A Message from Ellen
March 16, 2022
This Sunday, March 20th, everyone in worship (online and in person) will be invited to stay after worship for just a few minutes (not more than about 10) to hear an update on the work that our congregation is engaged in through MORE Justice. And everyone is invited to attend (in person) the Nehemiah Action on Monday, April 4th from 6:30-8:30 at the Columbia Convention Center.
We know that God commands us to work for BOTH mercy and justice (Micah 6:8), but most of us are much more comfortable doing merciful acts. Merciful acts are required and are important to meet the suffering and need that we see. Most of the mission that our church does is aimed at mercy. We feed the hungry, clothe the poor, mentor at risk children, send weekly backpacks of food to children who are food insecure, help the working poor pay bills, and give school supplies to children who cannot afford them – to name a few. This Easter season, the congregation is invited to gather and pack Easter meals for families who have been or who are Family Promise participants. That is a mercy ministry, and mercy meets the immediate needs and mercy also makes us feel better. We are gratified when we can feed a family or ensure that a family has electricity and running water. But mercy is only HALF of the equation.
Justice is also required of followers of Jesus. The minimum wage has last raised in 2009 to $7.25 per hour. How just is it to require hourly laborers to live on the same salary for 13 years? And, Columbia has a significant housing crisis. Safe, affordable housing is very scarce in our town. The State Newspaper (Nov 3, 2021) reported that even before COVID-19, South Carolina had the highest eviction rate of any state in the country (reported by the Princeton University’s Eviction Lab). The research that MORE Justice has uncovered tells us that Richland County has one of the highest eviction rates in South Carolina. Social Workers and other mental health experts tell us that homelessness is a significant adverse childhood experience that is closely tied to all sort of other problems that echo throughout our school, medical, and legal systems. So, while helping people pay their rent can keep a family from becoming homeless temporarily, addressing the root causes of homelessness is far more effective and cheaper in the long run. So, using our influence to ask our elected officials to take measurable steps to encourage the construction of safe and affordable housing in Columbia is justice work.
That is one of the requests that will be put to the Richland County Council members who attend the Nehemiah Action on April 4th. Justice work is NOT easy or comfortable, and it often is very disturbing. I am disturbed by what I see, and because I have not ever been evicted it is easy for me to ignore this reality. Justice work requires that I change, and that is not comfortable. But, being a follower of Jesus requires that we change and that we change the world around us for the good of the vulnerable.
FLPC will always do mercy ministry. We are very good at that. But it is time to balance that mercy work with justice work. Consider staying after worship to hear the update, and then consider registering to attend the Nehemiah Action on Monday, April 4th. Talk to me, Peggy Carey, or Jodi Beckham for more information. See you in worship!