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A Strategy for Social Justice

This is a menu of the topics on this page (click on any): What does Social Justice mean ?    How can we work for Social Justice ?        Priorities and Criteria for Planning or Selecting Outreach Ministries    An Outreach Ministry Fair    Links to websites that have been helpful   .

Charity or Justice, by Bill Moyers.

Charity is commendable; everyone should be charitable. But justice aims to create a social order in which if individuals choose not to be charitable, people will not go hungry, unschooled or sick without care. Charity depends on the vicissitudes of whim and personal wealth; justice depends on commitment instead of circumstance. Faith-based charity provides crumbs from the table; faith-based justice offers a place at the table.

Source: Foreword, Faith Works: From the Life of an Activist Preacher by Jim Wallis

This is a first draft of some thoughts about what social justice might mean for our faith community (3/2/06). This is a big subject, and this short document may simply be a personal journey. But it is the groundwork for a new ministry which we are calling Beloved Community and it describes an event that our church might like to create or participate in, An Outreach Ministry Fair If you are reading this as a paper document, you might find it better on the internet so you can click on the many links.

  1. What does Social Justice mean ?

    "Social justice has different meanings for different people.
    1. Some feel it involves righting wrongs, often requiring confrontation.
    2. Some see it as ensuring essential services are available to needy families and people.
    3. Some see it as equal opportunity.
    4. Our view is that "call" is an essential part of the spiritual life to which Jesus has invited us and that one's call and one's sense of social justice will evolve together. "Call is an opportunity to be blessed and to bless others. Call is what we hear God asking us to be and to do to help create a just and loving world. When we are "called," our being and our doing complete each other. Our work becomes essential to our fulfillment and to the realization of the Kingdom of God". (quote from COS SLS course catalogue).

  2. How can we work for Social Justice ?

    Our theology recognizes a tension in human nature that assures that there will be times for each of us when we are denied justice. Some of us will be denied opportunity at a grievous level. And there is no doubt that our theology requires that we help others in their times of need. So, a strategy for social justice is a plan for making the most of the resources we can make available for working towards social justice. We believe that such a plan will include the following principles.
    1. A "call to commitment" is an essential part of a spiritual life that is authentic to Jesus's teaching. (discipleship)
    2. Resources that we need to bring forth include both volunteer time and financial contributions.
    3. Our giving must distinguish between and balance our desire to
      1. Honor God and enrich our worship experience (e.g. our faith community, our retreat center)
      2. Help others
      3. Fulfill our commitments in our community (e.g. the Diocese)
    4. Plan giving thoughtfully; identify needs and design appropriate solutions.
    5. It is easier to help an existing agency than to create a new agency.
    6. There may be structures and disciplines that will make make our ministries work better. Let's discover them.
    7. Collaboration with other churches, agencies and service providers will help us be efficient and effective.

  3. Here is the beginning of a list of things our church might do within it's ministry for social justice.
    1. We should honor, respect and support those of us who are well engaged in social ministry.
    2. We should ensure that our educational program includes social justice.
    3. We should create a means for making opportunities for working towards social justice evident.
      1. We have created a database of 475 helping organizations . Nearly all are in Boca Raton, Palm Beach County and nearby counties. This is intended to enable us to:
        1. Find assistance for people needing assistance,
        2. Find places where individuals among us would like to offer assistance, either financially or as a volunteer, and
        3. Participate in a caring community in whatever ways emerge.
      2. We might like to say that maintaining this database as a service to our community is among our ministries. That could be a way to encourage members and/or youth to learn about service organizations. Some people, especially young people, might be drawn into service with non-profits while seeking information about them to improve the database.
      3. The database of service providers could be in Excel so it can easily be expanded, maintained and shared.
    4. We should consider how we want to talk about social justice. Is the description at the beginning of this page useful ? Or would a "higher level" description work better.
    5. Would we like to develop or use a Litany for Social Justice?
    6. We should examine the foundation documents of our church to see what they say about social justice.
    7. We should see what policies or priorities the diocese or the national office suggest for social justice.
    8. How can we help each other in the discernment of our call and of our talents.
    9. Identify what's getting in the way of service...
      Outreach ministries are sustained by people who feel called and committed; they are precious (but few) Many good people in our church don't feel called by our existing missions.
      Suppose there were more opportunities to serve; might some of us be drawn to purposes we're not seeing.
      • Might someone be called to record books for blind and dyslexic people ?
      • Might someone be called to make sure every child in an enclave of foster homes for children gets a chance to learn to swim ?
      • Might someone be called to teach an underpriviledged child how to use a computer ?
      How might we greatly expand the opportunities to serve that are available to us without biting off more than we can chew ?

  4. Priorities and Criteria for Planning or Selecting Outreach Ministries

    1. Priorities.
      1. People or families not being helped by existing agencies and programs are a priority.
      2. Children are a priority.
    2. Look for opportunities to leverage our effort with collaboration.
    3. Design checks and balances to provide oversight ...

  5. An Outreach Ministry Fair

    We believe that life is enriched for those who are actively engaged in community service and that service is an essential part of one's spiritual life. We believe that if we can present opportunities for useful service that many will respond. Suppose we created an occasion where dozens of service providers needing all kinds of volunteer assistance were easily available for hundreds of visitors interested in how they might help.
    1. Our database of service providers lists 470 helping organizations serving the Boca Raton/Palm Beach/Southeast Florida area.
    2. Our database of congregations lists 800 congregations in Palm Beach County.
    3. An event like we are envisioning was held in Boca Raton on February 26, 2006. It was an interfaith event created by Congregation B'nai Israel and it was called "Mitzvah Day". Service providers included Christian and Jewish organizations as well as many with no religious affiliation. More than 600 people attended touring tables manned by 50 service providers. This was the thirteenth year that this annual event has been held.
    4. An easy way for us to create an Outreach Ministry Fair would be to attend next year's Mitzvah Day which is Sunday, February 25, 2007.
    5. And, of course, we could create a smaller event before then.
    6. Our database of congregations and service providers might make us able to help create similar events in other areas of southeast Florida.

  6. Links to websites that have been helpful

    Evil from Innocence.

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