Uh, What’s a Public Meeting?

Have you looked around lately at what is going on in the world around us? Does it trouble you? Do you feel afraid or angry about it? To me it seems as if every day some new horror is being visited on the American people. I feel badly about this, as do many people. And through a great many life experiences, I have learned a few things:

  1. failure isn’t fatal (most of the time) – and can indeed be a great learning experience!
  2. as a progressive person of faith, I am not alone
  3. if I want to not be too depressed to get out of bed in the morning, I need to be and work with local communities who are working to make things better locally
  4. there can be great energy in seemingly small actions

This isn’t necessarily the sum total of my life learning, but it covers a lot of what keeps me involved in my leadership at MCU (Metropolitan Congregations United) when I feel too busy or otherwise overburdened by one more thing to do (like I don’t have enough to do already – anyone else feel this way?). My work and the relationships I have built at and through MCU are life-giving. Indeed, I believe that FBCO (Faith-Based – or Congregation-Based – Community Organizing) is
“good Christians’ ” best hope for publicly living out their values and making a tangible difference in the world in terms of building and revealing God’s realm.

This past Sunday was MCU’s public meetings: four simultaneous meetings in North St. Louis County, St. Louis City, St. Charles, and Webster Groves (a moment of which is pictured above). I find sometimes that people look at me with what seems like genuine interest when I start talking about MCU and asking them to attend an MCU public meeting, then something of the utmost importance comes up and  they are unable to attend the meeting. (And honestly, who hasn’t done this – we all have our own priorities, don’t we?) But why are MCU public meetings so important that I would prioritize them over, say, my regular Sunday afternoon nap? – which is super important to me!

Okay, so back to the original point of this post: what’s a public meeting? I know when I first became involved at MCU I had no idea what one was or why I should go. I mean, why does my presence matter? Am I just going to get sucked into another group and mailing list by giving out my information? It is interestingly challenging to find the answer to the question, what is a public meeting? The first MCU public meeting I went to was at the St. Louis University campus in the student center, and it was something about the fire department and the mayor, I think. I don’t really remember too much about its details. I went because someone specifically asked me to go, and because I was curious about MCU. But I honestly didn’t really know why I was there or what good it would do me or MCU to be there. I remember some people I knew from seminary that were there leading it – my pastor at the time, and another friend. I remember signing in, hesitant to do so, wondering what this organization might do with my information.

And yet public meetings are a very basic element of FBCO, along with relationship-building, other smaller meetings, and campaigns. Faith-based community organizing groups tend to hold public meetings to draw attention to our campaigns, which are based on local issues, giving people in the area a chance to learn about the issue, the campaign, see what’s been done about it, hold local officials accountable, and generate energy and excitement about what has been done and won so far, and what still needs to happen. MCU generally has public meetings on an annual basis. In them we invite public officials to make public commitments to remedy things that have not been right in the community, especially as they align with our current issue campaigns. We also use them to draw attention to other campaigns like voter engagement and legislative reform and fair wages for people who live in Missouri. Sometimes they receive media coverage, letting people know that there are ways of responding to issues beyond voting or sticking one’s head in the sand.

Of course, it’s not a public meeting if there’s not a call for further action at the end. MCU’s calls to action are:

1. Make sure you and all your friends are registered to vote in the upcoming election. The deadline to register to vote in this election is OCTOBER 10 (which has since passed)! But do check your voter registration here: https://s1.sos.mo.gov/elections/voterlookup/ and VOTE on NOVEMBER 6!

2. Join the Amendment 1 and Prop B campaigns to knock on doors and call people to get out to vote. Email Dietra Baker at [email protected] for more information.

3. Attend the Break the Pipeline Orientation on Tuesday, November 27, 6:30pm at the MCU Office. More info here: https://www.facebook.com/events/180245889534904/

4. Attend the MCU Annual Membership Assembly on Thursday, January 31, 2019 at 5:30pm. More info here: https://www.facebook.com/events/169844147259502/

5. Join MCU’s e-mail list by e-mailing [email protected]

6. Follow MCU on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/MCUStLouis/ and Twitter here: https://twitter.com/MCUStLouis

Thanks for being a part of living democracy! We don’t have to do this alone – and when we organize, we can create long-lasting people-powered community change!

As I searched for information about the reasons for holding and how to plan a public meeting, you may be surprised to learn that while community organizers and academic researchers alike refer to public meetings, I found very little about reasoning behind and planning for public meetings as such. What I tended to find was couched in the more general concepts of community organizing meetings and planning actions, as well as public meetings held by other institutions that are concerned both with presenting information and gathering input from meeting participants – and yet there is plenty of information on community organizing in general, and community organizers often discuss public meetings. Sometimes what is not written about is just as fascinating as what is! If you have any good resources for planning and otherwise learning about public meetings in community organizing, please let me know.

Think

This week we continue on in and finish Jonah, and move onto Micah. As Limburg in Hosea-Micah (Interpretation) puts it, “Why should we pay attention to [the words of the prophets] today? To a world as torn and troubled as any, these prophets brought a word which they identified as a word from God. They took up the cause of the powerless, calling for justice to roll through the land like a mighty stream and challenging their hearers to do justice (Amos, Micah). They spoke of peace, promising a day when nations would no longer be engaged in an arms race but would beat swords into plowshares. They spoke of a ruler who would bring peace, a Messiah who would come from Bethlehem (Micah). They told of the remarkable forgiving, nurturing, and healing love of God (Hosea), who would take up the people’s sins and throw them into the depths of the sea (Micah). The single story about a prophet in this collection tells about God’s amazing grace and issues a challenge to get the word about that grace out to the teeming cities of the world (Jonah).” (p. xiii)

What has God challenged you to do that you would run away from?

Pray

This week we’re in Chapter 10, “Health and Fitness” of The Lifelong Activist. How are your health and fitness? Do you make time for them on a regular basis? Rettig is as usual full of wisdom: because bad health drains us and neglect of it can have unfortunate consequences, “‘self-care,’ meaning the care and nurturing of your physical and emotional being, should always be your top priority. Although this sounds selfish, it is actually quite practical. By spending a few hours each week maintaining your physical and emotional health, you ensure that you have maximum energy and motivation to devote to working on your activism and other goals.” (p. ?)

Later in the chapter she encourages us to write a list of health goals. What are your health goals, both mental and physical? How do they relate to the rest of your life and God’s call in your life? Do you take adequate time for self-care? If not, what is your plan to start doing that? Join the discussion here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/peopleofthebooks/

Act

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.

Resources

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