A church united with its community

Social justice is how ministry walks its talk. Put another way, if worship is the “incubator” for our spiritual lives, justice work is how we will manifest Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “beloved community.”

At the border wall in Brownsville, Texas

For me, the seeds for justice-making were sown in college where I studied journalism and dreamed of being an activist writer. As I got out into the world, I found helping to “change the world for the better” took many forms in my life: teaching, giving resources, marching in peace demonstrations, and organizing. In the few years leading up to seminary, I wrote for and edited The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a magazine rooted in the Concerned Scientists Movement and focused on the social, ethical, and personal consequences of war.

Social justice pulled me back to church as a young adult–and later into professional ministry. When, as a young parent, I discovered and joined a progressive church which defined peace activities as spiritual pursuits, I was all in! Our congregation rallied for economic justice, a green planet, and feeding the hungry. After seminary, this passion continued into my professional ministries. In San Antonio I was involved with the AIDS Foundation, the Interfaith Clergy Leader Group, and the Industrial Areas Foundation’s “C.O.P.S. Metro Alliance”–raising $2 million for adult education, organizing annual “sessions” to hold elected officials accountable, and working directly with the city’s Chief of Police to reform traffic stop standards so immigrants wouldn’t be subjected to ICE deportation.

Vigil at “Tent City” in Phoenix, Arizona

My justice involvement continued at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, where we launched a series of post-2016 election rallies to support justice in the community, resulting in a Sanctuary Resolution protecting the unhoused and opening seven-night/week overnight housing. My proudest involvement in Chicago was with the Community Renewal Society, where as a leader I helped bring our congregation into full membership with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy organization in Chicago, linking together its historic Southside congregations with religious institutions throughout Cook County united for economic justice.

In Honolulu, checking in on security force personnel

Even in the military as a chaplain, I considered my primary work that of peacemaking and helping heal the moral injuries caused to those working in systems of warfighting. Also, I was often the only chaplain on my assigned installations addressing the needs of LGBTQ+ and interfaith members. I wasn’t on the protest line during that period of my ministry, but I learned justice takes many forms–sometimes shining a light of truth from outside institutional structures; other times embedded and working from within.

Faith leaders for fair tax