Fr. Keith offered the following “closing charge” at the ICARE Rally, March 2 at Abyssinia Baptist Church. This charge is to prepare and inspire us to attend the Nehemiah Assembly and to do the work of justice as part of our life of faith.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

(Micah 6:8, NIV)

Imagine you are a young man, alone and on the street. You have not taken your medication for over a week. You are agitated and don’t feel right. And you are not sure what to do. You encounter a police officer and you freeze. What will he do? What will you do? What can we do as a community to be sure this confrontation ends well for everyone?

Imagine you are a student in one of our local high schools. Of course, you are more than a student—you are a daughter and a sister, and your family is under extreme stress. Every morning you come to school distracted by what is happening at home. You feel lost and uncertain. You know your behavior at school is not helping, but you are not sure what to do. When you are disciplined at school, it only makes matters worse—more stressful at home and school. What can the school do? What can you do? What can we do as a community to create a better path for this young person and those like her?

In the house meetings at our church and in my family experience, I have heard stories like these. I bet many of you have heard them, too. As people of faith, we are called to pay attention to these stories, to people that are often neglected in our society. Because of our faith, we believe they matter—they matter to God and if we follow God’s way of love, they matter to us. They matter enough for all of us to stand up and do something to bring change.

Because if we don’t stand up, problems like these will not get better. The funding, policies, training, and accountability that are supposed to help our public servants better care for our most vulnerable citizens will continue to be less than what is needed for their health and prosperity.

If we turn the other way or join the chorus of excuses like “That’s just the way it is.” Or “It’s not our problem.” Or “We don’t’ have the money to save everyone.” If we repeat those lines, then we have failed our calling as people of faith. As Dr. King said, “The church (and I would add, all people of faith) must be reminded that it is not the master (of the state) or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It—we– must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.”

What we are called to do is respond to the very heart of God and to the cries of God’s people in our communities. Like the Hebrew people in Egypt, God hears those cries and has come down. Like Moses back then, God is calling people to respond now to those cries. And as God promised Moses, God will be with us as we obey God’s call. God’s people are waiting; God is waiting. Will you say “Yes?”

If you will say “Yes,”, here is what you need to know and tell others:

  • Attend the Nehemiah Assembly that will take place on Monday, March 30 at 6:30 pm at Abyssinia Missionary Baptist Church (Christ Church parishioners will meet at 5:00 pm for a light supper in the dining room at Westbury Hall, and leave on a bus that departs at 5:30 pm).
  • If you say “Yes” to God’s call, you as a Justice Ministry Network Member will bring 3 or more people to the Assembly (all are welcome whether you bring someone or not).

We want to have standing-room only in the sanctuary—filling the floor, the balcony, the choir stand! We want our government officials to see that God’s people are responding to God’s call for justice and community action. When we work together… Great things happen!

The Nehemiah Assembly will be an exciting night, the culmination of much hard work, tears, frustration, insight, and passion. We will make our voices heard and call on our government leaders to do what’s right for God’s people. Then we will begin to see God’s beloved community being built in our city. That is our goal. That is why this work and the Nehemiah Assembly is so important.

Who cares?… ICARE!