Rev. Jill Cowie
Serving a Just World
Anne Braden, a longtime white Southern Anti-racist activist once said, "I call what I joined "the other America."  This other America has always existed, even before the slave ships arrives.  African Americans have always fought against their oppression...and at least some whites have joined this struggle....And this resistance actually has roots that stretch back to the beginning of the human race.  In every age, no matter how cruel the oppression...there have been those who struggled for a different world. I believe this is the genius of human kind, the thing that makes us half divine: the fact that some human beings can envision a world that has never existed...and living in that world that is working to make it happen lets us know that our lives our worthwhile."   
(photo is from a Jesuit tent for migrants in Novales Mexico, "I have the right to live a life free of violence"
​For me, the heart of ministry is working within and beyond congregations in an ever expanding community to envision and work towards a world that has not yet existed but is always coming into being.  As we live into our faith and the reality that all are born with inherent worth and dignity we see with increasing clarity the power of white supremacy and capitalism to divide and oppress by gender, race and class.   Our faith calls us to the work of uprooting white supremacy in solidarity with people of color and communities of poor people.   Reverend Ashley Horan calls this " a theology of salvation by interconnection."   The beauty is that invitation to connection can happen in so many ways in congregational life.   We can start by reading to understand how the history of this country has colonized our minds and hearts.  We can build a liberation culture by rooting ourselves in the history of Black and poor Americans and by connecting our story with theirs.   And we can learn their strategies of resistance to ally and co-inspire change politically and in the public square.   I serve to articulate this theology of salvation by cultivating cultures of liberation within and beyond our congregations.
​One of the most formative ways for me of building a culture of liberation is experiencing the reality of those most impacted by systematic oppression.  For example, community leaders in New Orleans taught me that the non-responsiveness of the federal government to those stranded before and after Katrina have historical roots in racist policies from the Civil Rights era.  Trips led by Common Hope Inc., in Guatemala made real for us the collusion of our government with white capitalist leaders to overthrow a socialist government in the 1950's which led to the economic repression of the peasant communities and the genocide of the indigenous tribes.  Similarly, the local activists employed by the BorderLinks program in Arizona and Mexico made real for us the  greed in the enactment of NAFTA  and the violent impact of the "Justice" system and the effect the corporate run prison system has on immigrants and their families.  The activists taught us their story of liberation, and in joy we joined our story with theirs.  In each week long experience, what was at first perhaps fear and self -doubt was replaced with a sense of community, self-love, and a freedom to speak truth to power.   (picture on left: youth of the NOLA trip with Ms. Bernadine, owner of the house we helped rebuild with her granddaughter.)
​This freedom, once discovered seeks to enter all parts of our lives.  Congregations institutionalize  practices and policies that invite diversity and empower the leadership of the marginalized.   Parents cultivate mutual relationships with children, generations connect with wisdom and shared aspiration.  Salvation by interconnection happens each time we act inclusively and in solidarity with dignity and worth of people in our family, our places of work and  in our congregations.   Each time we seek to balance the scales of justice we are envisioning a world that has yet to exist and are part of making it happen.