I had the pleasure of taking a former UKirk student out for coffee this week. She is out doing Americorp work, first in the Southside of Chicago and now in St. Paul, MN. We had a delightful talk and then she asked me, “how does your faith connect to your activism?” I have reflected on this question before, but this is a different time and a different context and I found myself thinking about all the things I am involved in right now and how I got here if I trace it back to my faith.
The story of Jesus is the story of God’s faithful presence in the world. Indeed, most of the Bible is about God’s faithful presence with people. When I think about the few passages in scripture where Jesus actually tells us to DO something, I think of the Beatitudes, mourn with those who mourn, and of Matthew 25, visit the prisoner and care for the poor. These scriptures are really about a radical and faithful presence.
So I guess that is my answer, that my faith has called me to a radical kind of presence in the world and being faithful to that call is what has transformed me the most, spending time with prisoners and refugees, queer kids and neighbors I don’t naturally get along with. Being present is also what has allowed me to be part of transformation in our world.
There is a lot of need and urgency in the world. But remember that God is faithful to be present first and foremost. We are also called to be present, in a radical way, starting with our neighbors, our literal neighbors. We have been hosting PACEM for over a decade. It has been increasingly hard to find volunteers (and indeed we still need a few more) and yet I know so many of us here at WPC are passionate about helping refugees, ending poverty, ending systemic oppression. So remember, as we setup the cots again, and fold the linens, make coffee, clean up…that these men are internally displaced people, marginalized and struggling. Many of them are unable to find full employment and homes because of a broken criminal justice system that criminalizes people long after they’ve served their time. Remember that Virginia is 50th out of 50 states for children aging out of foster care, and we find some of them staying with us each winter. Remember that hosting these men these next two weeks comes out of our commitment to radical presence in the world. It can transform us and I can’t think of a better way to resist the wave of public rhetoric feeding on fear and individual self-interest than joining together and opening our doors again.