Washington DC's Church-Wide Response of Prayer and Action to Mass Incarceration
2013 marks the 50th anniversary of critical moments in the Civil Rights Movement. This spring and summer, as we are re-kindled by the spirit of those who have gone before us, congregations throughout Washington will “be” the Church together through a series of city-wide revival meetings. Each gathering will include worship and prayer, teaching on the New Jim Crow, preaching God's great Good News, and a call to renewed commitment to Jesus' Way.
The New Jim Crow
“The New Jim Crow" refers to mass incarceration and its staggering web of injustice. Throughout American history, a caste system has been in place to satisfy the drive of privilege. The caste system, previously institutionalized through slavery and Jim Crow laws, is now perpetuated through mass incarceration.
To ensure a second class of citizens, we disproportionately convict people of color. We strip them of constitutional rights and impose heavy sentences. After serving their time, those convicted are denied housing, employment, voting and other rights. Not only are the convicted affected, but families and communities are devastated. Children pay the highest price. Meanwhile the industries which depend on mass incarceration receive billions in profit. The cycle of exploitation intensifies.
The New Jim Crow is a manifestation of our national spiritual crisis. We have neglected love of God and neighbor. We have failed to care for the most vulnerable. The Church is called to respond in the Way of Jesus: The way of faith in God, the way of unity, creativity, non-anxious truth-telling, non-violent action, compassion for the most vulnerable, forgiveness of those who know not what they do, willingness to suffer for the cause, and love of and reconciliation with the “enemy.”
The Christian response to injustice always invokes trial and trouble. For this reason Jesus tells us that very few will follow the narrow way. Dismantling the New Jim Crow, we will be devastated by our country's systemic racism and our own part in its exploitation. As we are brought to our knees in despair, we will encounter the grace and love of God anew.
We will find ourselves persecuted and despised as we take action. We will come to rejoice and be glad, encouraged that we stand in the company of the prophets of Jesus’ day and of our own. Under the troubling conditions that Jesus promises his followers, we will be inwardly renewed- also according to his promise. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the city and nation, the rich and poor, the captor and captive will be tested, transcended and transformed.
Our First Work: To Be The Church
The congregations participating in the revivals are Baptist, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Christian Reformed, Church of God in Christ, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal and denominationally unaffiliated congregations. We are African American, Latino, immigrant and white from all four quadrants of our city. Members of one body, we need each other. Our first work is to rest together in the Spirit and to find one another there: to be one.
As noted, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of
critical events in the Civil Rights Movement. This spring and summer, as we are
re-kindled by the spirit of those who have gone before us, we will hold a
series of city-wide revival meetings.
Each gathering will include worship and prayer, teaching on the New Jim
Crow, preaching God’s great Good News, and a call to renewed commitment to
Through our worship, we trust that God will raise up leaders and give us the next steps for our shared mission to dismantle the New Jim Crow.
Jesus beckons, "Take up your cross and follow me." This invitation is the pearl of great price. The cost of discipleship is its own reward.
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