similar direct efforts. We’ll also communicate with the Hub/VIA staff to coordinate better in engaging in mutually identified activities.

By focusing Board and members’ attention on our core mission, and by identifying and working to implement activities that mesh with the mission, we will be able to build our collaborations both with the Hub and in the larger community – living the “deed, not creed” philosophy explicitly.