As I spend time this week at the PICO Network's National Training, I've been struggling with how to use principles of community organizing in my congregation and in coalition with others in organizing in suburban congregations.
One of the words, as I shared yesterday, that we've been working with is "power." For many Christians, especially Christians living in suburban contexts, this isn't a topic of conversation. Power is usually seen as having "coercive" tendencies, and we're not supposed to engage in such things. But how do we engage the world in which we live without making use of power? If we go talk to civic leaders we address power brokers, so if we don't have our own power, how are we to engage? As we role-played civic conversations today, we recognized that persons in power will often try to distract or diminish our voice -- so how do we make them listen and take our concerns seriously?
As you contemplate this question, consider another -- the foundation of our power. Here's the question -- what is it that moves you to act? What is it that will take you from being interested, curious, or even concerned, to be willing to commit your time and your life to transforming the situations in which you live?
We've talked about anger, grief, and pain. As I consider the context in which I live and out of which I work, I have realized that we have a difficult time acknowledging anger, grief, or pain. We've been taught to suppress such emotions. We've been taught to just "get over it." But when we do this, we lose something important -- we lose our edge. We lose our voice. So,to those of you who, like me, live in the suburbs, where life might not be perfect, but you're not dealing with life and death issues every day, what is your pain?
As I listen to those who live in communities of color, communities of poverty, communities where violence is an ever present reality, communities where they face profiling from police and community officials, the pain is very vivid and apparent. They have much less difficulty in taking hold of the pain and anger to build upon, but what is your pain if it's not nearly so apparent?
Are you read and willing to name your pain so you can find the power to change things?