I was on the phone this morning talking to April Johnson who is the head of the Reconciliation Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) told her about our participation in the BREAD organization. Last year we received a grant for BREAD and we will be asking for more money this year.
We have been part of BREAD - a social justice network in Columbus for about 4 years and it truly has made a difference in our church and in my own life. One of the blessings of this past year was that I got to go to Florida for a pastor's conference and I still refer to the notes I took at that time.
Anyway, I ended up writing a testimonial about Bread and sending it to her this morning so that she could use it in her writing about the work of Reconciliation. I thought I would share it here. Our "year of appreciation" I appreciate BREAD!
I thought I would just write a quick testimonial as a pastor to express on paper what a blessing it has been for me to work with the BREAD organization in Columbus Ohio.
Karl Road Christian Church is one 54 faith communities that work together to “do justice” in the city of Columbus.
We all know that we are called to to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God but I know is that as a church we are better at “mercy ministries” more than “doing justice.” At our church, for example, we have after school programs, a ministry to AA, we give food to the hungry, we give away school supplies and coats in the fall. And this is all important, but in so many ways, it is just a bandaid. We may be touching or even changing someone’s life, but we are not tackling the systemic work of justice ministry.
Through working with others in the BREAD organization we are able to be part of a movement that may actually change the system - whether it is predatory lending to poor people, institutional racism, or unfair housing practices.
But it is actually more than that. BREAD has transformed me and members of our congregation. Our “year” with bread starts in the fall with small group meetings in which we talk candidly about the social justice issues that affect us personally in our daily lives. It is an opportunity for fellowship and deep sharing about the condition of people’s lives. We have truly become closer in community just from going to these meetings. Through this process we discern the three most important issues in our congregation.
Later our representatives will join the rest of the faith communities to discern what is the most important issue for BREAD to explore for the year. In January the research team studies and eventually identifies a workable solution. The culmination is our gathering in May with thousands of other BREAD members to show our power and get the attention of the public officials to work on the solution.
That “Nehemiah Action” meeting is always informative and inspiring.
One of my members has said that she reads the newspaper differently now that we are part of the BREAD organization.
Bread has changed us and it certainly has changed me. What I have learned is that the work of “doing justice” is slow and it cannot be done by one church or one denomination. It is really important for us to be able to work together with other like minded people of faith as we seek to make stand against the “market forces” that puts a price tag on human beings and says that some are worth more than others.
In February I went to the clergy conference that was sponsored by DART and was greatly inspired and encouraged. This is what I learned:
We are called as pastors to educate our congregations to become justice factories with Jesus kind of anger. It requires a toughness, perseverance and the willingness to work with others.
And so, BREAD has been a blessing and a transforming agent to me and to my church. And I recommend this kind of social justice organization to other churches.