We were called into silence and asked to say the words from texts, songs, or leaders that keep us going in our justice work. My eyes were closed and a busy morning rush of hanging direction signs and helping lost guests navigate the building quickly dropped from my mind and body.
The sacred space we entered was a gift I gladly received. Voices called out Biblical verses, well-known lines from ballots and hymns, poetry, and lines from public addresses. We were 110 faith leaders from thirteen different traditions hosted at United for a day to learn about storytelling, effective listening, and organizing within our faith communities to defeat a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman in MN. That powerful opening reminded of what happens when people of faith come together to work for justice and equality. I was reminded of why I chose to be in seminary instead of other places of higher education such as a school of public policy or law school where I could also work for justice.
I was proud to share more about United as participants of who knew I was a seminary student asked me more about the school. There were many reasons to feel proud. The night before the training an interfaith group of leaders hosted a worship service at a local synagogue. United alumni were among 29 clergy who lit candles in remembrance of the 29 states where we have lost similar ballot measures; two United students raised their voices in powerful words of reflection and reconciliation; I had the distinct honor of asking for financial contributions to support the faith work; and another classmate opened the service. The day after at the faith leader’s training the United chapel’s beauty comforted and held us as we heard the somber news of where we stand today in terms of polling numbers. I can feel my connection with United deepen and I move from a student in the classroom to a faith leader out in the world.
It inspires me to see other United colleagues actively engaged in the world. There are seven Center for Public Ministry interns working on faith organizing to defeat the constitutional amendment in November 2012. The Center launched last year and is dedicated to equipping the church to be a powerful and sustained force for social justice. I am grateful for the opportunity to weave together my classroom learning, my love of prayer and ritual, and my desire to actively work to create a more just world supported by United. Framing this work in a faith perspective pushes all of us to do this work from a deeper place focused on connection, healing and love.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
There is a field. I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
The world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.
- Laura Smidzik, MDiv student