I am MCU: Rebecca Klemme Eliceiri

1. What is your congregation/organization?

I am an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a member of Compton Heights Christian Church, a librarian at St. Charles Community College, and the director of Think+Pray+Act, an organization that equips people and communities of faith to more thoughtfully and actively live their faith through integrating solid theology and spiritual study and practices, metaliteracy, and faith-based community organizing.

2. How long have you been involved with MCU?

I heard about MCU sometime after seminary, when I started receiving invitations to MCU’s Clergy Coalition. My church at the time, Liberation Christian Church, had begun working with MCU in 2014 or even before that to develop its Break the Pipeline campaign, and I began to learn about and participate in that work as much as I could with being mother to a young child, in library school, and working full-time.

3. What was the first issue or activity you took part in?

Though Rev. Dietra and others regularly encouraged me and though I felt an inner call to become a greater part of MCU’s work, I felt like I was simply too busy to become more involved until I attended MCU’s Break the Pipeline Launch Weekend Teach-In on May 14, 2016. What angered me was law professor Mae Quinn’s session at the teach-in about how Missouri’s juvenile “justice” system was an outlier – in all the wrong ways! – compared to most other states’ juvenile justice systems, and learning the ways in which that system put more African American children into the system than white children, simply because of their race.

4. What are you doing now with MCU?

I have been working on the Webster Groves School District Education Team to continue making the school district more fair and just for children of all colors and ethnicities, and am also on the Communications Team because I believe that MCU is one of St. Louis’ best-kept secrets – but it shouldn’t be that way. Every person of faith – in God or humanity or the power of community – should know that we are a place for people and congregations who want to live out their dreams of God’s justice in public!

5. Why does working with MCU matter to you?

Working with MCU means everything to me. Based on my upbringing I shouldn’t even be at MCU, “but God…!” When I was growing up on the farm in rural Iowa, I went to church every Sunday with my family. In school I learned to sit down, shut up, and be a good girl. When I went away to college, I left my faith behind when someone asked me, “Why are you a Christian?” I honestly had no idea. The Jesus I knew was meek, mild, and ineffectual. I thought that doing good in religion was about acts of charity until I really found Jesus, went to seminary and learned about liberation theologies and the historical Jesus. During seminary I did a lot of thinking (and some praying, though not as much as I should have), but not much acting on my faith. I learned about praxis – reflective practice – in seminary, but didn’t know how to put my theories and reflections into practice. I struggled for years to integrate faith and spirituality with social justice. I knew what burned in my heart, but I didn’t know how to live that out in public.

But God led me to Liberation, who led me to MCU, where I learned that faith-based community organizing is not an oxymoron. I began to see the work of justice, which is what love looks like in public. I learned what it looks like for people to work together, to stand up and speak out together, and what it feels like to sometimes see the moral arc of the universe bend just a little more toward justice because of that work. I have learned that social justice is an intrinsic part of faith. I keep learning that our work here depends on the balance between the infrastructure and support that MCU and its committed staff provide, and the passion and initiative of the many wonderful leaders who continue to break the school-to-prison pipeline and work toward a more just future for the community.

6. What do want to see happen in the future with MCU?

I want for all people, congregations, and other organizations in the St. Louis area who have a burning desire in their heart to do something good in the world to realize that they don’t need to do this work on their own. In fact, none of us can do this work on our own – we need each other, and MCU is the very best place in St. Louis for people of faith to come together and do justice. There are many people in congregations with a heart for justice; I want MCU to help them learn what it means to live justice in their whole lives. At the same time, I want for MCU to truly equip its leaders to lead. Many of our leaders have extensive commitments outside of MCU; I want MCU to help us figure out how to live a well-balanced life, equipping us with training, relationship- and team-building and other tools, and utilizing the best practices we need to be a powerful and healthy organization. Ultimately, I think these things will equip MCU to be the powerful community platform we need to build a more just and equitable St. Louis region.

Becky is an ordained Disciples of Christ clergywoman and the chair of our Communications Team.

Susan Sneed