The Common Good
July-August 1997

Pentecost and Beyond

by Rev. Emory Searcy Jr. | July-August 1997

Local actions build energy for fall national conference

God’s law was written on tablets of stone for human eyes to read, and goodness was regarded as right conduct. After Pentecost, God’s law is written on hearts and becomes an inward impulse, and goodness is regarded as right motive inspiring right behavior. With the gift of Jesus, and then the Spirit at Pentecost, God sought to lay hold of humanity’s souls.

In times like these, the church must persuade—not just proclaim—the good news. The test of our love for Christ is not how strongly we say we believe, but how effectively we persuade and translate our beliefs into action.

Call to Renewal’s "Pentecost for the Poor" brought together our Christian values, experience, and community in an effective public witness. Pentecost gave us an opportunity to sing, pray, and march together, reconciling diverse interests for the well being of the whole human race and showing our commitment to the dignity of every person.

The challenge to seek justice for the poor is not an abstract idea, but an urgent attempt to confront poverty, dependency, joblessness, and declining real income for many poor families. We must also confront the growing hostility toward those who are poor, along with refugees and immigrants.

This commitment took many forms, at state capitols, county courthouses, municipal buildings, and houses of worship:

  • In Michigan, prayer and preaching highlighted the public witnesses at the Calhoun County Justice Center in Battle Creek and the capitol building in Lansing.
  • The Church Council of Greater Seattle held a service with Bishop McKinley Young, president of the council of bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
  • The Minnesota Council of Churches distributed resources to clergy, including stories of the impact of welfare reform on poor Minnesotans.
  • In Miami, a walkathon and public declaration of faith called for justice for the most vulnerable among us.
  • In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, God’s people came together to demonstrate their renewed commitment to work for justice for people made poor.
  • In Ohio, groups of local churches organized events in Springfield, Toledo, Dayton, and Columbus.
  • In Blacksburg, Virginia, and Binghamton, New York, pastors and service providers led services and prayer at county courthouses.
  • A service and choir festival was held at the Utah Center Plaza in Salt Lake City.
  • In Atlanta, breakfast for the homeless was followed by a press conference and citywide prayer service.
  • In Washington, D.C., the Capital Area Community Food Bank and national Call to Renewal hosted a worship service and food sorting.

And in congregations around the country, worship services, sermons, and prayers focused on the Pentecost for the Poor theme. These events gave God’s people the opportunity to show America and the world the church’s role in advocating critical values of human rights and social justice.

Over the summer months, we will travel to many of the locations that held events. In working together for Pentecost, new "tables"—seating evangelicals, Catholics, black church members, mainline Protestants, and pentecostals—were set in many communities. We will work with local pastors and organizers to expand and broaden these networks.

The 1996 Call to Renewal conference focused on providing an alternative voice in election year debates. Our second annual conference, this October 17-18, will focus on an agenda of overcoming poverty, dismantling racism, affirming life, and rebuilding family and community. We will work together to seek common ground and new partnerships. With two days of speakers, dialogue, networking, and training, the conference will be an opportunity to meet with others from around the country to share, learn, and build the network.

Plan now to attend and bring a group from your congregation, organization, or local network. The Call to Renewal is growing; the fall conference will take us to a new level of translating our faith into concrete action in our communities.

Sojourners is an active participant in the Call to Renewal network, providing leadership and organizing support. To receive the Call newsletter, send your name and address to Call to Renewal, 2401 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009; (202) 328-8842. To volunteer at the D.C. office, please call Sue Stine. For a complete listing of Pentecost events held around the country and regularly updated information on the national conference, see the Call to Renewal home page at www.ari.net/calltorenewal

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