Unless you’ve been living in absolute isolation, there’s been much in the news – here, there, and everywhere – including the violence and protests in Ferguson. But in the midst of much shouting, screaming, finger pointing, tweeting, and ‘Don’t Shoot’ hand raising…we also need to engage in practical solutions. It would be tragic if it simply resulted in lots of noise…and it doesn’t compel us (as individuals and church communities) to examine our own lives, our blind spots, and our commitment to live into our calling as ministers of reconciliation.
So, I thought I’d share one practical way we can – not just love the idea of reconciliation but actually be agents of reconciliation. Reconciliation has many nuances and aspects but I’m convinced of this:
Reconciliation isn’t pretty or sentimental. It’s messy but it begins with first acknowledging that something is broken. We’re broken y’all.
In other words, if we want to seek the peace and shalom of the city…we have to engage the conflicts and injustices of our cities.
So, back to the one practical idea: I’m really grateful for our elders at Quest Church. This week, we made a decision to donate $5000 to the Educational Quality and Equality program at St. Louis Urban League. As the youth are preparing for the school year but held back by delayed starts due to the violence and protests, we felt that this would be a wonderful way to support the urban youth, children and families of Ferguson.
In addition, we’ve been preparing for some time to build an ongoing relationship with an urban school in our own city – Seattle. It’s important to note that while it’s tempting to focus on Ferguson, we can’t ignore or neglect issues in our own respective cities.
I share this – not in any boastful spirit. Please. Let me stop you now from sending any angry emails. I’ve received too many this past week for my 5 Ways We Should Engage Ferguson post. If you feel you must email me to rebuke me, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
But I share this as an idea for you, your family, or your church community. While people may have varying ideas about justice may look like in light of Ferguson, I think we can all agree that EDUCATION matters if any and every context. This matters in Ferguson. This matters in the Seattle. This matters in countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. This matters in urban, suburban, and rural contexts. Education matters. I’m reminded of these piercing words from Nelson Mandela:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
And the fact that certain schools in certain neighborhoods (often in same ‘school districts’) have different and limited resources is an example of injustice, disparity, and the uphill path for many students of poverty – black, white, yellow, red, and brown.
Translation: Our schools are sadly a perfect, tragic example of the reality of the ‘have’s’ and ‘have nots’.
One of my congregants is an elementary school principal. At her school, 93% of her students qualify for free and reduced lunch rate and she shared the miracle and blessing of several churches collaborating together to bless students and faculty like with no agenda but to simply ask, “How can we support you?”
This is the Gospel in action.
Faith + Works = Kingdom
Can you imagine what it would look like if every local church built a long term relationship with one local school in need?
And don’t underestimate what one person can do. I was blown away by this teacher in North Carolina who raised nearly $80,000 to feed Ferguson kids who can’t get meals at shuttered schools.
I’m not suggesting that this idea is the answer to Ferguson, to racial tension, and the complete answer to the journey of reconciliation. But as I shared above, in the midst of much shouting, screaming, finger pointing, tweeting, and ‘Don’t Shoot’ hand lifting…we also need to engage in practical solutions. We can’t just leave a trail of debris of shouting, screaming, finger pointing, tweeting, and ‘Don’t shoot’ hand raising.
Would love to hear any ideas you have or ways that you, your family, or your church has sought to build a more just, compassionate, and beautiful neighborhood and city.
God bless you.
photo credit: USA Today