Getting involved with the Charleston Area Justice Ministry from its inception has been one of the most gratifying things I have ever done as a pastor of a church for more than 40 years.
To see such a variety of people of faith come together around common concerns that can improve the quality and fairness of our life together has been both surprising and remarkable.
Nearly every religious tradition — Christian, Jewish, Muslim and others — calls for justice and compassion within the larger community. But not much is done, frankly, in a coordinated way.
In our own ways and through our separate communities of faith, we try to minister to victims of injustice, but addressing the root cause is seldom attempted among religious communities.
Yet, when we do come together across racial and religious divides, we can be an effective force for good and for God.
My own personal history has motivated me to support this worthwhile endeavor. My faith was largely forged during the civil rights struggles in Mississippi in the 1960s.
The pastor of my home church took a controversial and unpopular stand on race relations. He suffered personally and professionally as a result, but he left many of us with a clearer understanding of the cost of discipleship and the call of God to stand for what is just and fair and loving and even constitutional despite the opposition. Several of us in the youth group of that small church sensed a call to ministry out of those struggles for justice as people of faith.
So it has been wonderful and broadening to see people of faith and good will come together to make a difference in this community. Amazing things have been and are being accomplished. New friendships are being forged. New energy and intellect is being focused. Elected officials and persons in positions of power and influence are being encouraged and supported in doing what is right and just even though there are obstacles, challenges and naysayers who prefer the status quo.
I would encourage any person and any house of worship that takes the “doing of justice” seriously to get on board and help us make Charleston a much “holier city.”
After all, the measure of our holiness should not be the number of our houses of worship but by the quality and equality of our life together.
The Rev. Daniel W. Massie, pastor of First (Scots) Presbyterian Church in Charleston