The Nehemiah Assembly
Christ Episcopal Church Justice Ministry, in cooperation with the other thirty-seven congregations of ICARE, participated in the annual Nehemiah Assembly on Monday evening, April 19, 2021. The action is the culmination of months of work that began with listening to members of our congregations back in the late summer and early fall to learn the critical public issues they observed and experienced in our community. In November of 2020, members of the ICARE Justice Ministry gathered for the Community Problems Assembly to select a critical issue to add to our ongoing campaigns from prior years. We then did research with experts and other jurisdictions to find the best solutions to propose to our officials in a public assembly to address those issues.
Monday evening over one thousand people from those thirty-eight congregations gathered on Zoom and YouTube to let our public officials know that we care about these issues that often affect the most vulnerable among us. Christ Church had the largest representation with 136 people either gathered in our parish hall or online from their homes. State Attorney Nelson and School Superintendent Greene attended on Zoom to celebrate past successes around juvenile civil citations as an alternative to arrest and incarceration; and about implementing restorative justice practices in our schools to help students stay engaged as they are held accountable. Sheriff Williams did not attend after committing to, which was disappointing. However, the sheriff did respond in writing on Tuesday morning to each of the questions we would have asked him Monday evening.
These new commitments from our officials were due to our efforts over this past year. They include working to extend civil citations to adults in order to reduce the number of arrests in Jacksonville; evaluating the Jacksonville Sheriff Office Crisis Intervention Team process to see how they can make improvements to the encounters between law enforcement and people with mental illness; and evaluating current violence interruption programs on the streets to see how to reduce shootings and murders in the most high risk neighborhoods. In addition, the sheriff committed to adding related statistics about these efforts to his existing JSO website.
Christ Church Justice Ministry is excited to be part of these efforts to “do justice” (Micah 6:8) in our community based on the biblical community action model found in Nehemiah chapter 5. If you are interested in learning more about our efforts and even getting involved, please contact Fr. Keith Oglesby.