Archive for Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lawrence congregations unite to fight social injustices

March 5, 2014


Several Lawrence congregations have joined to tackle the community's most prevalent social injustices.

Members of the interfaith council, still in its infancy, hope to address the root causes of social problems such as poverty, illness and crime to prevent them from festering.

"We're not talking about immediate needs," said the Rev. Rob Baldwin of Trinity Episcopal Church. "In Lawrence, we already have a great homeless shelter, great food pantries, a great domestic violence shelter. The idea is to go up the river a bit, where we can mobilize and affect systemic change."

Participating congregations

Centenary United Methodist


First Baptist

First Christian

First Presbyterian

First United Methodist

Good Shepherd Lutheran

Immanuel Lutheran

Lawrence Islamic Center

Lawrence Indian United Methodist

Morning Star Christian

Peace Mennonite

Plymouth Congregational

The Salvation Army

St. Margaret Episcopal

St. Luke African Methodist Episcopal

Trinity Episcopal

Trinity Lutheran


Victory Bible

About 160 leaders from nearly two dozen congregations, from Baptist to Muslim to Mennonite, met over the weekend for an orientation on the new organization and to begin setting goals. While the group intends to identify the specific issues it will try to address later this year, its leaders hope to build an organization that is sustainable for the long-term.

"Really what's being built in Lawrence is a vehicle for religious congregations to continuously work on whatever problems they identify in the community," said Ben MacConnell, who does congregation-based community organizing for the Direct Action and Research Training Center in Lawrence, or DART. "They'll work on something then retire it then work on something else."

MacConnell has been involved in similar organizations around the country that have, for example, helped pass legislation to curb predatory payday lending, implement phonics-based reading at low-performing schools, and give drug offenders the option of treatment over jail. "Each city works to identify its own local problems, researches them and looks for best practices that have worked in other cities," he said.

The idea was hatched when a pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Gary Teske, approached MacConnell to find out more about DART. Teske, who has since retired, reached out to fellow clergy members, and about three dozen of them showed up for a preliminary meeting last fall.

Another goal behind the group is for local churches to coalesce around the issues they have in common rather than being divided by theological differences.

"This brings us all together regardless of what religion we are or what denomination we represent," said the Rev. Verdell Taylor of St. Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church. "We're all created beings. We are all created by God. We want to make sure that all people are able to come to the table and be treated fairly."


Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 3 months ago

“Power in the hands of the reformer is no less potentially corrupting than in the hands of the oppressor.” ― Derrick A. Bell, Ethical Ambition: Living a Life of Meaning and Worth

My thing is that social justice is just an excuse for middle class people of a certain disposition to get together and massage their egos.

I lived in the Salvation Army for six months and now I am glad that I did, because it did open my eyes about a few things. There was the diversity of people there that you would find anywhere. There were those who got monthly checks from somewhere and spent it at the Jayhawk Motel in one week or two partying with their friends.

Then there were those who got up and went to work every day and put their paychecks in the safe at the Salvation Army, because they were saving up to get an apartment. And, I know that most of those made it and are still working and still have a home.

They accomplished this though their own hard work and the tough love of the Salvation Army which does change people for the better if they let it. I am impressed by how they labored and cared about us and what happened to us, and I am disheartened by those who came in drunk and threw it right back in their face, who cursed them, who slashed their tires, who finally drove them out of the homeless shelter business.

I believe that people can change as long as they are alive, but when you have a woman in her forties who leaves the apartment she finally got because she just couldn't deal with it, she would rather live in the woods, then what do you do?

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