Being the Hands and Feet of God
I am still riding a surge of positivity after the Peace and Justice Strategy Team hosted its first Peace and Justice Forum at the same time as 60,000 women marched in Toronto and another 2 million women in Washington and in over 670 sister demonstrations across the US and the world.
We didn’t march and we didn’t number in the thousands or millions, but 27 of us sat together in the MCC Social Hall, listened and shared our spiritual grounding for peace and justice activism. Jim Marshall led us into our discussion by reading Isaiah 58:6.
To quote just the first line: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” Katie Marshall Flaherty then brought us into our bodies through our breath and gentle movement, allowing the words to sink beneath the level of consciousness, into a deeper place. This set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
Participants were quick to jump in with their thoughts, especially after Mike Dodds lead us through some vibrant “pair, square and share” introductions. I then shared a bit of the history of peace and justice at MCC, and the shift in culture to an engaged congregation model of leadership, building on the work and research of Kevin Downer as well as BSW students at York University.
This culture shift is what lead to the formation of the Peace and Justice Strategy Team, which provides strategic direction for a spiritually grounded approach to social justice practice, oversees social justice initiatives at MCC and fosters linkages with broader communities of faith and social justice. This was our first event, our launch, to bring different ministries and members of the congregation together in conversation.
Susan Gapka kept us on time as panel moderator, while we heard from the Depression Initiative (I have been quoting Linda Leenders almost daily since – “Every political act begins with the intent to love”); the Trans Resource, Education and Advocacy Team (Dolly Smith educated us with, as the panel moderator fondly said, “the shortest trans speech in the history of TREAT”), the Children’s Ministry (thanks to Andrew Holmes for the reenacted bible story complete with figurines!
We all want to attend the Spiritual Centre for children now for more stories); the Refugee Ministry and anti-racism initiative (thanks to Alex Dughman-Manzur, who is definitely not scary, just wonderfully knowledgeable and inspiring); and the Social Justice Network (represented by Donald Peter who reminded us that “We are the hands and feet of God”).
There was so much more we wanted to hear and talk about, especially after Katie Flaherty concluded our day with an abbreviated lesson on global spiritualities (complete with wombat video). Many of us lingered, long after the event ended, as you can see in the photo.
The day had to end, and right now I’m not certain about what steps the Peace and Justice Strategy Team will take next, but I am left with a feeling of expectancy. Something has begun. Through the upcoming Spiritual Location Retreats and Lifelong Learning initiative, it is only going to grow, just as the number of women who joined marches, many for the the first time, grew beyond all expectations.
If you haven’t already, I hope you will join in. Wendy McGuire, chair, Peace and Justice Strategy Team. If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, contact: