September 21, 2014. Lawrence Journal-World.
A group of 20 local congregations trying to make Lawrence a more socially just community will soon begin listening sessions to determine how to do that.
The Lawrence Justice Ministry will kick off a six-month listening process Monday that will consist of small-group meetings in people’s homes, as well of canvassing of neighborhoods, to pinpoint which social-justice issues the group should work to solve. The ministry hopes to hear from at least 1,500 residents.
“I think the cool thing is we’re having 150 or more home meetings taking place in the course of just six weeks,” said the Rev. Justin Jenkins of Velocity Church. “I don’t know that there has ever before been an opportunity like that to hear the issues people are concerned about in our city.”
From the listening process, the group plans to identity common themes before voting on the issues it will tackle. The group will then come up with specific proposals over the winter that will be made public in May. The pastors say they hope to make systemic changes that go beyond the types of short-term mercy ministries, such as food pantries and clothing drives, they offer now.
“What makes you angry? What keeps you up at night? What would a just city look like in Lawrence?” said the Rev. Matt Sturtevant of First Baptist Church, speaking about the types of questions that will be asked at the small-group meetings.
The Rev. Verdell Taylor of St. Luke AME Church said one of the best things about the ministry is the diversity of faiths represented, which he believes will help it identify those social problems that affect the largest percentage of people in Lawrence.
“Hopefully we can take a look at things that appear to be different but are really the same,” he said, “and we’ll be able to come up with something that reflects all faith groups.”