I took the picture that accompanies this post while on a recent trip to Washington DC for a gathering of the Organizing for Mission Network. Remember, we hosted the gathering in March here at SJU! I’ve never been to DC, so I was excited to see some sites (I did!) and also to learn about what it’s like to do ministry in a place that seems very different from Seattle.
DC residents, for example, don’t have representation in the Senate. The church itself, is neo-Gothic in style, and was built in 1873, less than a mile from the White House. There are still two pews in the sanctuary that bear the names of Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee, meant to signal, after the end of the Civil War, that anyone was welcome. A different context, indeed!
At the same time, despite the stark contrasts, the concerns of this community were so familiar. They included a lack of affordable housing, pervasive homelessness, lack of livable wages, increase in cost of living, climate change, racism, and more. In other words, our neighborhoods are facing the same pressures. Recognizing that our struggles are deeply connected made it so meaningful to be together. We are not alone and together we are far more powerful.
We’ve been working hard here at SJU, through the Listening for a Change team, to hear our shared concerns. We’ve surfaced issues and can see how they too are connected. Lack of affordable housing, for example, contributes to the rise in homelessness. The sustainability of our church is linked to a growing fracture in community at large. So, how do we decide what to work on? It’s all so pressing!
The passion and energy around one issue – climate change – has made it the clear choice for team’s focus in this next season. We also know that even climate change, is affected by other issues. To work on one, we must necessarily consider multiple angles. We also know that the power we build will make is possible to work on other issues in the future.
So, now we get to dig deeper and do some research. How does climate change show up in our neighborhood? How is it connected with other issues like racism, homelessness or immigration? In what ways are we, the community of St. John United, uniquely placed to act?
As we honor the Saints this month, may we remember that we continue the faithful journey that our ancestors walked. From Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses to the March of Washington, we carry on a tradition of faith filled organizing. I’m so honored to be on this journey with you and excited to see what we can do together.
Your sister in Christ,