Relaunching a New Year of Justice Work In a Season of Change
On Saturday, January 20th, local St. Louis faith leaders and community members gathered at Webster Groves Presbyterian Church for the first MCU event of its kind. This event merged MCU’s historically independent Annual Membership and Annual Issue Summit meetings together.
“This is a new year and a new season for MCU. By combining our Annual Membership Meeting and Issues Summit, we are hopeful to double the energy that both events build to relaunch, revamp, and reinvigorate our justice work into the future and eventually beyond the STL Region.” - DeMarco K. Davidson
Attendees had the opportunity to network, celebrate, and reflect on this past year of collective hard work. Participants will also strategize a new year of growing community leadership and power to reactivate faith-based organizing throughout St. Louis. Attendees gathered together first for a communal continental breakfast. Then the event’s agenda began with an opening reflection by Rev. Dr. Dietra Wise Baker, of Eden Theological Seminary and Lead Organizer with MCU, with a scripture from John 5:5:
”There was a certain man there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus noticed him lying there [helpless], knowing that he had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to get well?” The invalid answered, “Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am coming [to get into it myself], someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up; pick up your pallet and walk.”
Rev. Dr. Baker applied the message of this passage with the struggling conditions of our communities including our inequitable schools, extractive and polluting economy, lack of affordable housing, inhumane juvenile justice system, white supremacy culture, and even including our congregations. Her main message is “if we want to be made well we must participate in our own liberation” and that we can do this by organizing our congregations and developing leaders who organize leaders. She concluded her opening reflection with the call that each of us has to pick up our mats and walk as part of Metropolitan Congregations United.
MCU’s new Executive Director (ED), DeMarco K. Davidson followed by introducing new goals for MCU’s season of change.
“This season of change highlights not only the environment’s changing seasons but also our adaptability to navigate a major leadership transition, to pivot our strategies and actions with the priorities of our community, and to recommit in putting our shared values into action for our beloved community. Dr. King once declared, ‘The local church is the hope for the world.’ We know that our faith community and local congregations have unlimited potential to galvanize our collective family as a united force of community power to create just systems through political change. ”
His speech also highlighted both the leadership and narrative shift for MCU’s issue work as it adopts a regionally-based approach for faith-based organizing in 2024. This approach is not new for MCU; it’s a return to our organization’s roots.
Pulling from MCU’s founders, each staff organizer will now be assigned to a designated region in which they will organize within to connect with its corresponding congregations and faith leaders. Previously, MCU approached its faith-based organizing more regionally by issue area. With a clustered approach, the hope is that our organizers can be more responsive and develop deeper, more rooted relationships within a concentrated region around our multiple issue areas, whichever a congregation feels called to organize around, which include: Environmental Justice, Voter Engagement, Immigration Justice, and Transformative Justice.
Finally, MCU Organizers launched into the Issues Summit by opening up the event space for congregations to connect with their designated cluster and organizer as well as for leaders to join the Task Forces that aligned with the issues they are most passionate about and make commitments for 2024. Thank you to all those who attended, engaged, and committed to take action this new year of Justice Work in building the beloved community together!