St. John’s Social Justice committee has, under the leadership of priest associate Rev. Michael Ramsey-Musolf, developed a five point framework for social justice work, study and reflection at St. John’s. Please check it out, and send questions or feedback to Judson Brown at email@example.com.
SOCIAL JUSTICE FRAMEWORK FOR ST. JOHN’S (6/21)
At a recent meeting of the Social Justice Committee, our priest associate Rev. Michael Ramsey-Musolf laid out a five-point framework for the church to move forward, each rooted in a Biblical mandate. This proved both energizing and clarifying to the small group, and it has led to a discussion of various possible pathways for study, learning and/or action under each heading.
The committee decided to share with the whole church community Michael’s framework, with some ongoing actions and opportunities for action bulleted under each heading. These items may change from week to week. This document is meant to be living and changing as needs and inspiration rise and fall.
The committee believes that social justice work should involve the whole body of the church and not be relegated to a committee. Members are asked to submit ideas, suggest or host readings or seminars, announce events, propose (or join) advocacy initiatives. Actions can range from one-time events to longer-term projects.
Respond to Urgent Needs
“I was hungry and you gave me food” (Matthew 25:35 ff)
- Support for Manna Community Kitchen and associated programs of Manna: the warming center, downtown storage lockers for homeless.
- Support for public school students in need. “Circle of Care”? Support parishioner/educators on the front lines.
- Decisional training at Hampshire County Jail.
- Food justice initiatives: The “Good News Gardens” initiative of the Diocese. Support for and involvement with the Abundance Farm project of Congregation B’Nai Israel (CBI).
- Track and publicize to the parish needs and issues that arise in our community and region.
Build relationships with predominantly Black communities of faith
“God…has given us the ministry of reconciliation…” (2 Cor 5:18)
Members of the committee have been researching where St. John’s might partner as “ally” with predominantly Black communities of faith through cultural exchanges, pulpit exchanges and joining on social justice needs and issues. Outreach has been made to several congregations even while the committee recognizes that further self-study and self-reflection and self-assessment may be necessary before we make concrete overtures. We are wary of settling for superficial and self-serving contacts. Steps along this path of deeper reflection have been detailed and are under discussion.
Support those on the front lines of justice:
“…seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Is 1:17)
The committee seeks to identify social justice issues where St. John’s voice needs to be heard –and also acknowledge, publicize and support work towards social justice already underway:
- By individuals in the parish
- In the Diocese. To name just one pathway, ministries and advocacies around food justice are proliferating. St. Paul’s Holyoke has been active in this arena. Our own Rev. Anna Woofenden has been both a theological leader and activist in the “Farm Church” movement.
- In the national church. Michael has excellent contacts at the Mission of the Holy Spirit in Norfolk, Va. as well as with street ministries in L.A. which are engaging directly with alienated urban youth. Michael has been in discussion with Tom Collard, dean at the cathedral, concerning initiatives there, including a monthly support group for front line justice workers.
- In our community and among the houses of worship that comprise the interfaith community in Hampshire County. Where other houses of worship are leading, we look for opportunities to assist and strengthen their work and witness.
Advocate for structural change:
“Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like and ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:25)
- The committee will be tracking the Episcopal Public Policy Network and sharing information and recommending actions that can be shared with the whole congregation.
- Michael has also recommended that we tune into and support the work of the statewide Citizens for Juvenile Justice which advocates for much needed changes in the state’s poor record in this area.
- Education and advocacy on the special needs of the disabled, building on the church’s investment in building access.
- Advocacy for sensible gun control policies.
- Advocacy for immigration reform and restoration of a robust refugee resettlement program, building on positive experiences with our Circle of Care.
Pray, study, reflect, discuss:
“Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest…” (Collect for Proper 28)
The Sacred Ground Study Group, which followed a national church curriculum focused on issues of racial justice, has wrapped up. There seems to be consensus that this group and the Social Justice Committee will now merge. Group members are keen on delving further into the Episcopal church’s historical culpability in the slave trade and the institution of slavery. The concept of reparations has not been discussed as yet, although it might be on the table.
Possible subject matter for study and reflection:
- Howard Thurman’s essential writings.
- Study group on the work of theologian Drew Hart (or maybe include Hart in the Thurman discussion.)
- The Asian American experience with discrimination and prejudice, the psychological depths and social-psychological dimensions.
- A primer on disability rights and issues.
- The Arcadian story in our midst.
- The Native American experience in the Pioneer Valley, and how we incorporate appreciation for the indigenous communities into our worship and teaching .
- The Theology of Trauma
Role of worship: Bring social justice concerns into weekly into the center of worship. Social justice healing through liturgy.