I am very excited to join UUCF as the new social justice coordinator, and always delighted to talk about what social justice is. It is mission-driven work. For UUCF that means “transforming ourselves, our community and the world through acts of love and justice.” Social justice ministry calls us to apply that mission to a world where so many people struggle to meet basic needs – from affording housing or medical care, to facing harassment because of race or immigration status, to being repeatedly denied work due to disability or a criminal record, to being unwelcome or marginalized in spaces that are not designed for you.
Social justice is not charity. It is not what we choose to give. Social justice is what we are asked to do to overcome what is wrong and create what is right. We may be doing acts of service, witness, education, advocacy and community organizing. We may be connecting with people, being of service when we are asked to be and speaking up when we must (about racism, gun violence, housing, immigration, climate change, etc.). Whatever we do, all of it is about healing and fixing society’s woundedness.
Social justice is transformative work. Transformation means we gain something but also give something up. Justice comes at the cost of privilege. Right relationships come at the cost of focusing on the individual. Sustainability comes at the cost of complacency. We all play a role. It is not the responsibility of that person over there who, if only they would change or get out of the way, things would be alright. To see how we are part of the problem is to see how we might be part of the solution, and social justice always contains an element of soul searching.
Love is the force that propels us to seek transformation, even when it is difficult, and love is what gives us the resilience to do the work. I need spiritual nourishment. I need to meditate every day on the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been and the lessons that teach me life is good. I need to cry at suffering, and I must remember the people who will be there when I need them. I need love, to give it and receive it. I need love that is elating and love that is demanding, and I need a balance, which allows me to do my best.
What I do to ground myself may not work for you, but part of the job of a social justice ministry is to find what allows us to act resiliently and sustainably together. We do this through “praxis,” or the cycle of practice and reflection. Everything we do – be it advocating in Richmond, helping to run a temporary shelter, deepening our understanding of racial inequality or supporting someone through dangerous situations in court – all of it teaches lessons that we have to reflect on in order to really learn. As the social justice coordinator, my goal is to assist our praxis. I am happy to serve this congregation, and grateful for the opportunity.