A Message from Ellen 3-15-23
March 15, 2023
This last Monday, nineteen FLPC folks gathered at Beth Shalom Synagogue to hear reports on the work of MORE Justice and to prepare for the big event of the year: The Nehemiah Action. If you are a person who values caring for “the least of these” and who knows that the need for mercy is great in our community, then I want to invite you to consider attending The Nehemiah Action on Monday, March 27th.
Forest Lake Presbyterian is a member congregation of MORE Justice [Midlands Organized Response for Equity and Justice]. MORE Justice is an interfaith, non-profit organization that brings together Jewish, Christian and Muslim congregations to identify problems in our larger community that, if they were addressed, could make our whole community more equitable and a better place to live for everyone. Since last August, members of MORE Justice have been doing research, meeting with elected officials and experts, and searching for specific, measurable actions that could be implemented to improve our community for all. Justice can be a loaded term, so let me identify the three issues on which MORE Justice is currently focusing our efforts.
Safe, Affordable Housing. In SC a full-time worker making minimum wage needs to work 91 hours a week to afford the average rent. The Richland County Council has – at the request of MORE Justice – set aside $4 million of ARPA (COVID) funds to address the housing crisis that affects the Midlands. But they have so far resisted our requests to put that money into an Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Such a fund would clearly define the purpose and create an accountable way to ensure that the funds would go to benefit the most needy sections of our population. A Housing Trust Fund does not build government owned or subsidized housing, but gives builders incentives to build houses that are affordable to people who work for modest salaries. Addressing housing also gets to the root of all kinds of other evils: school absenteeism, homelessness, mental health, etc. We want Richland County to commit to put this money in an accountable Trust Fund so we – the residents who elected our officials – can be sure it is used for this purpose.
Gun Violence. After last year’s Nehemiah Action, Mayor Rickenmann committed to addressing gun violence. He has established an Office of Violent Crime Prevention, but we have yet to see motion and progress much beyond the announcement. MORE Justice members are asking for progress and for accountability from those who are able to make decisions to make our communities safer.
Food Justice. The new focus of MORE Justice is to identify effective ways to address the fact that many low-income people do not have easy access to fresh, healthy food. This might be because of inadequate public transportation or because of cost. Addressing this lack of access could improve the health of many and so reduce health care costs (for us all!).
I cannot imagine anyone being “against” any of these issues. However, it is often the case that we don’t know what to do about them, and so we do nothing. Here is something that you can do: Register to attend the Nehemiah Action on Monday, March 27th from 6:30-8:30. To register to attend you may call the church office, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org , or stop by the Connecting Point Desk after worship this Sunday and talk to some of our Team Leaders. Faith is an action word.
Ellen Fowler Skidmore