“We can make something good out of this:” A call to Resurrection

Tragedy provokes us. It lifts us from the places where we no longer can sit within complacency; it forces us to reassess our direction in life. We have heard, a million times, that tragedy brings people together. From my writing research, trying to resolve conflicts between characters, I have learned this togetherness often comes with the recognition of a common enemy, one which is greater than previous divisions. Now, in the light of the violence this past Holy week, I would like to ask: who is the ‘common enemy,’ and how should we respond to them?

Christians are called to live out these instructions in Heb. 13:1-3:

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you are also in the body.

There are no stipulations on this reading. Paul does not say “remember those who are imprisoned unjustly,” or “only show hospitality to those strangers who look and act like you and cause you no discomfort.” This is a difficult reading in theory, and it is even more difficult in practice. How can we truly love our enemies? On a global scale, is it possible to despise the systems that encourage radicalization without despising radical groups and individuals? More simply put, can we hate terrorism without hating terrorists? How can we love God and the dear neighbor without distinction when others seem determined to do the distinguishing for us?

I have to admit that I raise these questions without having a single answer to them – except, maybe, to have faith. By this I do not mean to prescribe inaction, or the assumption that God will take care of things so that we do not have to. On the contrary, it is only through us that God can work. One of the beautiful things about God is that God is the ultimate spin doctor. I think we can pretty well agree that not everything that happens in this world is good. And it is pretty well established in theological studies that God does not simply cause bad things to happen as a part of some ineffable plan to punish the wicked and save the righteous (Job, anyone?)  Not everything happens for a reason. But we can trust that God will create reason for everything that happens.

A small scale example: A few years ago I lost my job. Now, I absolutely do not believe that God caused me to lose my job, or that losing my job was part of some divine plan to put me on a different track. Similarly, I do not believe that God causes death and destruction in order to bring about some greater glory. But after the fact, God can be found in the midst of the mess, tools in hand, saying “we can make something good out of this.” God’s agency is known when we move from the point of tragedy, no matter how large or small, to trust that something good can be made from the ashes of what was.

We are an Easter people, a people of resurrection.  By the reality of our rising, all divisions between us cease. A common enemy brings us together only long enough to define who is “us” and who is “them.” God brings us together when our common factor is love, not hate. Together, we can make all things new.

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Written by Elea Ingman, SJW
Program Assistant in the Justice Office

2016 Session Line-Up: What’s happening in MN politics

Megan and I attended the Session Line-Up event this morning, an event sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits to provide constituents and their affiliated organizations with the opportunity to hear and ask questions of the representatives from both sides of the aisle. We also learned a little more about the construction at the Capitol and what it means for taking legislative action this session.

Without further ado, here are some of the highlights of what we learned:

Construction on the Capitol

Due to the restoration of the Capitol building, the only room currently in use is the House Chambers. If you are interested in viewing a floor session in person, show up early as Public Passes are required, and are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. Otherwise, the floor session can be viewed remotely from Hearing Room 10 in the State Building.

If you would like to request a meeting with your representative during session, you can make the request by visiting the staff in Hearing Room 10. There is not a designated meeting area in the building while it is under construction.

Groups who would like to assemble at the Capitol must first contact the Dept. of Administration for a permit. The meeting area is outside of the Capitol building proper. (find maps here)

Focus Areas this Session

With an extremely short session this year (March 8th to May 23rd), legislators are going to have to work together and buckle down on key issues if they want to get things done. The four legislators who spoke to us at the Session Line-Up identified some common concerns, though, predictably, they had very different ways of solving them.

These focus areas are:

Transportation

Healthcare/MNsure

Education, especially early childhood

Taxes/Budget/Bonding

Best Life Alliance Bill

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Written by Elea Ingman, SJW

International Women’s Day

Increasingly, International Women’s Day (IWD) is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.

This International Women’s Day, March 8th 2016, the Justice Commission will be celebrating the courageous response of Rev. Dr. Alika Galloway to confront sex trafficking in her community of North Minneapolis. Co-sponsors include originators of Minnesota’s IWD, The Advocates for Human Rights, United Nations Association of Minnesota, and Hamline University’s Wesley Center for Spirituality and Social Justice.

Reverend Dr. Alika Galloway is co-pastor of Kwanzaa Community Church in Minneapolis and co-director of Northside Women’s Space, a safe place for women and girls to rest, remember and resist dehumanization. She holds a B.A. in political science and English literature from Bethel College in St. Paul, Minn., a M.Div. in womanist theology and world religions from Johnson C. Smith Seminary in Atlanta, Ga., and received a Doctorate of Ministry at Virginia Union Seminary. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a Benjamin E. Mays Fellowship from the Fund for Theological Education. She has served on the City of Minneapolis’ Urban Health Task Force and is the creator and executive director of the Sidewalks Saving Lives HIV/AIDS prevention arts initiative. She is nationally known as a womanist scholar and an expert in health disparities impacting African-American females.

“Everybody has value; everybody needs a safe place. We are each other’s keepers,” Galloway noted during a Kwanzaa Community Church Worship in 2010 (according to a MinnPost feature).

Listen to Alika Galloway speak to how she created a safe space on Tuesday, March 8th at the Bush Student Center Ballroom at Hamline University from 6-8 pm.

The Advocates for Human Rights and other stakeholders will offer a panel following Alika’s keynote on the progress Minnesota has made, international efforts and the ongoing impact of ordinary women who have made extraordinary change. Don’t miss this opportunity to be a part of a global movement for women’s human rights!

 

Love Falling Gently into Broken Places

 

Welcome, March: the month we celebrate the arrival of spring, Women’s History, Easter!

As we observe Women’s History and the inspiration of women leaders, I am drawn to the Fifth United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal “Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women”.  This goal is not just for remote parts of our world but has relevance in our own nation, where we are still struggling for equal pay for equal work and the realization that when women succeed, the nation succeeds.

Throughout our history women have been pioneers in business, government, the arts and other institutions. We celebrate the achievements and contributions of so many exceptional women through the years.

As March begins, I would like to focus on the gift of those women we know personally who bring influence by their leadership in day-to-day events in our lives, especially those who help empower other women.

I think of three friends of mine who started Women’s Outreach Center to help women transitioning from homelessness.  It was their work in shelters that helped them see that something else was needed to assist women to become independent. They developed a mission “to accompany and empower homeless and formerly homeless women as they strive to realize their potential, find their voice, and attain self-sufficiency”.

They found some funding for this idea and a space in a church whose pastor shared their ideals. They then went about asking women they knew to volunteer and help with the program. They brainstormed ideas for the practical areas of helping women such as job preparation, life skills training, anger management, nutrition/healthy cooking, and they realized the  helpfulness of the arts as part of the program—poetry, art, music.

I have learned from my friends that some of the most basic difficulties that afflict those experiencing homelessness, such as low self-esteem and isolation, are addressed through the arts; by the natural act of women coming together to learn a craft. The art of crochet became very popular at the Center. They noticed that crochet seemed to help to break down the barriers that existed between the women and soon they were helping and encouraging one another with their needlework.

Through a place of welcome and “encounter” the women gather in a safe place to create and to share with other women that which gives them life. Pope Francis challenges us to encounter and include those that society typically excludes.  Participants encourage and empower others; at times they laughed at themselves, saying, “It feels like we are at a quilting bee.” During this time very few have returned to the shelters but have found and remained in permanent housing.

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Celebrating crafted gifts: all are donated to local hospitals and non-profits

The Women’s Outreach Center was launched twelve years ago and has served thousands of women.

During this time the mission of W.O.C. to empower women, has found root in the lives of participants as they mentor and teach each other and learn that everyone is in the process of transformation, that everyone possesses endless potential.

Women have been able to break out of their isolation and enter into the social and intellectual life of the community.  They begin to trust their own intuition, find their voice, and draw on the wisdom they hold within, which is the realization of the vision of empowerment of U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 5.

Pastor Alan Harris on the 10th Anniversary of Women’s Outreach Center shared this reflection:

“What I have come to see is that this “home,” this Women’s Outreach Center, is a place for the mending of souls, the place where broken places aren’t necessarily “fixed” as much as the healing smiles, poetry, stories, artwork, touch, laughter, food, and, yes, love might fall gently into the broken places of the women gathered and do their healing work. And, like the knitting that happens so frequently here, lives are slowly knit back together.”

Learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nation’s site:

http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/women-and-the-sdgs

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This article was written by Marilyn Nickol, CSJ, as the first guest contributor to a series on the Sustainable Development Goals. Sr. Marilyn is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph from Cleveland, OH.