Social Justice Action Team: October update

Creation Justice

Mission statement:  

To embody our faith in our relationships with God’s creation

Goals:

  • To educate and encourage congregational members to take concrete actions that express their stewardship of creation
  • To strive for significant reductions in the church’s energy and water consumption and waste in order to offset our carbon footprint
  • To advocate for policy change that will slow climate change and mitigate its impacts

Homeless

I-HELP AT COTP

One Year Anniversary.  We first hosted I-HELP guest on October 28-29, 2019 on a Monday night.  Within a few months we committed to a second night each week to provide the full 7 nights of coverage for our guests that we wanted.  Since then we have held forth on Monday and Friday nights, asking our volunteers to step up their involvement. We have over 55 volunteers working with the program, including bus drivers, cooks, shoppers, monitors and laundry.  Each time we host, our volunteers give 45-55 hours of time for 100 hours each week.  What a tremendous gift in service to others. The ultimate measure of success is the number of guests that have found permanent housing.  This is the work of the LSS staff and we celebrate the 24 guests that are now housed.  This represents about half of the people that have been enrolled in the program.  Despite the Covid 19 virus and the fact that our churches were closed we were able to provide full coverage for our guests, 7 nights each and every week.  Testing each guest before enrolled, with disinfecting protocol in place, practicing social distancing and taking the temperature of volunteers and guests each time, we have been able to minimize the risk of infection. We have made our program more green by using plates, bowls and glasses that we run through the dishwasher and cloth napkins and rags that we wash with bedding in our washer/dryer.

I-HELP Guests First to use Shower Trailer.  The new shower trailer of COTP will be here by mid-October, and once ready we will invite our I-HELP guest to be the first to use it.  In time we plan to use the shower trailer around the NW Valley, offering showers to the homeless on regular schedules.

Palestinian-Israeli Issue

Beth Moore provided an update on what is happening with the Nassar’s farm. The last month has been very difficult with vandals damaging the property, a neighboring group calling for re-registration of the land and the ongoing court case related to land ownership. Ongoing prayers and support are needed.

Antiracism

The Social Justice Action Team adopted the action items recently approved by the Southwest Conference:

Church of the Palms Awakening to Racial Injustice Action Steps
Learning with White friends and family about White privilege, White fragility, and White supremacy,
Regularly reading books, watching performing arts events, and drawing on theological resources featuring Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to deepen understanding and appreciation of the history, contributions, and culture of these groups of people.
Learning with our children through children’s stories about racism in age-appropriate ways,
Centering the stories of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color and their rich and diverse heritage in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas,
Forming partnerships with congregations of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color,
Learning about and supporting organizations in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas that make it a mission to be Interrupters, [1]
Speaking up whenever you hear a comment or joke that marginalizes Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color,
Writing op-eds or letters to the editor about issues of bigotry, White supremacy, or racism in your communities,
Making a public witness like putting a Black Lives Matter sign at your church or on your lawn and prepare yourselves to welcome Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who may come to our churches, and for conversations with people who demonstrate White fragility because you take this step.
Inviting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color into leadership roles and explore governance structures that reflect their experience.
Asking Black, Indigenous, and People of Color what their needs are.
Assessing your congregation’s racial diversity, equity and inclusion. Participate in the UCC’s racial diversity, equity, and inclusion assessment of the National setting of the United Church of Christ.
Including elements in worship services that reflect the needs and experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color present in your congregation and in your community
Using your money to support businesses and ministries of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color,
Inviting a Sacred Conversations to End Racism facilitator of the Southwest Conference to present a program in your congregation. The program could include many options from a selected movie with reflection to a programmed discussion or guest sermon.  

Criminal Justice Reform

Prosecutors have a significant role in Criminal Justice Reform.  They can decide whether or not to prosecute minor offenses or possibly send the accused to a diversion program, especially for people with substance abuse issues.  We have an opportunity to watch interviews with the candidates for Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, the third largest such office in the US!  You can view the interviews at:

Julie Gunnigle at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tk_UaG0jmfE

 Allister Adel at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2Kt4n5Jux0

Criminal Justice Reform Presentation from Grace Cathedral in San Francisco

Each year the cathedral chooses a theme for inspiration. In 2020 our theme is bridges. We are challenging ourselves to explore and reflect upon reconciliation in this very divisive time in our country.  Join us to hear from San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who, in conversation with Dean Malcolm Clemens Young, will talk about his work building bridges that promote justice and safety in our community.  About the guest  Chesa Boudin is the recently elected District Attorney of San Francisco. Personally, impacted by parental incarceration and the failings of the criminal justice system, DA Boudin was inspired to become a public defender, and now, decarceral prosecutor. He is focused on reforming the criminal justice system and making our communities safer by developing data-driven policies to expand alternatives to incarceration and treat the root causes of crime. In his first few months in office, DA Boudin ended the office’s practice of asking for cash bail, eliminated status enhancements, implemented California’s first diversion program for primary caregivers, and ended the prosecution of charges resulting from racist pre-textual traffic stops. He has also implemented numerous police reforms, started an innovative Economic Crimes Against Workers Unit to protect workers from exploitation, and has succeeded in reducing the jail population in San Francisco even as crime rates declined. He remains committed to additional reforms that promote justice and protect public safety.  Check out DA Boudin’s podcast, Chasing Justice: https://www.chasingjusticepodcast.com/


Quarantine, Schmorentine, Church of the Palms is Not Closed…We Are Deployed

Do you do any of these things: pray, take action, love, tend to others’ needs, support the work of our church? If you do, you are part of our church’s Social Justice Action Team, seeking justice through Prayer, Action, Love, Ministry & Support (PALMS). Using Micah 6:8,And what does the LORD require of us but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God” as our inspiration, our team is working hard in these challenging times to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community and beyond. Thank you for being an important part of the team. We appreciate and need your involvement. Here is what you are helping to accomplish as reported at our most recent meeting:

Homelessness

  • Jan Eckstein expressed the gratitude of the HART / Helping At Risk Teen’s Pantry for our church’s donation to the Back to School Drive. 275 backpacks were filled and 150 have been delivered.
  • Max Klinkenborg reported that through our Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program (IHELP) over 20 individuals are off the street and in a home. A shower trailer for individuals not yet in housing has been ordered from the manufacturer and will be arriving soon. The Sun City Rotary Club and the City of Surprise have expressed interest in being partners in this project.

Immigration/Refugee

Suzanne Boisclair reported we have provided $450 to support food needs of the African Refugee Solutions Church members suffering from Covid 19. This will be combined with a donation from Shadow Rock UCC to purchase food in bulk to be distributed to those in need. Pastor Paul reported that our church made a $1,500 donation earlier in the year for the same cause.

Creation Justice

  • Terry Starr reported on the goal of Arizona Power and Light to have 3,000 Faith Climate Voter Campaign Pledges before the November election. The Faith Climate Voter Campaign Pledge can be found HERE.
  • Equally important is the distribution of the Faith Values Voters Guide.  The voters’ guide covers important issues besides the climate crisis, including income inequality, health care, immigration, LGBTQ rights, restorative justice and more.  The guide can be found HERE.
  • Andrea Stefanov reported on the work being done by her and Beth Moore to create a check sheet that individuals could use to help determine their carbon footprint.
  • Nancy Tsuchiya reported on changes being made in recycling efforts and a new aluminum can recycling project being launched with the help from IHELP guests.

Antiracism & Anti-Religious Intolerance

Debby Stinton reported on her partnership with the Southwest Conference on racism. She is currently in the “Sacred Conversations to End Racism Institute.” Debby will be trained as a trainer of trainers on racial justice issues. Debby and partners from the Southwest Conference will take an in-depth look at the subject of racial conciliation as a precursor to racial reconciliation. Debby is preparing a list of resources on this topic to be distributed to those interested in this timely topic.

Neighbors in Need

  • Suzanne Boisclair reported that because of Covid 19, operations at the Dysart Community Center have been limited. They are, however, providing 2 meals per day to the community. In April, our church brought clothes left for the asylum seekers to the Center.
  • John reported on the work of Kay Klinkenborg to provide water to either the White Mountain Apache or Navajo nations based on recent media coverage of the lack of drinking water for these tribes.

Palestinian-Israeli Issue

Beth Moore reported that the challenges for the Tent of Nations (TON) continue to grow. Three factors are contributing to the continuing struggle: Obtaining volunteers because of Covid 19, increasing tension in Bethlehem between Palestinian and Israeli citizens, continuing annexation of territory in the region and difficulty in obtaining supplies for the farm.

Criminal Justice and Prison Reform

  • Jane Zukowski requested assistance with the “Women of Perryville” Project. Each day women leave Perryville Prison after having served their time, often without clothes to reenter society. There is an urgent need for clothing of all sizes: shorts, pants, tops, and business attire for job interviews. No undergarments, sleepwear or shoes, please. Donations can be boxed or bagged (no hangers) and dropped off at church. For more information, leave a message for Jane Zukowski at the church office.
  • Nancy Nonini reported on the “Inside Out Network” led by Fred Nelson, a Lutheran pastor. The Inside Out Network is dedicated to crafting innovative solutions to connect returning citizens with service providers, churches, and ministries, as well as to connect those serving on the inside in prison ministry with those outside who are working on re-entry challenges. Inmates receive tablets to begin the process of re-entry while incarcerated and use their smartphones to continue the relationship when in the community. The Inside Out Network is always free for returning citizens.

LGBTQ Equity

Vickie Ashenbrenner reported on the Pride Parade in the church parking lot in June, the three-year anniversary of the ONA covenant celebrated during a Sunday worship service, and the anniversary of raising the rainbow flag.

Criminal Justice / Prison Reform

For I was hungry and you gave me food… I was in prison and you visited me . . . truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of My family, you did it to Me.  Matthew 25:36

One of the issues being addressed by our Church of the Palms Social Justice Action Team is criminal justice/prison reform. Can you imagine that just receiving a letter at mail call can make you feel special and give you hope for a second chance? Sharing a short letter with one of the women in the AZ State Prison Complex at Perryville lets her know that she is not forgotten.

Red Mountain United Methodist Church in Mesa has the Matthew 25:36 Prison Ministry that includes a pen pal program with women at Perryville. The letters may be short but offer encouragement, hope, and an opportunity to share one’s faith. Just this small interaction can make a difference in the possibility of staying out of prison once released. According to American Journal of Criminal Justice, the normal recidivism rate is 40%, but for people who have penpals, it is only 5%. What a gift! 

We are building a pen pal program here in the west valley at Dove of the Desert United Methodist Church in Glendale. If you are interested in finding out how you might be able to give hope to a woman at Perryville and hopefully start a program at COTP, please contact Nancy Nonini (member of our Social Justice Action Team) at nancy.nonini@cox.net.

Also, look for additional information in upcoming Sunday bulletins on this topic and other issues being addressed by the Church of the Palms Social Justice Action Team.

Seeking Justice through Prayer Action Love Ministry & Support (PALMS)