We are involved to make a real difference in Charleston. We are a justice-focused congregation, but for a long time, our efforts had focused on our own singular projects.
We recognized early on that, if successful, the Charleston Area Justice Ministry could expand our impact by yoking us with other community congregations.
We can accomplish so much more together than any one congregation, however vital, can achieve alone.
Charleston is not known for deep interfaith relationships, and, over the years, our congregation has struggled with neighborly outreach, too.
However, through the Justice Ministry, we’ve opened our doors and hearts to congregations and individuals we might not otherwise have met, and they’ve welcomed us in return.
While the faith community is usually fixated on the racial and theological issues that divide us, we’ve chosen now to focus on the issues that might unite us.
New alliances and friendships are being rooted and we’re learning, beyond lip service, how the disenfranchisement of one population ultimately affects all of Charleston.
I’m sure we’ve all preached that we truly do share a common destiny, now we’re living it.
For instance, the justice ministry studied the value of early childhood education, and I believe our advocacy influenced the local school board to add 10 additional pre-K classes (beginning in January, making a total of 15 by the end of the school year.)
This means 300 more “at risk” 4-year-olds will receive the learning and reading skills that will carry them through all their school years.
We also addressed alter-natives to jail for youthful offenders and gained commitments from area law enforcement leaders to form a task force to develop a plan to reduce juvenile detention.
In addition to these measurable accomplishments, Charleston’s faith community has the potential to be in significant relationship as never before.
We are demonstrating that very American ideal of empowered people speaking truth to power.
We’ve had an exceptional beginning and now must summon the discipline and energy required to maintain momentum.
We have the opportunity before us to become the justice ministry that congregations cannot afford to miss out on and that community leaders cannot afford to dismiss.
The Rev. Danny Reed, pastor of The Unitarian Church in Charleston