There is change for racial justice and equity in the air in Boston, to an extent that I previously only hoped for but could not heretofore have envisioned. And as I look ahead to attending Sojourners’ upcoming leadership Summit, which focuses on the intersections and implications of race across numerous justice issues, I expect and pray for change to be in the air in D.C., and that the same winds may fill our sails in June.
Editor’s Note: We’ve had the privilege of connecting with many members of the broader Sojourners community (including some of you reading this!) during Sojourners President Jim Wallis’ America’s Original Sin book and town hall tour. Our conversations in cities like New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Portland are serving as a tool to engage people – particularly people of faith and white people — more robustly on issues of white privilege, race relations, criminal justice reform, and inequalities work. The conversations have already been so rich and we wanted to capture a few reflections from those we see on the road to share with you all. The following reflection is from Alicia Philipp, CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, who we met up with at the Atlanta History Center gathering alongside 70 of CFGA’s donors and board members.
Hollywood star Denzel Washington, the son of a pastor, preached a sermon of gratefulness Nov. 7 to hundreds of members of the Church of God in Christ at their annual Holy Congregation in downtown St. Louis.
“I pray that you put your slippers way under your bed at night, so that when you wake in the morning you have to start on your knees to find them. And while you’re down there, say thank you,” he told the crowd at a $200-a-plate banquet at the Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel to raise money for the denomination’s charity work.
“It is impossible to be grateful and hateful at the same time,” he said.
“We have to have an attitude of gratitude.”
Over 400 participants from all continents (barring Antarctica) gathered on Messiah College’s campus in Harrisburg, Pa., to further their understanding of Anabaptist teachings while exploring what it means to be a part of the global church during the 2015 Global Youth Summit, under the theme, “Called to Share: My Gifts, Our Gifts.” Participants engaged in deep learning through workshops led by professors and historians, connected to their history through historical Mennonite tours all over Pennsylvania where they visited museums and Mennonite churches and met Amish families, and tapped into their musical side with globally-infused worship.
My role as the North America representative for the summit (which coincided with the 2015 Mennonite World Conference) meant meeting with delegates on an individual basis — the delegates being representatives from global conferences. It meant hearing stories about home churches and struggles with governments, and discussions about theologically Anabaptist responses to violence and change in all four corners of the earth.
And, of course, it meant witnessing people randomly break out in song and dance. Both a boisterous drum circle and competitive games of Dutch Blitz lasted well into the night.
Influenced in her early 20s by the civil rights movement, Barbara learned about Sojourners during the time that she and her husband served in Tanzania with the Peace Corps. Experiences interacting with folks diverse in religious belief and race during this time profoundly influenced her understanding of faith and social justice. She shares that her life has been influenced by Catholics and Mennonites, pagans and Methodists, Anglicans, Quakers, Hindus, and Buddhists: “At the core, a lot of us on the planet are looking for the same thing: to get along with one another, to have enough to eat, [and] to be able to live with some measure of safety and security.”
I spoke with James Tufenkian, founder of Tufenkian Foundation which serves to promote social, economic, cultural and environment justice in Armenia as it recovers from its genocide. I asked him about his connection with Sojourners, and how his work and faith intersect.
Ariana Denardo (AD): How did you get connected with Sojourners, and why did you decide to become a donor?
James Tufenkian (JT): My brother, a retired pastor, and I were having a series of conversations about the involvement of the church in social issues. He mentioned Sojourners, so I visited the website, read the magazine, and got interested. I found Sojourners to be the best, maybe the only organization I know of that works on social justice as Christians living out Christ’s example. It was natural for me to want to support that in different ways, one of them being as a donor.
I think we’ve all been there: physically tired, emotionally battered, and spiritual frustrated. This combination of conditions often lead to the thought of wondering if anybody cares — not just for you, but for the things that you are passionate about. You may feel like the last person standing, the only one who has a sincere zeal for what you’ve been called to address. ...
The Summit provided a unique setting that brought together leaders from the business and urban communities, others from the front lines of inner city racial inequality protests, and rural communities of both national and international descent.
Editor’s Note: We at Sojourners thought it would be nice to share first-hand reflections of this year’s leadership Summit: World Change Through Faith & Justice from participants to give a little glimpse into the impact and experience. Our first post comes from Rev. Louise Howlett of Middleton, Del., who was a first-time attendee nominated by fellow sojourner and changemaker Louise Coggins, with whom she serves on the board of VISIONS-Inc.
My first Sojourners Summit was a powerful experience. I was not sure if I belonged there at first, and expected to be intimidated by the fervor and zeal of other participants. My work is on a small scale and is often more about personal transformation and interpersonal change than large-scale systemic change.
Yet I found the stories told from the podium, the sharing at the tables, the teaching in the workshops and panels, and the music and visual arts in response to be both inviting and empowering. Being with people of faith from all different backgrounds and faith groups bonding in prayer and care for justice — and sharing in fighting racism, war, poverty, and systems of oppression — felt hopeful.
Sometimes care for justice feels lonely and hard, like swimming upstream. But being in a gathering like the Sojourners Summit reminded me that hundreds and thousands of people of faith are out in their communities praying and working together to make change.
One interesting fact about Sojourners history: when we began publishing the magazine, it was distributed for free on several college campuses. For the past two years we’ve renewed that tradition as part of a tour of historically black colleges and universities.
In February, Lisa Sharon Harper, Sojourners’ Chief Church Engagement Officer, spoke with students at four HBCU campuses across the country