What does the Lord require of you? Of me? Of us together? This is at the very core of the calling of Justice and Witness Ministries in particular and the United Church of Christ in general.
We have an inspiring history of doing justice; for example, our abolition work, our civil rights work and our recognition of God calling women and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons to ordained ministry. We have a history of loving kindness through our generous support of such programs as Habitat for Humanity. And we have a history of walking humbly with God as we have walked with "the least of these" in our society, be they farm workers or those on death row or those with HIV/AIDS.
What does the Lord require of us here and now? In this issue of United Church News, three Justice and Witness Ministries staff write about ways we in the UCC can seek to do justice in an unjust world (see center pages).
How can we, in our local churches, do justice? The World Council of Churches has declared the decade beginning 2001 as a Decade to Overcome Violence. It has invited churches around the world to declare ending violence as part of their mission.
It has invited churches to work:
to end violence against women in our homes;
to end the violence of war;
to end the culture of violence found in movies, music, videos and computer games; and
to end violence in whatever form it appears in our own communities.
What if every one of our UCC churches declared that ending violence would be part of its mission for the next decade? What if we prayed for peace, worked for peace, wrote letters for peace, and helped children to be agents of peace? What if we made our local churches sanctuaries of peace for battered women and children? What if we worked to end gun violence in our communities? What if we worked to end the violence of poverty or police brutality?
Every local church can do something to end violence. Together we can be a strong voice for change, a powerful network of prayer for peace, a strong example of doing justice in our world today. If your church already has engaged in some effort to overcome violence, please send an account (with photos, if available) to United Church News.
The new staff of Justice and Witness Ministries has spent time doing Bible study focusing on overcoming violence. Each of our teams has been studying, praying and trying to discern God's word for us today. The results will become the first resource of the new Justice and Witness Ministries and will be available in January for local churches to use in their own discernment processes.
Let us join together with churches around the world in working to overcome violence. Let us do justice in our own communities, knowing that we join others in the same mission. Let us do this because there is power in prayer, there is power in unity and because, with God, all things are possible.
Bernice Powell Jackson is Executive Minister of Justice and Witness Ministries.