JUSTICE MINISTRY

Do you want help make our community a better and more just place for all people?

Join our Justice Ministry Team!

Justice Is What Love Looks Like in Public

These famous words, attributed to scholar and activist Cornel West, remain just as true today as when he first uttered them.  In that same spirit, Lincoln / Lancaster County’s new justice ministry organization, Justice in Action aims to “love our neighbors” by taking direct and tangible action to eradicate injustices in our community.

The interfaith, non-denominational, non-profit formally launched on Thursday, November 10th, 2022.  Over 20 faith communities in Lancaster County gathered for the “Community Problems Assembly,” which served as both a kick-off, as well as a productive work session during which the groundwork was laid for the future of the organization.  The attendees voted on the permanent name, executive committee members, and the first two community problems the group will take action to remedy.

Over the course of 88 small group “Listening Sessions” in and around Lincoln, 627 participants were asked, “What problems in our local community keep you up at night?”  The justice ministry team collected and consolidated the answers, looked for recurring themes, then narrowed down the list to the ten issues most frequently mentioned.  At the meeting on November 10, almost 300 attendees cast their final votes to determine the two issues that our new Justice in Action organization will focus on first.   Those are mental health and criminal justice reform.

Those are huge categories – so what does it mean for us to tackle these issues?  Our next step is to form research teams to dive into each issue, and identify specific issues within them that would have an impact on the health of our communities and those who live in them.  Out of that research will come specific proposals for change.  We may propose accountability where we find neglect. We may propose efficiency where we find waste. We may propose new, fresh ideas where we find stagnation. We may propose redemption where we find falleness. It depends on what the research reveals.  This is just the beginning.

We hope you will want to be part of the work to make this world – and our community – a better place for all.

Partners in Justice in Action

Pictures from our Community Problems Assembly, November 10, 2022

It’s not too late, join anytime!

Although the community listening sessions have concluded, and the two initial issues have been identified, it’s not too late to join! Regardless of how much or little time you can devote to the cause, we have a role for you! Join us in “loving our neighbors” by combatting injustices in and around Lincoln. Let any of our Justice Ministry Team members know, and we’ll get you connected.

Justice Ministry Team Members: Shereen Mills, Tom Mills, Jeri Brandt, Courtney Wittstruck, Jackie Sturm, Willa Smith, Linda Brodzik, Christy Abraham, Duane Westing, Pastor Sue Coller.

Why are we doing this?

We’re doing this because this is God’s call for us. Micah 6:8 says. “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Micah lays out three mandates in this scripture: justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

When we compare these three requirements to the activities of our congregations, we first see we are doing a good job at encouraging our walk with God. We join together in worship at least 52 times a year and encourage prayer and study to strengthen our relationship with God. This is good.

We also do mercy fairly well, by assisting individuals in times of crisis. This includes things from feeding those who are hungry, providing coats for people in the winter, providing vouchers for gas and hotel rooms, books in our little free libraries, sitting with people in times of crisis, and things like that.

But what about justice? Our scriptures show that justice means addressing the root causes of problems to ensure fair treatment of all people, especially the poor, the widow, and the orphan. In our modern context, that looks like holding local leaders accountable for the fair treatment of the most vulnerable in our community.

We often find we haven’t accomplished justice for one simple reason: individuals, and even individual faith communities, do not have enough power to influence the way our systems operate. We need a powerful voice to deal with powerful systems. So how do we build that powerful voice?

In our society, power comes from two sources: organized money and organized people. We have all seen people or companies use money to influence how systems operate. But organized people can influence how systems operate too.

The biblical story of Nehemiah provides an example of powerless people coming together to do justice. The story goes like this… Nehemiah is a member of the king’s court in Babylon and he gets permission from the king to go home to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall around the city. When he gets there, he discovers there has been a terrible drought, which has caused a famine, and people have had to take out loans just to do basic things like buy food and pay taxes. When the people couldn’t repay the loans, the nobles and officials took everything. Their fields, vineyards, and orchards, and even forced people to sell their children into slavery to pay their debts.

The people of Jerusalem raised a cry of injustice to Nehemiah, and he knew the injustice must stop, but he knew that he alone could not put a stop to it. Verse seven of chapter five tells us that Nehemiah organized a great assembly of all the people who were trying to live out their lives in the midst of these conditions, and he brought the nobles and officials before that assembly. He said to the nobles and officials, “this is not right and it must stop. What has been taken from these people must be returned.” And when pressed during this assembly, the nobles and officials agreed to restore everything they had taken from the people, and they did as they had promised.

So as one faith community, we can bring people together for worship or collect food for distribution, but transforming systems, doing justice, requires a larger voice. For justice, our many communities we must come together as one voice to ensure that every person in the community has access to adequate health care, quality education, sufficient foods, gainful employment, and other aspects of a healthy life. And the culmination of that work, 20 congregations, will be a Nehemiah assembly right here in Lincoln, where we present our leaders with well researched solutions to our community’s most pressing problems.

This is what we are about.