Faithfulness ministries are activities that encourage our members to grow in their relationships with God; this includes worship, scripture studies, and prayer. Most congregations are doing faithfulness well. We gather at least 52 times a year for worship and provide many other opportunities for prayer and study.
Mercy ministries are the ways in which we help individuals with immediate needs; this includes serving at soup kitchens, volunteering at homeless shelters, and giving money to organizations that provide services for those in need. Most congregations are doing mercy well. We serve at LINK and volunteer for Family Promise and give generously to help meet the needs of our community.
Justice ministries, on the other hand, addresses systems rather than individuals. The distinction between justice and mercy ministries is important.
- A mercy response to homelessness involves contributing to food programs and maintaining shelters.
- A justice response takes action to address the underlying questions:
◦ Why are there so many homeless people in our community?
◦ Why are many families unable to afford a decent place to live?
◦ Why are so many people with mental health problems ending up on the streets?
Both mercy and justice are required by God; mercy helps individuals, justice seeks systemic improvements. So how are our congregations doing with justice ministries? Probably not as well as we would like.
There is a good reason for this: no congregation has enough leverage to effectively do justice on its own.
In the public arena where decisions that impact communities are made, we often see two types of power: organized money and organized people. Many are familiar with the leverage that organized money yields. Lobbyists, lawyers, paid advertising, campaign contributions, etc. are often utilized to impact public decisions. Our congregations do not possess this type of money. But we can bring together large numbers of passionate, informed people committed to seeing justice in our community.
Justice Matters is a vehicle for congregations to do justice through the power of large numbers of organized people. We will listen to the concerns of everyday people, research solutions that have proven to work, and demonstrate broad public support while submitting well-researched proposals to the city. For Lawrence, this means practical, improvements to the quality of life for all at system-wide levels. Depending on our research, we may seek responsibility in cases of neglect. Efficiency in cases of waste. Fresh ideas in cases of stagnation. Light where there is darkness. For people of faith, this means we can fulfill our requirement to do justice as laid before us in Micah and Matthew.
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