IMPACT, for those who don't know, is the Interfaith Ministry Promoting Actions by Congregations Together, and is an example of congregation based community organizing. Approximately 27 faith communities from the Charlottesville area -- Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist, and others -- come together as IMPACT in order to put "people power" behind efforts to make real changes in our community that will ... well ... make an impact and increase justice.
Yet what sometimes gets lost is that IMPACT is just the tool, just the vehicle, for this work. Those listening circles? They help this collection of communities focus on an issue that is real, and pressing, and that has possible solutions. The Nehemiah Action? Besides being the largest public gathering in the Charlottesville area and the largest interfaith gathering in central Virginia, it is the way we can demonstrate the number of people who stand in solidarity to support the solution that's been identified. In between is the research process in which volunteers from these varied faith communities work together to clarify the issue at hand and to develop workable solutions.
Many from our congregation have been part of these research teams over the years. (And there's a place for you if you're interested in working to address concerns regarding elder care or to develop residential treatment options for formerly incarcerated women dealing with drug dependency.) They can attest both to the power of interfaith coalition building -- especially, perhaps, the relationships that can develop in the process -- and how rewarding it is to be part of identifying both a real problem and a real solution.
And that is why I said I was not all that interested in IMPACT. What interests me, and what I think should interest you, is the experience of building relationships across a whole host of differences in order to address issues of injustice in our community. That is why we'll be asking you to attend the Nehemiah Action. Not because it's important that we support IMPACT, but because it's important that we support elders in our community who are suffering injustices, and because it's an issue of justice that formerly incarcerated women with drug and alcohol problems have the option to receive treatment here, in their own community, rather than having to leave their homes (and often their children) to seek support. And what IMPACT offers is a method, a vehicle, for making a concrete difference and for each of us to be a part of that solution ... even if all we do is show up one night a year to demonstrate just how many people care and are willing to come together with others who sometimes share very little other than this commitment to justice.
This list of past issues and solutions is impressive. They demonstrate what "people power" can do. Keep your ears open for updates on the work being done this year so that when the call goes out to come to the Nehemiah Action you'll know that it's not to support IMPACT for its own sake. It's to take part in making a difference.
|The John Paul Jones Arena filling up with justice seekers from 27 different faith communities in a show of solidarity at the annual Nehemiah Action, this year scheduled for May 3rd.|