May 2011 From The Pastor

In my time with almost 500 other urban pastors, church workers, and faith-based social service agency directors at the Congress On Urban Ministry in early March, I was challenged to move out of my “comfort zone.”  My particular comfort zone, which is neither bad nor unimportant, is education.  I am a

Protesting Gun Violence in front of the Illinois Statehouse building.

consummate educator, and believe that, with just a little more discernment, a bit more nurture, almost any obstacle can be overcome.  The speakers, preachers, and my colleagues around each of the tables at which I sat helped me to move to a different place.

Education, like reflection, prayer, and Bible Study, are vital aspects to our Christian faith, but they are only part of the equation.  In the words of the Church of the Savior movement in Washington, DC, this is the “inward journey.”  Like water that becomes brackish or even stagnant if it has no outlet, our spiritual lives become fetid, sour, and perhaps even cancerous if there is no equal and balancing “outward journey.”  The inward journey is our own personal and communal spiritual development.  It is eternally and inextricably connected to the outward journey, which is putting our faith in action.

I liken this to the powerful cycle of charity, benevolence, and compassion that always has to be joined with justice, social action, and advocacy.  There are those who would have us focus solely, or at least primarily, on one or the other.  This is dangerous to our spiritual lives, and we must challenge ourselves and each other to be attentive to both: understanding more fully the problems and issues of our world, and then acting upon them.

In her article in Sojourner’s magazine, “The Hungry Spirit: What The Heck Is ‘Social Justice’?” Rose Marie Berger writes,

The goal of social charity and social justice is furthering the common good.  Social charity addresses the effects of social sin, while social justice addresses the causes of such sins.  Brazilian Catholic Archbishop Hélder Câmara famously said, ‘When I feed the poor, they call me a saint; when I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.’  His phrase indicates the societal pressure to separate charity and justice.  The two cannot be separated.  It would be like taking the heart out of a body—neither would live for long.*

So, I will be offering more and more opportunities for you to join me in direct action, actually asking and demanding answers from those in power as to why

Protesting Gun Violence In Illinois

people are hungry and lonely, why there is so much violence on our city streets, or why the foreclosure crisis was allowed to go so far before anyone “noticed.”  I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, either on the issues at hand nor on the ways in which to solve our societal problems.  What I do expect is that everyone, at least everyone who wishes to have a healthy and vibrant spiritual life, will both reflect AND act on what God is calling them, us, to do to “love God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

God’s Grace Is Abundant!

Pastor Allen

*To read Rose Marie Berger’s entire article, go online to: or ask me for a copy of it.