Is First Parish a Social Justice-Oriented Church?
By Clark Taylor, Published on September 1, 2016
To What Extent? What Can We/Should We Do to Make It More So?
Let’s start with the “Should We” part of the title. The Parish Committee adopted a Five-Year Plan in the spring of this year. One of its five major goals for the church reads, “Make social and environmental justice central to our identity, activities and programs.” When friends or new folks to the church ask, “What does First Parish Needham feature in its life?” we might say, “We see social and environmental justice as a central part of our church life, of our very identity as a church.”
As chair of the FP Social Action Committee (SAC) I am in a position to see many outreach programs that our church pursues and everyone reading this will know about some of them. And there are new ones just getting underway that you may or may not know about. There is, for example, an Anti-Human Trafficking Committee under the leadership of Peter DeMarzio that stems from FP but is reaching out to actors in the wider community, including the town school superintendent and the police chief, who have roles to play in promoting understanding of trafficking. Another is an Immigration Ministry under the leadership of Si Si Goneconto and Will Rico, two relatively new members of our community. A third is a Climate-Justice Working Group taking shape under the leadership of Jan Galkowsii and Phil Lynes, which will work closely with the Green Congregation. And FP has a renewed version of the Welcoming Committee that seeks to provide a supportive community for everyone, including those who are LGBTQ. We know, as well, that the Adult Education Committee provides a range of programs on social and environmental justice issues.
And we, as the SAC, have taken it as part of our vision to stimulate the consciousness of all ages to social and environmental justice. The Religious Exploration Program, for example, seeks to engage children and youth in church school in social action activities. And a major purpose of the Youth Program is to be active in social justice projects, which have a strong emphasis in their yearly mission trips.
Yet there remains the goal of moving FP to think of social and environmental justice as an even more integral part of our identity as a community of faith. In that regard, stay tuned for more blogs and notices about the lively outreach programs that are expressions of our faith as a church community. And I welcome your stories of ways in which you see your employment through a social justice lens, either in the specific activities you engage in or in the ethical decisions you make.
We, thus, seek to make the Five-Year Plan much more than a dust collector on a shelf. We invite you to come on the 18th of September on Volunteer Sunday to visit our table and volunteer for one of the action programs of the SAC.