Home » Social Justice
Category Archives: Social Justice
—The Rev. Mary Luck Stanley
Many in the United States are feeling that their basic human rights, privileges, and safety are being threatened. There is a lack of civility in our public discourse and an uptick in the number of hate crimes in the U.S. Yet each morning also brings news of radical changes in the capacity of our country to practice Christian principles such as compassion, mercy, service to others, welcoming strangers, and respect for the dignity of every human being.
Instead of allowing politicians to determine our “frame of reference,” it’s time for us, as Christians, to lift up the “frame of reference” that supersedes all others. We are followers of Jesus Christ. And the values that Jesus lived out are the ones that we are called to put first in our own lives. Our Judeo-Christian tradition tells us that every person is created in the image of God and is a beloved child of God who is worthy of our care.
It’s time for us to renew our efforts, as followers of Jesus, to practice the spiritual discipline of loving kindness. We take seriously St. Paul’s words from Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”
The world’s major spiritual traditions have asserted the principle that if individuals look within and work on generating loving kindness, then that love has the power to ripple out into our relationships and communities, and to change the world. When we are feeling powerless to change what politicians and others are doing, we can still practice loving kindness as a way to transform the world into the “Kingdom of God.”
During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. invited people to build “The Beloved Community.” According to The King Center, “Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision, in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger, and homelessness will not be tolerated because international standards of decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood. In the Beloved Community, international disputes will be resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation of adversaries, instead of military power. Love and trust will triumph over fear and hatred. Peace and justice will prevail over war and military conflict.”
Let’s build The Beloved Community by practicing the sacred art of loving kindness, one action at a time, and so transform our world into a more just and loving home for all.
A message from Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton
—Larissa Peters, OSP Congregant
I’ve put this annual reflection off, and now it’s January 2017. I haven’t wanted to write it because I don’t like to do things for the sake of doing them. I don’t like saying rote things that could be counted as trite, like I haven’t thought about it. Especially to those who are going through pain. I’ve been the recipient of that, and it sucks.
And I’m weary. A lot of people have said that. They have said they are excited to get rid of 2016. But even that makes me weary. I don’t have a lot of hope for 2017.
There have been quite a few I know who have just been through it. Like you wouldn’t believe. Family members sick, broken relationships, internal turmoil, death…. And others who have been waiting—waiting for jobs, for a change, for health….
And I work for an int’l development agency, and we’re inundated with news of Syria and millions of refugees fleeing. We hear of children trying to cross the border into Texas because of the violence in Central America. And our country is incredibly divided, not to mention our own families at times. And it’s exhausting.
So I want to be careful about saying just words.
As I began this advent, I thought—I’d like to reflect on PEACE. We need peace in us, in our world, all that…isn’t the Christmas story full of peace?
But then I couldn’t find it. Do you know how many times ‘peace’ is mentioned in the Christmas story? Once.
You can’t force a meditation. And truth be told, there wasn’t much peace. Israel was occupied, under another regime. There’s a lot of waiting. And in that waiting, so much anxiety. So much fear and doubt.
And when I read the part about Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem. It hit home. How tired they must have been. Finally getting there and hearing, “No room.” Mary had to have thought (well, I personally would have thought), Of course, this is just about how I’d expect everything to go based on this year….
How exhausting it must have been for Mary, both physically and mentally. Was she full of doubts?—doubts that others had certainly placed in her. Fears she herself couldn’t help but have.
And when they arrived at an inn where they expected to hear yet another, “No room,” only to instead land in a stable, placing their baby—whom they had been told is the Messiah—in a feeding trough, Joseph must have felt incredibly inadequate as a husband and a father.
I’m sure the shepherds couldn’t have come at a better time, bursting in shouting, “Where’s the Messiah we’ve heard about?”
I see both waiting (Simeon, Anna, Israel) and journeys taken (Mary, Joseph, the wise men) in the Christmas story. But the process is the same. The emotions are the same. The inner turmoil and questions still exist whether you are stagnant or wandering.
Were the wise men disappointed to find a baby in the end? How many times did Simeon and Anna ask God, “How long, oh Lord? How much longer?”
And then Mary and Joseph again having to get up and flee for their child’s life—really holding the destiny of mankind in their hands—leaving an entire town weeping behind them…because of them.
So often, I tend to get into myself, and my path feels tired, full of doubt, unrelatable. And just when I think I’ve arrived where I wanted to go, it wasn’t what I expected or it’s even scarier than I’d imagined.
Or I never move.
And everyone else does.
It can feel incredibly lonely sometimes. And very far from peaceful. And the people I thought I could trust—well, they disappointed me.
So what’s left? What small piece can I take with me as I enter into a new year?
I’d like to be like those shepherds. I’d like to be able and willing to show up in the right moment because I took the opportunity—without hesitation, confirming to a fellow wanderer that they are on the right path. So much of the violence, pain and hatred of 2016 may not have been directed specifically at me or happened to me, but if I can come around and just be someone who says, “I’m here with you,” then I want to be that person.
I’d like to continue on waiting (or moving) despite my fears and doubts. So I have to ask, how could all these people do that? How does anyone? Really, there has to be a very deep motivation for either one—greater than all our unmet expectations, disappointments, and feelings of inadequacies and loneliness.
The wise men, shepherds, Joseph, Mary—all had a deep pull, that only a very deep calling could keep them going. Something—that in the midst of the oppression, fears, doubts, weariness, murderous threats, fleeing, loneliness, trouble—something greater gave them a reason to continue. And continue in what may have seemed to some a bold or scary choice. I want this courage and this passion. This I want to remember and hold on to.
Theirs was a deep hope in the belief that Mary carried the Savior of the world, and that he was called the Prince of Peace.
Let me again repeat this line from that old Christmas carol: “the hope and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight …”
This article was originally published on Larissa Peters’ blog, In Other Words Poetry. For more of her writing, visit: http://www.inotherwordspoetry.com/
—Amber Herzer, Chair of OSP’s Social Justice and Service Committee
This year, Old St. Paul’s established a relationship with Civic Works and sponsored the Ricky Meyer’s Day of Service. Civic Works is a local non-profit that’s been working in Baltimore for twenty years, with a focus on strengthening Baltimore’s communities through education, skills development, and community service.
Our partnership with Civic Works enabled thirty OSP congregation members and over five hundred other Baltimore citizens to spend a day volunteering together across the city. The congregation’s financial gift was used to purchase trees, flower bulbs, tools, trash bags, paint, garden gloves, and refreshments to sustain volunteers.
Together, the five hundred volunteers planted over 120 trees and 6,700 bulbs at the REACH! Partnership School, YMCA, eight city parks, a senior housing center, and more. Volunteers assembled one thousand energy-saver kits with Civic Works’ Baltimore Energy Challenge, made one hundred school supply kits for students in need, and crafted one hundred seed-bombs to help spread native flowers. Volunteers performed vital repairs at four homes belonging to low-income seniors, beautified six vacant lot green spaces along with a historic cemetery, built a rain garden in a city park, and made improvements to our Real Food Farm and Little Gunpowder Farm. The team at Civic Works beautifully stated,
“The rich and diverse community of volunteers who participate every year are a testament to the perseverance and boundless love present in our city.”
Fellow volunteer and Civic Works board member Robert Zdenek expanded on just this point, saying
“it was thrilling to observe and participate with more than thirty fellow OSP congregants to contribute to the Ricky Meyer Day of Service, our signature volunteer event at Civic Works. Community engagement and revitalization takes so many forms, from planting bulbs and trees to cleaning up parks and streets. The net effect is two-fold: a safer, more engaged community, and the individual and collective smiles of over five hundred volunteers.”
Throughout the day, congregation members were able to work with and learn from each other, engaging in meaningful conversations, sharing laughs, and creating new friendships. The pouring rain wasn’t even a deterrent! Amber Herzer, the OSP Social Justice and Service Chair noted,
“This was the first time the church participated in this city-wide volunteer day. It was a joy to participate and know that our church’s financial contribution facilitated the success of this important community activity.”
We look forward to hosting another Day of Service event in the Spring of 2017.
If you have any questions or would be interested in joining us for our next service event please contact Amber at AmberLHerzer@gmail.com.
—Carol Sholes, Stewardship Task Force, Chair
On a recent Sunday, The Rev Mary Luck Stanley preached about gratitude and how it can change your life. She called gratitude the “mother of all virtues” and spoke about how gratitude is acted out as generosity. The Gospel reading (Luke 17:11-19) talked about the gratitude of one of the ten lepers who was healed by Jesus, while noting the lack of gratitude of the other nine. This sermon provided me with an opportunity to think about where I am on the gratitude scale. Am I like the “one” being grateful and showing my gratitude, or like the “nine”—happy, but not taking the time to really think about being grateful and generously showing my gratitude for said happiness? Sometimes I am definitely the “one,” but too many times I am part of the “nine.” I have wonderful ideas about how to generously show someone my gratitude, but then life takes over and I don’t follow through.
What better place to count your blessings than church? What better way to generously act on your gratitude than by making a pledge to Old St. Paul’s? As I reflect on my blessings and the role St. Paul’s plays in my life, I am grateful and happy to give generously. I don’t want to miss this chance to be the “one” who is grateful and generous, and not one of the “nine” who misses out on the opportunity to show my gratitude.
I will be increasing my pledge for 2017 because I am excited about so many things that are happening at our church. I am proud that our community is not only a great place to be, but is actually growing—not the typical story at an urban church, but it is ours. This year we have more children, more events, more outreach, and more people giving their time as we continue to maintain our beautiful historic buildings and provide a lovely Sunday service with amazing music and opportunities for Christian education for all ages. All of this needs our support.
Every member of the Vestry has completed their pledge for next year and they have all prayerfully reflected on their ability to increase their pledge for 2017. Please consider your blessings and what Old St. Paul’s means to you and your family. Then ask yourself if your gratitude can be expressed by giving generously to your church in 2017.
You can pledge online by clicking here, and if you pledge by November 30, you will receive an invitation to our Early Pledger Celebration at the Ritz Carlton. Our Stewardship Campaign will culminate with sealed pledges being blessed on the altar on December 11.
After the riots shook Baltimore, we at Old St. Paul’s, like many faith groups around the city, decided to reassess our methods of outreach and community engagement in order to better serve our neighbor Baltimoreans. Since this past June, various members of Old St. Paul’s have been serving on different discernment committees dedicated to doing just this. Today, we’ll focus on the discernment committee dedicated to researching the church’s possible partnership with the local nonprofit organization BUILD, Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development.
As discernment committee leader Amber Herzer explains, “BUILD organizes congregations, listens to the needs of the community, and then works with the political and civic leadership to address those needs.” BUILD is thus, at its heart, a relationship-based outreach model rather than project-based. It uses “a true servant-leader model,” and is dedicated to “empowering, listening to, and supporting community leaders.”
When was the last time that you felt truly listened to? Amber asks. When was the last time you felt someone paying you sincere attention, someone seeking to understand your perspective and experience? —Think back to those rare times, and remember how empowering that can feel. How it can help restore a person’s sense of worth, power, and wholeness.
“Sometimes it can take more courage to stop and listen, than to charge forward,” Amber explains. “It’s the courage of humility. We at Old St. Paul’s do not have a solution for the city of Baltimore. We do have a collection of people well-versed in volunteering and social justice, however. Social workers, teachers, lawyers, city government employees, artists, activists—people who understand that our first reaction shouldn’t be Let’s Go Do Something, but Let’s Listen First.”
Eileen Brittain, also a discernment committee member, recalls the book of Jeremiah when she thinks of BUILD:
“But seek the welfare of the city…, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
According to Eileen, “Their strategy to put pressure on those who make the decisions and control the funding can cause situations to be changed. BUILD asks support of faith communities to appear at various meetings to show solidarity and be an ally to those who do not have a voice in the halls of power.”
Tom Andrews, another of the committee’s members, is particularly “excited about the possibility of Old St. Paul’s joining BUILD” for the way it seeks to bring “together people of various faith traditions, to get to know each other, to work together on the needs of the city, and to work with political leaders to address these needs.”
Committee member Bob Zdenek seconds this sentiment, saying, “BUILD’s significance is that it brings together diverse congregations, both clergy and lay leaders from throughout Baltimore City…. Baltimore is one of the most segregated cities in the U.S. …and that speaks to the importance of organizations like BUILD that can cut across racial, income, class, and geographic barriers.”
“BUILD is the long term,” Amber says, “because it is focused on changing the system and building relationships with people in other parts of the city.”
And while this may mean that BUILD engages the political system, it is important to note that BUILD itself is not political. “This element may feel uncomfortable to some,” Amber concedes, “but BUILD is not about picking sides. It’s about changing the current system. If the change we’re creating isn’t uncomfortable, then we’re not digging deep enough.”
Of course, there are still questions and challenges that the discernment committee are considering. “I don’t see a lot of new leadership development with IAF affiliates [which includes BUILD] other than clergy,” Bob explains. “There is usually a small group of lay leaders, but how do you build the leadership beyond a few people? …I think this is vital for Old St. Paul’s in particular, since we appear to be new to social justice and change initiatives beyond a few small services.”
For more information on BUILD, please join us for The Forum on November 1st:
9:30-10:20 a.m. at The Grand, next door to the church
The Industrial Areas Foundation affiliate BUILD (Baltimoreons United in Leadership Development) is a 35+ year organization committed to organizing communities around their own self-interests. BUILD is comprised of 35 congregations and 15 city schools. The Rev. Glenna Huber, priest in the Diocese of Maryland is clergy co-chair of BUILD.
Reading Katherine’s post, “Experiencing the Presence of God through the Weather,” was very timely for me because I felt the presence of God in the weather this morning. I am currently in Ouagadougou, the capital city of Burkina Faso in West Africa, and the weather here is quite different from Baltimore’s. The hot season (108 degrees when I arrived on Saturday) is hanging on longer than normal, and the seasonal rains have been slow to begin.
As I looked out the hotel window this morning, I could see the storm clouds gathering in the distance. Very soon, high winds kicked in, bringing a swirl of dust and trash blowing through the streets. The clouds of dust in the sky, after months of no rain, suddenly made it look as if it was night again. The streets emptied as pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists (cars are less common here) all took cover. The raindrops started to fall, slowly at first, then began beating down on the dry clay soil and dusty pavement.
Rain is a precious commodity in this part of the world as the Sahara desert advances southward. There is less rainfall every year, not so much due to God, but rather because of our collective inability to care for the environment that God created for our well-being. When it does rain, people are so thankful—their lives and livelihoods depend on it in a country where many people still eke out a living through rain-fed, subsistence farming. (Remember this the next time someone claims that climate change is a hoax.)
By the time I left to go to work, the rain was already starting to taper off. It did not last long, but it is hopefully the start of another agricultural season for farmers here. When I reached the office, my Burkinabe colleagues were all extremely joyful and grateful for God’s answer to their prayers for rain. Thank you, God.
—Post & Photo by David Leege
David Leege works for Catholic Relief Services, which implements international relief and development programs in 100 countries around the world. He travels internationally from time to time to provide technical support to CRS programs.