Running and Dying While Black

by Jennifer Seaich, First Congregational UCC, Pocatello, ID
being black 2A few weeks ago in Baltimore, Freddy Gray, a 25-year-old black man, made eye contact with police. He then ran and was chased, handcuffed and placed facedown on the floor of a police van. His cries for help were ignored. Six officers were charged in Freddie Grays’ death. The surprise is that police were charged, not that another young black man is dead.

A brief video in which an African American mother chases and beats her 16-year-old son in the middle of a Baltimore riot has gone viral, with captions like “Hero Mom!” or “You go, Girl!”

Facebook commenters seem convinced this mother beat her son because rioting is wrong, yet she reported she was terrified her son could be another Freddie Gray.

It’s somehow funny when a tough black momma puts her hands on her hips and smacks her boy, though few people cheer at a parent hitting a child in the grocery store parking lot.

What Does Your Pilgrimage Towards Climate Justice Look Like?

by Susan Smith, First Congregational UCC, Salem, Oregon
pilgrimage WCCThe World Council of Churches has called upon Christians around the world to begin a pilgrimage towards climate justice. So what does that look like?

Christians from many countries have started their pilgrimage towards climate justice by heading to Paris, on foot and by bicycle, seeking to reach there by the end of November. Once in Paris, they will attend interfaith side events aimed at influencing the international climate change negotiations. The hope is that the Paris conference, the 21st annual meeting of nations that ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, will result in a treaty consisting of binding and enforceable national commitments to reduce net carbon emissions by every nation – as well as national funding commitments for a Green Energy Fund to fund renewable energy efforts in the poorest developing countries. For more information, visit:  World Council of Churches. 

Our Congregations Are Our Pope

by Jeanine Elliott, Bethel Congregational UCC, Beaverton, OR

be_the_change stand upThe recent death of theologian Marcus Borg saddens me, because I have appreciated his voice as a liberal New Testament scholar and faithful Christian.  Another important current voice is Pope Francis, who courageously speaks about issues of justice.  His voice sometimes startles, sometimes challenges, and occasionally I don’t agree with him.  As head of the Catholic Church, he uses his authority to call for justice.  The pope is making a difference.

In the UCC tradition, we don’t have a pope. Authority is vested in the congregation.  If we don’t speak out and act for justice, who will?  The November 2014 gathering at First Congregational UCC Vancouver, “Stoking the Fires of Justice:  A Revival for Social Change,” brought together local churches and folk from the national UCC Justice and Witness office.  The intent?  To strengthen justice advocacy work in the UCC congregations of the Pacific Northwest.  The meeting raised a question for me:  “What issue does my congregation care enough about to develop a public voice on its behalf?”  Will our church speak like the pope?