Social Justice Ministry and Committee
Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill’s history of social justice engagement dates to the 1960s and includes issues of civil rights. refugee resettlement, and ministry to Native Americans; a major financial and parish-wide commitment to outreach locally, regionally and internationally since the 1990s; and a strong and growing creation care ministry focused in part on climate justice.
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020, Immanuel's Vestry initiated a new social justice ministry, focused initially on racial justice and on looking inward, learning and dialogue.
The first nine months of our parish social justice ministry have started “Telling the Truth” and “Proclaiming the Dream.” We have had listening sessions with many people in the parish from diverse demographic backgrounds and political perspectives. We have made this ministry a Vestry priority, creating two Vestry Co-Steward positions for Social Justice, and recently formed a Social Justice committee to identify and implement priorities for the next twelve months that are intended to carry social justice and Becoming Beloved Community into the fabric of every aspect of parish life and of who we are as a parish.
In 2021, we created two learning and dialogue spaces. Fifteen parishioners (including one of our three clergy and one of the two Social Justice Co-Stewards) participated in a Sacred Ground dialogue circle. A second of our three clergy led a Bible study on conquest, respect for racial differences and indigenous people, and alternative readings of Old Testament history in a Joshua bible study, in which the other Vestry Co-Steward was a participant. These two groups have created a core of people eager to take this ministry more broadly into the parish.
As a parish it’s clear we need to continue to learn, tell the truth, proclaim the dream and look inward at ourselves and the institutions of which we are part. But at the same time, we now must begin looking, and taking action, in an outward direction as well.
NEWS and APPEALS
Criminal Justice Grant:
Over a number of years, several clergy and parishioners have engaged in individual efforts to be part of Jesus’s call to “visit me while I was in prison,” to “set the captives free,” and to “let justice roll down like waters.” With Father Randy’s encouragement, the Social Justice Committee submitted a proposal in April to the national church to deepen Immanuel’s engagement in criminal justice and in supporting those behind bars, their families, and those coming back into the community, with a strong element of deeper education of our own parish on these issues. Last month Immanuel was awarded a $6,000 grant to begin this work. A committee comprised of Karen Besser, Jamie Conrad, Katherine Smith, David Atwood, and Kathryn Jackson Haskin has done initial planning, and we have reached out to potential partners including Offender Aid and Restoration, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, and Alleyne AME Zion Church in Old Town.
Action Item: We now seek your support. Would you consider praying for those in prison, for prison guards and administration, and for a more just and merciful criminal justice system locally and in Virginia; for those you know who are in any way part of or affected by the criminal justice system; for the Social Justice Committee and our clergy as we begin to use this grant to help those affected by incarceration while trying to support a more just system; and for your own possible calling to this ministry -- or at least to learn more about it -- in confidence (not fear) of where the Lord may be leading you.
Sacred Ground Dialogue Circle
Sacred Ground offers a safe space to learn and be in dialogue about experiences, feelings, and concerns regarding personal identity, racial history and reconciliation, and justice. It has been developed by the national Episcopal Church and “field tested” by seventeen Immanuelites this past Winter and Spring. (If you want to talk to some of them or ask them questions, feel free to contact Katherine Smith, Marilynn Wilson, or Nancy Reuschel.) Ten small group sessions -- based on intensive reading and film viewing homework -- review chapters of America’s history of race and racism, while weaving in threads of family story, economic class, and political and regional identity. More details are available here.
Action item: Please consider signing up for the upcoming Sacred Ground dialogue circle, which will be biweekly on Monday evenings at 7:30 PM, from September 20 and going through January and facilitated by Chrissie Crosby.
Please contact David Atwood or Kathryn Haskin to sign up. Thank you.