June 18, 2022
Dear PJ's Community,
Today, Saturday, June 18, 2022 there will be a gathering of thousands, hopefully hundreds of thousands, of people in the nation's capital for the “Mass Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls”.
In 1968, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and many others called for a “revolution of values” in America. They sought to build a broad, fusion movement that could unite poor and oppressed communities across the country. They named this effort: "The Poor People’s Campaign. "
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described two Americas, "One small and beautiful where some have freedom, dignity and plenty, and the other where millions are daily constrained by the harsh realities of poverty." Here, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, over 140 million people either live in poverty, or are just one health crisis, accident, or job loss away from financial calamity. In the country with the largest military budget ever, we lose more soldiers to suicide than we do on the battlefield. There exists no shortage of resources or tools to help our veterans or the poor, rather, there is a scarcity of political will and moral consciousness.
Today, the "Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival" has reorganized to continue Dr. King’s unfinished work. Co-chairs of this campaign, The Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis and the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, are organizing people “to come together to confront the interlocking injustices of poverty, systemic racism, ecological devastation, militarism and the war economy, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism”. These are each huge and complex issues and addressing them will require a movement "that will shift the moral narrative, impact policies, and influence elections at every level of government, and build lasting power for poor and impacted people".
In their May 2018 TED Talk, Drs. Theoharis and Barber discuss poverty as a human creation, the result of people not following God's will. They seek to change the narrative about why people are poor. They advocate for living wages, guaranteed income, and universal health care. And they describe how, in times of moral crises, people in this country have organized, risen up, and demanded change, like the abolitionists, and women suffragists. In her recent book, "We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People's Campaign", Rev. Theoharis writes that Deuteronomy 15 “lays out prescriptions that are given so that the people of God know what to do to ensure that there is no poverty – that God’s bounty is enjoyed by all. It concludes that because people do not follow what God has laid out, ‘there will never cease to be some in need on the earth’ “ Verses 4 & 5 read: “However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today”.
She also offers this prayer:
God of justice and life, we lift up to you 140 million of your people who are being abandoned in the midst of abundance. Grant us the wisdom, courage, and love to do your will: to organize society around the needs of the poor. May we strive to make earth as it is in heaven. Amen
If you can’t be in Washington DC, you can tune in to a live-stream of the event here: https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/livestream/
Brian Fillmore, co-warden
June 11, 2022
Dear PJ's Community,
Are we brave enough to pray for a wind storm? Do we dare ask God to pour out the Holy Spirit on each of us and on the Church with power and might, as God did for these early believers? -Br David, SSJE
This period of time, 50 + days since Easter to Pentecost has niggled its way into my brain and dare I say, my heart? So, what does this time mean to me, to us at PJ’s that our risen God has left us with his Spirit?
I believe that it is the Spirit of God that draws us to come together here, in this space and in other spaces to be community, to be in relationship with each other. It is God’s Spirit that reminds us that Pentecost was not just a one day event many years ago in Jerusalem.
But that God’s Spirit is very much present within each one of us.
I returned to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage in April of this year. I’m sure I walked on the same streets that Jesus and his followers had walked so many years ago. But when I returned home, to familiar streets and neighborhoods, I realized the streets are very similar to those in Jerusalem, except for their age. Indeed, it is up to each of us, to bring forth God’s Spirit to our streets and into our neighborhoods and into our homes.
What do you think would happen if we were brave enough to pray for such a windstorm? Would we all speak in another language? Would we understand what we heard? Would we be more compassionate and loving with each other? Would we accept the other as they are? What would we learn? These are questions for each of us to answer.
We will celebrate the Trinity this Sunday and the relationship shared among the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. The Godhead shows us that we need to be in relationship with one another, because we can’t do this life alone.
I believe God’s Spirit is with us here and now on the corner of Chapel and Olive St. It is up to us to welcome the Spirit of God into our hearts, lives and homes. Are we up to this? I believe we are!
- Marilyn J Bergen, Vestry member
Wear red tomorrow!
June 4, 2022
Dear PJ's Community,
I read an entire book during my recent travels. I don’t often make enough time for myself to read in my daily life, so this was a special treat. The book I read was Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.
The reason I chose this book to read was primarily because this is the novel that was chosen for New Haven’s “One City, One Read” program (plus, I’d been meaning to read something by Octavia Butler for a while). The idea behind this program is that everyone in the city reads the same book, and a variety of organizations across the city come together to host discussions, events, plays, concerts, speakers, and more focused on this one book. I thought this was a pretty cool concept, so I picked up my free copy at the New Haven Free Public Library!
The book was written in 1993, but was a New York Times bestseller in 2020 due to its relatable themes of social inequality, climate change, infrastructure collapse, and migration, along with it being written by a Black author known for her award-winning works of feminist science fiction. It is set in an eerily prescient dystopian future where fires rage, water is hard to come by, society has collapsed, and most people live in abject poverty.
In this setting, the book follows Lauren Oya Olamina, a teenager who grows up in the relative safety of a gated community. Strong-willed Lauren sees the imminent dangers just outside the gates, but struggles to make her voice heard to her family and neighbors, and ultimately must strike out on her own.
What struck me about the book, and why I am sharing this with you all today, is the message of hope and faith at the core of the story. In the midst of societal horrors, fear, and death, Lauren seeks to form a new community based off of a new faith that she creates. She interprets God in a new way that resonates with her and carries her through times of terrible tragedy.
The core verse of this fictional religion resonated with me as well:
All that you touch
All that you Change
The only lasting truth
Whether or not you have read the book, or ever will, this week I invite you to ponder the following questions:
What are some different ways that you conceptualize God? How do stories, such as this novel, such as the stories we hear in church on Sundays, push us to reflect on our world in new ways? What would it mean if we thought of God as Change?
Tomorrow we celebrate Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit descended as tongues of flame, and everyone started speaking in their native languages. And amidst this babble, confusion, chaos… God was at the center.
Peace and blessings,
May 28, 2022
Dear PJ's Community,
This week hangs heavy. How do I even find the words to say? So soon after the horrors of last week in Buffalo, where a racially-motivated teenager murdered 10 people in a grocery store, we were bombarded with the news of yet another mass shooting. This one in Uvalde, Texas, where the victims were 19 children and 2 teachers at an elementary school.
Here in Connecticut, we remark on how eerily familiar this sounds, close to ten years after the events of Sandy Hook in 2012. And what has changed since then? There are more guns. I learned this week that guns have surpassed automobile accidents to become the leading cause of death for children and teens in the U.S. That makes me feel so sick and angry I don’t know what to do. It seems such an easy thing to address, right?
The timing of this news is particularly poignant. This past Wednesday marked the 2-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police. This coming Monday we remember those who gave their lives for this country, and the ideals of freedom and democracy it is supposed to represent.
People keep saying that we need more than just “thoughts and prayers.” We need action, policy change, police reform, mental health care, and above all, serious restrictions on guns. And we need these yesterday.
Yet as years and shootings and killings go by without any significant change in gun control legislation, and rooted in my faith in a God who is present in even the darkest of times, I feel like all I can do in this moment is pray, and pray hard.
O God, I pray that today is the day that the people’s cries are loud enough to rattle those with the power to do something about the gun epidemic in our country.
I pray for the loved ones of the victims, that they may find solace and comfort in their grief.
I pray for all whose lives are forever changed and broken by gun violence.
I pray that we all, including myself, never get lulled into numbness, complacency, or forgetfulness.
I pray for the troubled souls of the shooters, that no one else follows in their footsteps.
I pray for those whose lives were taken, that they may rest in peace and safety in the palms of Your almighty hands of love.
And, if we all pray hard enough, long enough, loud enough… I must believe that someone will truly hear us.
Almighty and merciful God, whose only Son came to preach peace to the nations: Hear us, we beseech You, and comfort us with Your steady Hand, as we come before You this day in the wake of unspeakable violence. In a world that seems hopeless, help us to remember that our hope rests always in You, and in the resurrection of Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
For resources, action, and prayers from the Episcopal Church on gun violence, we recommend Bishops United Against Gun Violence.
PJs Wardens and Vestry