MCU’s annual public meetings are coming up – this year 4 simultaneous meetings in school district areas in which we’ve been working: North County, St. Louis City, St. Charles County, and Webster Groves. This is an ambitious plan – and different from how most public meetings are done. It gives us a chance to really get local – and personal – about keeping children in class and out of the criminal justice system.
MCU has been working diligently for years to break the school-to-prison pipeline. We have worked with 27 area school districts to end and find alternatives to out of school suspension for children in grades PreK-3, have signed robust MOUs (Memoranda of Understanding) with a few school districts in the area that detail the ways in which SROs (School Resource Officers – police officers that are in schools) operate in those schools, and are partnering with the St. Louis County juvenile justice system to move the Department of Justice consent decree order through the current court system. We have also been a part of getting Amendment 1 (Clean Missouri – comprehensive Missouri legislative ethics reform) and Prop B (Raise Up Missouri – raising Missouri’s minimum wage) on the November 2018 ballot.
I don’t know about you, but when it seems like what’s going on nationally is simply unbearable, I find great hope in working on local issues – which is one of the reasons why I am such a fan of MCU and all the local faith-based community organizing affiliates – they are a great way to become involved with necessary local work because they connect you with other incredible people who are also doing this work. You don’t have to be a large congregation – or even part of a congregation at all – to become involved with these groups.
I really can’t believe how short some of these biblical books are: Joel is literally just three chapters, and then we’re into Amos. I don’t think I’ve ever thought much about Joel or anything in it, honestly – have you? And yet, Elizabeth Achtemeier reminds us that “…on the basis of Joel 2:28-32, Peter interpret’s God’s action on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and Paul makes Joel 2:32 the heart of his gospel (Rom 10:13).” (Biblical commentaries and similar resources really help me to not only read biblical texts in their contexts, but also to better appreciate texts that I have a tendency to overlook.)
The book of Amos, which we begin reading this week, tends to get more notoriety. Donald Gowan notes, “…it marks the beginning of a unique tradition in the history of religion: prophecies of the approaching end of the existence of God’s people based upon God’s judgment of them for failing to live according to the divine standards. …the message of Amos has no predecessors that we can identify. For this reason alone the book has rightly been marked by modern scholarship as one of the most important turning points in the history of the religion of Israel.” Why I am a fan of Amos, though, is as Gowan puts it, “…the passion of its concern for the oppressed. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Amos has been appealed to regularly as the Old Testament’s classic statement concerning social justice.”
Where do you hear the call for God’s justice in the Bible?
This week we’re in Chapter 8, “The Importance of Focus / Creating Your Activism Goals List” of The Lifelong Activist in which Ms. Rettig encourages us to get serious about focusing on one main type of activism in one activist movement, around which all of one’s activist work should focus. This reminds me so much of an incredibly valuable piece of advice I received from my CPE supervisor. Upon listening to my complaint of having a great many interests (I really do want to do All The Things) but having to choose just one to focus on, she said, “You can do all the things, just not all at once.” Hearing that was a watershed moment for me, and freed me from feeling guilty about not giving equal time to everything I felt called to right at that very moment.
One of the things that haunts me in some way is this tug between our life purposes to which God continually calls us versus the generally rigorous, even relentless, schedules of our everyday lives. It is easy to get pulled or sucked into the merry-go-round of life as we know it, spending little time on that to which God has actually called us – and I have discovered, between feeling like I squandered my 20s away, then figuring out to what God called me, followed by a time of goal-setting and goal-meeting, as well as the death of my parents and other dear family, that life is incredibly short. So short! So it is truly important to make the most of our lives, and even attempt to live in the moment – which I know is a real challenge, one that is easier talked about than actually done.
And sometimes when we have found at least part of our work to which God calls us, it can be equally demanding and relentless on our schedules – and we can even find ourselves getting lost in that work, wondering just where and who we are in it. This is why planning and goal-setting is so important. We may have multiple interests, and it is possible to explore them all, but planning when to explore them can help many of us feel less anxious that we will get around to them, and less lost in them when we do get around to them.
Talk with God and people you trust about your Activist Project Histories, then make your Activism Goals List from the questions listed in the exercise at the end of the chapter.
Check out the Find Your FBCO Map to find your local faith-based community organizing affiliate and connect with the people who are working together to live out their dreams of a more just world! What’s going on in your living of the Gospel? Let us know in the comments, in our e-mail discussion group, or on social media.
- “Disciples Public Presence Conference.” Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), n.d. https://disciples.org/event/disciples-public-presence-conference/.
- “Justice Primer & Study Guide.” Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 2016. https://www.discipleshomemissions.org/about-us/disciples-advocate/justice-primer/.
- Achtemeier, Elizabeth. “Joel: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. V of X. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2015.
- Brueggemann, Walter. “The Minor Prophets (1)” in An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.
- Disciples News Services. “Disciples Public Presence Conference Kickstarts Conversation.” Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 18 September 2018. https://disciples.org/general/disciples-public-presence-conference-kickstarts-conversation/
- Gowan, Donald. “Amos: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Vol. V of X. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2015.
- Jacobson, Rolf. “Enter the Bible: Hosea,” n.d. http://www.enterthebible.org/oldtestament.aspx?rid=22.
- Luther Seminary. “Enter the Bible,” n.d. http://www.enterthebible.org/.
- Rettig, Hillary. The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way. New York, NY: Lantern Books, 2006.
- Rettig, Hillary. “The Importance of Focus / Creating Your Activism Goals List” in The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way. New York, NY: Lantern Books, 2006. http://lifelongactivist.com/part-i-managing-your-mission/the-importance-of-focuscreating-your-activism-goals-list/
- Schaper, Donna, ed. 40-Day Journey with Howard Thurman. 40-Day Journey. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Books, 2009. https://openlibrary.org/books/OL23575518M/40-day_journey_with_Howard_Thurman.
- Yee, Gail A., “Introduction to Hosea” in The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary.