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What is Compassion, Peace & Justice?

In new video, staff of one of the PC(USA) ministry areas talks about the work they do

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

The new video “Compassion, Peace & Justice: Join the Movement” features (L-R) the Rev. Lee Catoe of the Advisory Committe on Social Witness Policy and Unbound, Christian Brooks of the Office of Public Witness, Simon Doong of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, and the Rev. Edwin González-Castillo of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — The Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency premiered a new video on the main PC(USA) Facebook page and other outlets Wednesday that gives an overview of the ministry area’s work.

The video by filmmaker David Barnhart, Associate for Story Ministry in Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), features staff from four of the nine Compassion, Peace & Justice (CPJ) ministries talking about the work that they do and building a movement for justice within the church.

“I think we are circling back to a very much grassroots movement that Compassion, Peace & Justice has always had its hand in, that isn’t necessarily four walls and a steeple, but it is action and it is movement,” the Rev. Lee Catoe, managing editor of the online Christian social justice journal Unbound, which is part of CPJ’s Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, says in the video.

Christian Brooks, Representative for Domestic Issues in CPJ’s Office of Public Witness, says, “We are really about coming alongside communities, coming alongside individuals and helping them as they direct where it is they need to go in order to be successful. That is so important in promoting equity and dismantling racism and white supremacy.”

Click here to watch the video

Sara Lisherness, Director of Compassion, Peace & Justice, says the video is timely in light of the upcoming Week of Action, presented by numerous ministry areas Aug. 23-29, and the Matthew 25 invitation to churches and mid councils to work to eradicate poverty and racism and foster congregational vitality.

“As we prepare to embark on the Week of Action, it is our deepest hope that this video will be a catalyst, helping our church to live into the Matthew 25 invitation,” Lisherness says. “We encourage individuals, congregations, and mid councils to engage with Compassion, Peace & Justice as we seek to be better partners in ministry; working with and walking alongside communities committed to eradicating poverty, systemic racism, white supremacy and other forms of oppression. This video is energizing, inspirational and aspirational, and shares insights from several people in the Presbyterian Church who are on the frontlines of this work.

The Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, Associate Mission Director for CPJ, says the video “features the perspectives, vision and voices of some of CPJ’s young, passionate and gifted colleagues. They are our present AND our future.

“Their words and David’s edgy and compelling narrative illuminates the indissoluble connection between compassionate humanitarian engagement, long-term partnership in development that builds sustainable communities, and the importance of consistent and prophetic advocacy. This brief window into the work we share illuminates the joy and passion we feel in being privileged to participate in the transforming work of our churches, the communities in which they serve, and our partners here at home and across the globe.”

Kraus, also the director of PDA, points out that Barnhart is the program’s longest-serving staff member.

“One of the things I love most about the work of CPJ is the incredible staff of creative, committed, passionate and faithful colleagues who help coordinate and mobilize the wider church and our community partners around these justice issues,” Barnhart says. “The wide spectrum and real depth of all of our CPJ programs have always amazed me, and I just think people need to know more about our programs and all the ways that they can engage these issues and walk alongside communities in this work.”

Usually, Barnhart’s work — which includes short and feature-length documentaries — focuses on broad topics, incorporating Presbyterians when they pertain to the topic at hand.

“We attempted to approach this CPJ video project like any of our films or other long-form projects and did not come with a strong agenda, except to listen and learn from the insights and experiences of our CPJ colleagues,” Barnhart says. “We recorded several interviews with CPJ staff and listened for the common themes across these conversations about this work/ministry and their insights serve as the overall structure or voice of the video.

“We noticed that our recorded conversations revolved around CPJ being a part of the Matthew 25 Initiative and these larger ‘movements’ for justice, and so visually the images move and flow constantly, but there are also intersections and interconnecting patterns that connect all of us to the movement work and the titles on the screen. The music drives the movement and connects us to this collective work.”

This video also reveals a broad spectrum of work in CPJ, from disaster recovery and poverty alleviation to national and international advocacy, to church policy and education around justice issues. The CPJ ministries are:
Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy
Office of Faith-Based Investing & Corporate Engagement
Office of Public Witness
Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
Presbyterian Hunger Program
Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
Racial, Gender & Intercultural Justice Ministries

“I hope this video can be a resource for people to learn more about what is really at the heart of the work of Compassion, Peace & Justice and can find their own connection and creative space through which to engage these systemic and structural issues in the wider movement for justice,” Barnhart says.

The video is a prelude, of sorts, to the 2021 Presbyterian Week of Action, a PC(USA)-wide event that aims to draw people into the work of the Church. Following the Week of Action, shorter conversations will come out from various CPJ ministries talking about how people from around the country can get involved in the work. Follow CPJ on Facebook to stay up to date.

“One thing that mass media does to us is that it’s very good at making us feel isolated and alone, and Compassion, Peace & Justice is about reminding us that we are not alone,” Simon Doong, Associate for Peacemaking in the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, says in the video.

“I think more than ever, we need to recognize that we cannot be waiting to see what’s going to happen,” the Rev. Edwin González-Castillo, Associate for Disaster Response–Latin America and the Caribbean for PDA, says in the video. “We cannot sit on the margins and let history pass by.”


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