It could be fair to say that, as Baptists, we like to think that we treat all people fairly and equally. Moral and ethical standards may make us sound judgemental to outsiders, but our heart’s desire is to be just. We are practical people. If there’s something that can be done to help, we pitch in and do stuff.
But we do get confused. There’s a lot going on out there in the big wide world, and the media brings it to our doorstep and into our living rooms everyday: pictures of children starving, wars blowing communities apart, and stories of horrific abuse in the homes of our own neighbours. It’s deeply disturbing stuff. So, what’s going on behind all this? Sinful and lost people are part of it for sure, but there are also forces, both political and philosophical, that drive people. When we try to understand it all, we can get a bit overwhelmed.
Many other denominations have a group that brings, to their own people and to the wider world, assistance in understanding these things. For example, the Salvation Army has a research and policy unit, which is held in high esteem by government and social agencies. As Baptists, we haven’t had anyone helping us with all this complexity, and sometimes we are asked as a movement to voice an opinion or make a response to something that comes to national attention. For example, when the refugee crisis was highlighted last year, we scrambled to find some kind of response. With the housing crisis, churches have asked what the real situation is and what we could be doing.
Community ministries is involved in fielding the questions, but one or two people can’t have a comprehensive view.
This year we launch a group that will be known as the Justice Initiative. This is a collection of people from different regions, ethnicities, and backgrounds who will seek to provide resources around various issues, and be able to assist with some insights when the Baptist leadership is asked for a response. This is not a group who will speak for the movement or seek to push a particular response, but instead will hopefully be a resource to serve and inspire. Those serving on this group are:
- Ruby Duncan – Team Leader, Baptist Community Ministries
- Andrew Picard – Lecturer, Carey Baptist College
- Sarah Rice – Co-Pastor, Papanui Baptist Church
- Rachel Tallon – Researcher, Victoria University (and others)
- Peter Mihaere – CEO, Stand Against Slavery
- Justin Latif – Editor, Manukau Courier
- Josie Te Kahu – Palmerston North Baptist Church, and Manatū Iriiri Māori Strategic Team
Community Ministries changes its name to Neighbourhood and Justice Initiatives
Perhaps it’s a bit of a mouthful, but sometimes it’s good to think again about what we are trying to achieve, and make that clearer to others.
As one of the several departments of the Baptist Union Resource Centre, Community Ministries has always been focused on supporting churches in their response to the local environment (with good works and good news!), while also providing some resourcing around our advocacy on issues of justice, both nationally and internationally.
While the word community has come to mean a wide variety of things, neighbourhood clearly speaks to us of a geographical location. For some churches, this neighbourhood is easily defined as the area within which the church is located. For other churches, that gather people from a wider area, there is a challenge to look at how their people can be involved in all of the neighbourhoods in which they live. But that’s a discussion for another article!
Either way, in looking more closely at our neighbourhoods, we uncover the real faces of injustice and discover those who are vulnerable and voiceless. We see in Jesus one who spoke out to those in power, and highlighted by radical actions the way things needed to change. This is also our mandate, and we seek to support local churches in how they might be involved in this advocacy.
So why the word intiatives? We want to encourage a spirit of experimentation and risk-taking! Let’s just try some things. Let’s keep doing what’s working (if it is!), but let’s also be open to new ways of thinking and acting. An initiative is an attempt at something with no fixed idea of the outcome. Let’s be clear about what we want to see happen, but open to how we will get there!
All questions, please contact Ruby Duncan via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Riccardo Annandale/unsplash.com