Discerning what Justice has to do with Ministry

By Rvda. Neddy Astudillo Mazuera, advisory committee member for the Presbyterian Hunger Program

DART-related local action in FL by HOPE. Photo provided by Rvda. Neddy Astudillo Mazuera.

Liberation Theology is my foundation by inheritance. My parents, a Colombian mother, and a Venezuelan father in the 70s, eager to study Theology and become pastors, moved our family to Argentina at a time of growing political instability, and repression of those who spoke out against injustice. From a very young age I knew a Church discerning its voice in a social and political environment it could no longer refuse to look at, and use its voice in songs, sermons, and non-violent political actions, together with many others who believed the same way. Ecumenicity was my second inheritance.

To act in the call to love our neighbor, we need power.

The Direct Action & Research Training Center (DART) Clergy Conference in Orlando, FL was a good moment to witness faith leaders discerning what justice has to do with ministry; what tools, people, theological foundations, and biblical interpretations could be used, and be supported by, in the journey towards justice ministry.

Relational power is what moves the ministry, what moves the ball. We cannot do it alone.

DART builds its base to create change by bringing together neighborhood congregations, to do research, to study and determine what issues are affecting their communities most, and then work together to engage city leaders to make the changes necessary for a better life for all.

For the Church to be emancipated there needs to be an inner transformation.” ~ Bishop Frank Madison Reid III

Congregations who are working in the justice ministry are also changing their culture. As a Latina, this means that for DART to choose an issue affecting the Latino community, we need more Latinx participation and a concerted act of reaching out to this population.

As a Latina immigrant, participating in our local DART chapter, Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality (HOPE), has been important to understand the process of change at the local level; building deeper roots with neighbors, my congregation, and being in solidarity with those who are affected by the different issues HOPE’s members have chosen to work on. In our case, these are affordable housing, mental health, criminal justice, and the environment. The latter is where I bring my voice and action, to make sure our own city’s unmet decision five years ago, to fix and beautify stormwater drainage ponds around the city is fulfilled; to protect the most vulnerable from the increasing impacts of climate change, and create a safe and beautiful environment for all neighborhoods, regardless of race and economic background.

The work of the Presbyterian Hunger Program is possible thanks to your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.

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