In this issue, I announce the organization of the Social Action Ministry (SAM) at St John’s and offer ways parishioners can opt-in to get involved.
In recent months I’ve been meeting with four women called to lead social action ministry at St John’s: Kathy Shields, Kathy Ashworth, Kathleen Ferguson, and Marti Dever. Each of the four has a passion for working to make the world better—more peaceful, more just, more harmonious—and each has committed to leading others in this work. The sheer number and complexity of social and environmental ills facing our society can quickly overwhelm even the most dedicated of people. It isn’t just a matter of addressing one problem but rather confronting one problem that is interrelated—tangled together—with a score of other problems. That complexity alone defeats the faint of heart!
Taking social action, then, begins with humility: understanding that the action we take as people or congregations or communities may not fix what’s broken or even move the needle enough for us to perceive. But we take action nonetheless, confident in our faith that the good work we do, taken together with the good work of countless other people and congregations and communities across our nation, will, in fact, yield good fruit. The yield may not be fully realized in our lifetime, but in humility and patience, we are not dissuaded from the work.
The work of social action also requires an intentional and ongoing openness to the Holy Spirit of God—an attentiveness to current events, asking the question: How does God mean for me to respond to what’s happening in my world? I find these qualities of humility, openness, and attentiveness in our four SAM leaders, and working with them has been a privilege.
Our work centered on identifying three broad areas of concern on which to focus our energy as a parish. These three broad areas are:
+ Climate Change and Creation Care (led by Kathy Shields and Kathleen Ferguson)
+ Immigration Reform (led by Marti Dever)
+ Gun Violence Prevention (led by Kathy Ashworth)
Nationally, the clergy and lay delegates of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention have passed many resolutions calling on Episcopalians to work to combat climate change, to care for the earth on which we live, to advocate for justice for immigrants, and to take a stand against gun violence. (In the footnotes to this week’s issue I offer links so you can read about the Church’s positions.) The positions of the Episcopal Church are grounded in the promises we make at baptism and are further rooted in Holy Scripture. The SAM at St John’s is built upon this foundation.
For the last several years, Kathy Ashworth has led an effective “opt-in” network of people interested in gun violence prevention. Her network includes gun owners and non-owners, all of whom share a common interest in supporting legislation that minimizes the risk that guns in society can pose. When there is pertinent legislation being discussed by our state legislature, Kathy alerts network members who then have the option to contact their representatives and make their positions known. As a public witness, the network members also come together to pray (and lead prayer) and ring the church’s tower bell after incidents of mass gun violence.
I asked our SAM leaders to organize two additional opt-in networks based on this model and am pleased to offer you the opportunity to join one of these good groups, described below. If you would like to join one or more of these networks (you can opt out at any time) or have questions please contact the person listed:
St. John’s Action Network for Immigration
Marti Dever email@example.com Email Marti to join this network.
The purpose of St. John’s Action Network for Immigration (SJANI) is to denounce hate and advocate for immigration reform and humane treatment of immigrants and migrants. We will disseminate information and call on organizations and policymakers to create balance regarding the needs of our nation and humane treatment of those seeking asylum or permanent residence in the United States.
The membership will be comprised of those wishing to be part of social action taken on behalf of those seeking asylum or permanent residence in the United States. Network members will: 1) Work to be informed about social injustices affecting migrants and immigrants; 2) Take action as they feel it is appropriate.
Currently, Marti Dever is serving as the chair of SJANI which is part of the Social Action Ministry at St. John’s. The commitment of the chair is to: 1) Solicit members, 2) Screen current issues, 3) Define appropriate action, and 4) Contact the membership electronically inviting them to carry out the action.
Action may include but is not limited to 1) Communicating via email, phone, or in person with organizations or policymakers who are able to influence just treatment of migrants and immigrants, 2) Dissemination of relevant articles, 3) Organizing/attending relevant activities (e.g., guest speaker, prayer vigil).
St John’s Action Network for Climate Change
Kathy Shields firstname.lastname@example.org Email Kathy or Kathleen to join this network.
Kathleen Ferguson email@example.com
The purpose of the SAM Climate Change network is to raise awareness and advocate for the care and protection of creation. This network advocates for the mitigation of any human behavior that threatens the flourishing or survival of all living things, including the warming of our planet, pollution of our oceans and anything that endangers human, animal or plant life.
Membership is comprised of all who recognize that Climate Change is one of the biggest threats facing humanity and our planet today. Network members will serve as communications resources and support for specific actions, including Climate Change legislation, signing appropriate petitions and contacting our representatives as needed.
Currently, Kathy Shields and Kathleen Ferguson lead this network. They are committed to 1) Solicit members, 2) Screen and vet resources and issues for parishioner action, 3) contact membership electronically, inviting them to carry out timely action as needed.
Action may include but is not limited to communicating via email, phone or in person with relevant organizations or policymakers to request action or support for Climate Change Mitigation.
St. John’s Gun Violence Prevention Network
Kathy Ashworth firstname.lastname@example.org Email Kathy to join this network.
The purpose of St. John’s Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) Network is to protect all lives from gun violence by engaging in education, advocacy, and action.
Kathy Ashworth and Kathleen Ferguson were inspired to start this ministry after hearing Pastor Susan’s call-to-action sermon on December 6, 2015, following the San Bernardino mass shooting. Following that horrific incident, St. John’s Social Action Ministry was asked to participate in a Multi-Faith Community Gun Violence Prevention service on February 28, 2016, at the Unitarian Church in Boulder. As a result of that event, a committee of concerned parishioners was formed and has been meeting since.
The GVP Network is comprised of multiple sub-committees including the Rapid Response Network which works to support GVP legislation during the Colorado General Assembly (currently January 4, 2019 to May 3, 2019), the GVP Planning Committee which, for example, hosted St. John’s Community Conversation on Gun Ownership on April 15, 2018, and the general GVP supporters at St. John’s who have attended GVP films, panel presentations, marches and prayer vigils.
St. John’s Gun Violence Prevention Network has been involved in many activities since its inception and will continue to act to protect all lives from gun violence. See summary below.
- Coordinated the bell ringing participants for the 49 Bells Project in honor of the victims of the Orlando massacre.
- Joined students and adults nationwide in a “March for Our Lives” on Saturday, March 24, 2018.
- Hosted St. John’s Community Conversation on Gun Ownership on Sunday, April 15, 2018. This was a safe and respectful conversation between gun owners and non-gun owners.
- Arranged for a BeSMART safe gun storage program speaker following the 9:30 service on September 25th, 2016.
- Affiliated with Colorado Faith Communities United Against Gun Violence.
- Supported the September 25th Concert Across America effort with special prayer liturgy and music at the 9:30 service.
- Planned the showing of the documentary “The Armor of Light” which follows an Evangelical Minister and the mother of a teenage shooting victim who asks, is it possible to be both pro-gun and pro-life?
- Co-sponsored Congregation Bonai Shalom’s November 13th, 2016 panel presentation on Suicide Prevention: Gun Control and Safe Storage.
- Worked with the vestry to establish St. John’s as a Gun-Free Zone.
- Held a Prayer Vigil on October 30, 2018, for the 11 victims of the Tree of Life mass shooting in Pittsburgh.
- Annually hosts a booth at the Boulder County Fair on Gun Violence Prevention with Congregation Bonai Shalom.
So what about all the social issues not listed here? What about human trafficking, racism, sexual assault, discrimination, bullying, affordable housing, homelessness, substance abuse and addiction, poverty, and illiteracy—to name a few? If you are passionate about one of these social issues and are willing to lead others in working to address it, let’s talk. Contact me (Pastor Susan). There’s space on the leadership team for more people who are committed to working for justice and peace in our world.
For now, please prayerfully consider joining one of the three current networks, and join me in giving thanks to God for the leadership of Kathy, Kathy, Kathleen, and Marti.