Justice Ministry at Christ Church
– from Fr. Keith Oglesby
It has been one year since I accepted the call to be one of the associate rectors at Christ Episcopal Church. A key part of my discernment to accept this call was the need for clergy leadership of the justice ministry.
Justice ministry has been part of our common life for several years.Our congregation is one of thirty-eight in the Jacksonville area that work together through ICARE (Interfaith Coalition of Action, Reconciliation, and Empowerment) to bring change to local public policies.
Many of you know ICARE and have been involved in their community actions, such as the Nehemiah Assembly every spring. In this series of posts, I hope to inform you and the rest of the congregation about why we work for justice as part of our Christian faith; and give updates about the specific progress of this work. In this first post, I want to tell part of my story.
My work for justice as an extension of my faith came into focus during my time as rector of my prior parish. Though I have been long aware of the injustices in our nation and throughout the world, I often made excuses common to “insiders” with power. As I increased my communication with people who suffer from injustice, I became more and more committed to work with God’s help to change systemic problems that harm people. This harm is caused by a range of issues including indifference and ignorance. I found this especially in the area of criminal justice and how people are treated differently based on resources and race.
My former parish focused on different ministries that increased our awareness of problems and our passion for justice—Family Promise which provides transitional housing and support for homeless families; chaplaincy for DFACS case workers; in-person support for the Children’s Center at a women’s prison that facilitated visits between children and their incarcerated mothers; mission trips to Honduras; and regular visits to Church of the Common Ground, a place for homeless people to worship God in downtown Atlanta.
All these ministries shaped us as a congregation. We realized over time that in addition to helping individuals and families, we needed to work to change systems that made it difficult for people to survive and thrive in our community. In Atlanta, I was involved in Georgia Justice Day in which people of faith would visit their elected legislators to lobby for specific bills, such as support for non-cash bail in February 2018. And I joined our bishop and other clergy in standing vigil outside the prison in Jackson, GA whenever there were executions in Georgia.
I will write more about my personal journey and especially our common work for justice in future posts. My next post will focus more on why Christ Church works with ICARE and give an update on our specific progress so far during 2019.