Episode 26, 39 min listen
Listen in on the Nehemiah Action Assembly, hosted by More Justice. Learn how powerful an ally the interfaith community can be in the fight for justice and equity as we discover how More Justice is working to transform the Midlands of South Carolina.
Background music by Reid Chapel AME Choir.
Episode closing comments by Dr. Ivory Thigpen were recorded during the More Justice Nehemiah Action Assembly.
News coverage of the Nehemiah Action Assembly:
If you enjoyed this episode, you might also enjoy these previous episodes:
Reverend Dianna Deaderick
The Reverend Deacon Dianna LaMance Deaderick is a deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina (EDUSC) and currently serves as the deacon at St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Columbia, SC. She is a retired National Board Certified Teacher and received a BA in elementary education and a MA in family literacy.
While at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Deacon Deaderick was instrumental in the church being recognized by the National Episcopal AIDS Coalition as the first HIV/AIDS Welcoming Parish in the country. She served as the Executive Director of the Fresh Start Ministry, an outreach ministry of St. Luke's which provides free laundry services, showers, food, clothing, and free HIV testing to those living in poverty in the Waverly Community of Columbia, which began in October 2016.
Reverend Jackie Utley
The Reverend Jacqueline Utley (fondly called Jackie) serves as Pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church in Eau Claire North Columbia. A native of Lake View, SC, she became a resident of Columbia in 2011. Whereas Jackie is energetic, passionate, and has a heart for God and God’s people, her greatest ambition is that of playing a vital part in God’s mission in the world. For Jackie, serving as a member of the MORE Justice ministry is the fulfilling of God’s mission in keeping the biblical mandate of Micah 6:8.
Lizzy Van Harn
Lizzy Van Harn has been the Lead Organizer of MORE Justice since 2021. After graduating from Hope College in Holland, MI with a degree in Social Work and Spanish, she wanted to be part of changing unfair and hurtful systems at the root. This brought her to MORE Justice in Columbia, SC in the fall of 2019 to be part of a community that is working to do just that. She believes that faith-based community organizing is one of the greatest hopes we have for transforming our communities.
-Sounds from the Nehemiah Action Assembly
Ame Sanders 00:14
Hi. This is Ame Sanders from State of Inclusion. I’m here tonight in Columbia, South Carolina in the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center surrounded by over 600 justice advocates. I’m attending the Nehemiah Action Assembly, hosted by the More Justice organization.
More Justice is a grassroots interfaith organization whose mission is to build the power of congregations to solve community problems. They take the inspiration for the work they do from Scripture. Micah 6:8 provides a clear list of requirements for God’s people to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Also, in Nehemiah chapter five, the prophet Nehemiah used his influence to coordinate a “great assembly,” where a large number of Israelites called out the moneylenders for their foul practices. Upon seeing the great numbers gathered to hold them accountable, the moneylenders publicly promised to abandon their practices of usury and to return to the people all that they had taken unjustly.
Every year More Justice recreates the greatest symbol of Nehemiah by holding their Nehemiah Action Assembly. In the Nehemiah Action Assembly, the group comes together with specific policy recommendations and then asks their local officials to support or enact those policy changes. There are people from all faiths here tonight. It feels like it’s part tent revival, part demonstration, part professional event community meeting.
You can hear the Reid Chapel AME choir in the background. As I look around the room, there are hundreds of people. Perhaps more than 600-700 people gathered tonight. Some have come alone, some with groups of friends. Families are here. Some churches brought groups in the church buses. There are public officials present – the Mayor, City and County Council members who have come to respond to what will be asked of them. There is a group of faith leaders, who are seated together, but apart from the crowd. They have been charged with holding this entire proceeding in prayer throughout the event. It is a well prepared and well-orchestrated event. Local news teams are also here.
In the upcoming episode, you’ll have the chance to meet Reverend Dianna Deaderick and Reverend Jackie Utley, the co-presidents of More Justice, along with Lizzy Van Harn, the lead organizer for More Justice. We will have a lot to talk with them about.
“What do we want? More Justice! When do we want it? Now! Thank you.”
This is the State of Inclusion Podcast, where we explore topics at the intersection of equity, inclusion, and community. In each episode, we meet people who are changing their communities for the better and we discover actions that each of us can take to improve our own communities. I’m Ame Sanders. Welcome.
Reverend Jackie Utley 03:51
Good morning. I am the Reverend Jackie Utley. and I am the pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church in the Eau Claire, North Columbia.
Reverend Dianna Deaderick 04:04
I’m the Reverend Dianna Deaderick. I’m the deacon at St. Martin’s in-the-Fields Episcopal Church in Columbia.
Lizzy Van Harn 04:06
My name is Lizzie Van Harn and I’m the Lead Organizer at More Justice in Columbia, South Carolina.
Ame Sanders 04:19
Well, welcome ladies. Thanks for joining us at State of Inclusion. Can one of you share with our listeners a quick overview about More Justice and the work that you do in the community?
-About MORE Justice
Reverend Jackie Utley 04:30
We are a grassroots organization here and More Justice is a growing network of faith-based congregation which are culturally, economically, racially, geographically, and religiously diverse. We come together to fulfill a future mandate of doing justice and to make central Midlands area a more just place to live and hold our public officials accountable to make everyone’s lives better.
Ame Sanders 05:02
So, tell us a little bit about the areas of focus that you guys have selected for your work.
-Crisis Intervention Training for Police
Reverend Jackie Utley 05:06
For the Columbia police department, it went from 8 officers to 189 officers certified in CIT. And from the sheriff’s department, there are a handful who are trained and now there are 104 sheriff’s deputies that are certified in CIT.
Reverend Jackie Utley 05:06
We’re now approaching five years of existence. And I do recall how our first Nehemiah action in 2018, the first one that we ever held, we had over 1,300 people in one setting. The issues that we brought to the table at that time was a mental health issue to have all of our police officers and our sheriff department members to be trained in crisis intervention training. So that was one of our issues and education was one. We did succeed in getting our sheriff and chief of police to agree to having all of their officers trained in this CIT training, that it’s called, within a certain time. They agreed to it at that particular event.
Through the course of years of our existence, some have held to what they agreed to do and some have been a little slack. But all in all, we have succeeded in having more officers be trained. We went from having 8 officers trained at that time, to now over 100 officers trained. So that’s a win for us.
Lizzy Van Harn 05:06
For the Columbia police department, it went from 8 officers to 189 officers certified in CIT. And from the sheriff’s department, there are a handful who are trained and now there are 104 sheriff’s deputies that are certified in CIT.
Ame Sanders 06:43
Lizzy, thanks for the additional facts there.
Reverend Dianna Deaderick 06:45
If you want a specific example of how one of our issues have affected our work, I could give the example of the ministry that I founded at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, which was called Fresh Start. For those of us living in poverty, they would come to our gymnasium where they could have showers and their laundry done and food and HIV testing and clothing. Well, we had a gentleman–one of our regulars–come in who was off of his medication, and he was a danger to himself and to others. He was the only person we served that I was ever afraid of. He was threatening folks that were in our gym. So, I called the Columbia police department to send a deputy.
Well, they sent a deputy and when the deputy came in, I said, “Are you CIT certified?” And he said, “No.” And I said, “Well, then you don’t know how to de-escalate this situation.”
And then he patted his hips and he said, “Yes, I do.” Of course, on one side was his pistol and the other side was his taser.
And I said, “Well, you are not going into our gym. I want you to call your department back and I want you to send somebody over here who is certified in crisis intervention training.” And he did and they did. The situation was de-escalated. Nobody was hurt. Nobody was sent to jail. And if I had not been a part of More Justice, I wouldn’t have known about CIT. I wouldn’t have known to ask for that. And God only knows what would have happened had I let that officer into our gym as he was patting those two weapons on his hips.
Reverend Jackie Utley 08:34
In addition to that, for those listeners who may not be familiar with what the CIT crisis intervention training is, it really is so that whenever law enforcement is dispatched out to an incident, it may seem as though the person is being combative, but they’re literally having a mental health crisis. That’s what the crisis is–mental health. And if this person is having a mental health crisis, and that officer is CIT certified and trained, he will know how to de-escalate the situation, instead of thinking the person is just being combative and locking them up and taking them to jail.
So one of the things that I would say we should celebrate and be proud of with this crisis intervention training, is that at our 2019 Nehemiah Action, there was a letter read from a police officer who commended us for having a push for this CIT training because he told of an incident where he was dispatched out and because of his CIT training, to de-escalated the situation, and was proud to say that he didn’t cause harm and he himself was not harmed. That really did speak loudly to the work that we’re doing as an organization.
Ame Sanders 10:01
Thank you for sharing both of those because they’re very practical examples of how the work that you’re doing makes a difference to the people in your community. In addition to your focus on police intervention with mental health and also on education, you have some other areas that you’re focused on as well, right?
Reverend Jackie Utley 10:23
Yes. Dianna, you want to talk about the housing?
Reverend Dianna Deaderick 10:27
One of our big, big issue pushes is for an affordable housing trust fund in Columbia. We have 16,000 folks who need affordable housing. We have one of the highest eviction rates in the country. It was there before the pandemic; the pandemic has just made it worse. We are very committed to getting our county council to give us $10 million as seed money so that we can begin an affordable housing trust fund so we can have affordable housing in Columbia and the Midlands.
Lizzy Van Harn 11:11
We are asking for an affordable housing trust fund in Richland County with a dedicated source of funding. We want that to look like $10 million in seed money to get this started. A housing trust fund has the ability to create and rehabilitate and refurbish affordable housing for working families–hundreds of units a year–and creates a long-term solution to the housing crisis that has been around for decades.
Ame Sanders 11:40
Then in addition to housing, you have a focus on gun violence as well.
Reverend Jackie Utley 11:44
Yeah, because gun violence is rampant all over the country. 73 people were shot in Columbia last year. 17 people were killed by guns in Columbia. 22 people were killed by guns in Richland County, and 3 people were gunned down in one day in January this year. So, with the rise of gun violence–you’ve experienced this that our action this year–that was what our ask was of the Mayor. That was one of the key issues that we brought to the table.
We presented to the Mayor the evidence-based problem analysis that has proven effective in other parts of the country that has caused reduction in gun balance and we’re hoping to have that problem analysis done here in in Colombia. So, that was part of what you heard the Mayor kind of say yes to– that he is willing to work with us in bringing about this evidence-based solution to gun violence.
Ame Sanders 12:54
That’s an interesting example where the ask was a problem analysis that is unique to your community. So again, it speaks to the fact that you’re focused on the specific situation and needs within your community and that it is researched and evidence-based, as you’re saying, before you come with recommendations or solutions.
-Direct Action and Research Training (DART) Model
You guys are part of a larger national association and there are other communities who are doing work similar to what you’re doing. There’s one starting in my own hometown in Greenville, South Carolina. Tell us a little bit about the national organization because we have listeners all over the country.
Reverend Jackie Utley 13:34
Well, I don’t want to do all the talking here, but you’ve just touched on something that’s near and dear to me, because since I’ve been a part of the More Justice network here in Columbia, I was excited over having gone out to other Justice Ministries’ actions. For instance, the first action that I ever attended was in Charleston in South Carolina, which was the CAJM organization. We have acronyms all of the justice ministries. Well it turns out that there is an organization called DART–direct action and research training. That DART organization bring all the affiliates with justice networks from several cities. It’s Florida based, and so there are several cities in Florida with justice ministries. The justice ministries range from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Virginia, Kansas, Georgia, and of course South Carolina.
So, we meet annually, most times in Orlando, Florida for clergy conferences and Justice Ministry conferences. We have something that’s training for Advanced Leaders Training Institute where we meet several times a year in different locations and come together and we get to meet and socialize and share information and train together through this DART organization. We have over 25 affiliate justice networks ministries that exist throughout the country.
Ame Sanders 15:20
Thank you, Reverend Utley. I found that to be very encouraging personally, to know that this is a national initiative, and that it has worked in multiple communities across the country. As you mentioned, I had the opportunity to attend the Nehemiah Action Assembly that you recently held. I loved so many things about the way you work: that it’s community driven, that it’s deliberate in its approach, that its research and solutions are policy oriented, and that it focuses on holding elected officials and community leaders accountable for the things that they commit to and the work that they should do.
I would love for one of you guys to tell us a little bit about the process that you go through and the cycle of work that you do, and how that actually manifests into these changes in the community that you’ve been talking about.
-Process and Cycle of Organizing
Reverend Dianna Deaderick 16:14
Ame, I think one of the reasons that More Justice is so successful is because of the structure that we use that has been proven through our other sister organizations and because it’s grassroots, and because it’s the problems that we are facing in our own communities.
We start with house meetings, where we invite people to our homes and we talk. We ask them, “What keeps you up at night? What makes you angry? What do you see happening to people you love that you cannot stand to see happen anymore?” We talk about those things. And we learn through those house meetings, that it doesn’t matter what our economic level is, it doesn’t matter what our race is, it doesn’t matter what our faith tradition is, we have the same issues.
So, we put together all the issues that come up at our house meetings and then we go on to the next step, which we call the community problems assembly. That’s where all the team leaders who have had house meetings get together. We can have several hundred people at these meetings. We bring up all the issues that we’ve had at our house meetings. Then we do the hard work, which is to narrow those down to 3-4 issues that seem to be coming up over and over and over, regardless of who holds the house meeting. Then, we narrow it down to the issue or the two issues that we want to research.
Then, we form committees that research the problem and come up with solutions. I think that’s something that makes us different as well. We don’t just go to our public officials and we complain. We go to our public officials, and we say this is the issue, we have spent 300, 400, 500 hours researching this issue and based on evidence, this, we believe is the way to solve this issue in our community.
Then, of course, our final step is what you saw, which is our Nehemiah Action. That is where we bring the elected officials who have the power to give us our ask that we present to them at the action. We’ve met with them many times before the action, they know what we’re going to ask them. Nothing is surprise. And with thousands of people, hundreds of people in our audience and in our community present, we then express to our public officials what the problem is, someone has a testimony about that problem, how it has affected him or her, and then the solution that we hope for them to agree with us will solve the problem.
Ame Sanders 19:28
So, one of the things I was also impressed about is follow up and monitoring over time. You just gave a good example of that a few minutes ago, particularly when Lizzy gave us the numbers of the actions with the sheriff and the police department.
So, one of the things I was also encouraged by is that it’s not just a one-shot event. You do follow up with them over time and I know when I attended the Nehemiah Action Assembly we were given the opportunity to sign a petition to encourage the sheriff to continue his commitment that he had made to you guys and to honor that commitment. So, I think that was another piece that impressed me as well, because sometimes, grassroots organizations can be very passionate about a subject, but the staying power that your organization has, as Reverend Utley mentioned that the five years that you guys have been doing this.
It’s more than that, it’s about staying focused on the same subject, for a period of time until you feel that has been adequately addressed and that requires, as you’re saying, Reverend Deaderick, some organization and some process to make that happen so that stays front of mind for people over time.
The other thing that I would say, we sometimes in this work, forget to do is celebrate. One of the things that you guys announced was a celebration for the progress that you’ve made. I don’t want to point that out–obviously, it’s a lot of hard work that goes into it, as you described in the earlier parts of the process–but I do think that folks who are listening need to also remind themselves to celebrate progress as well.
Reverend Dianna Deaderick 21:14
You’re exactly right, Ame, and that is the last step in our justice cycle: our celebration. That’s where we get together, usually we have a meal, we do ice breaking activities to get to know each other better. And then we celebrate the wins that we received at our Nehemiah Action.
-Ordinary People with Extraordinary Desire
Ame Sanders 21:34
One of the quotes that I captured from the conference described the group of individuals that were there as “ordinary people with extraordinary desire.” I loved that quote, because being physically surrounded by a group of people who had an extraordinary desire to see justice work happen in their community and their community to become a more just place to live, was really exciting for me personally. You mentioned, Reverend Utley, the diversity of the churches and synagogues represented in the audience and the visible commitment that I saw that the group came together with, the group did not seem to be political at all. So even though there is a political process of influencing and talking with and holding accountable the elected and political leaders of the community, the discussion was not political. So how do you guys stay away from and work through what is naturally sometimes divisive issues for communities?
Reverend Dianna Deaderick 22:40
We answer to a higher power. This is our scriptural mandate to do justice. So that is our primary focus. Our motivation comes from a higher power.
Reverend Jackie Utley 22:51
What’s so interesting about everyone who is involved with the justice ministry is that it amazes me that the majority of us who are involved may not even be affected by the issues that we that we bring to the table. It’s just because we answer to that higher power, and we care about the marginalized and the less fortunate, and those who are suffering in our in our communities.
So, because we have this mandate to do justice is our drive to want to see everybody have equality in our cities. That’s what our drive is. That’s what motivates me. I always like to say, let people know when they ask about our organization, and they want to know how they can get involved and become a part of it. The organization consists of congregations, various faith traditions, always lift up the fact that it’s not Christian faith. That’s not what most people will say it’s Christian-based. There’s a difference between Christian-based and faith-based. Faith-based is across the board. I myself have an email from the Muslim community who is a part of our network. We’re looking and hoping that he will bring in his congregation to the justice ministry, but we care about all people. All means all.
-Nonpartisan, non political
Ame Sanders 24:16
One of the things that I observed is that your work, certainly at the Action Conference seemed very unifying. We talked about the fact that is nonpartisan and not political. But what is it that actually unifies this work? How does this come together across all these faith organizations and different belief systems?
Reverend Jackie Utley 24:39
One way to speak to that, Ame, I would say it’s a discipline. When I mentioned earlier what our association with these other affiliates throughout the city, this organization that I mentioned training, they’re big on training. And so that’s what we hold dear is that we believe that everyone being trained with discipline on how to go for it, and I would say earn the respect of the public officials as we interact with them and hold meetings with them.
Reverend Dianna Deaderick 25:13
Also, I think we have been told since we were children, something that we call the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In the faith-based community, we call that loving your neighbor. That is a tenant that goes across all faith-based organizations that I’ve ever been involved with or I’ve ever come in contact with. Just trying to create that kingdom of God here on Earth and doing that through loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Ame Sanders 25:52
Lizzy do you have anything you want to add to that?
-Focus on Grassroots
Lizzy Van Harn 25:53
I’ll add that everything that we do as an organization is grassroots. All the decisions come from our people. It’s our people who vote for which problem to prioritize, to research and action. That comes from the stories that our people and the experiences of our people in house meetings. We don’t just choose the hottest headline. It comes from the experiences of our people. Our committees are the ones who are making decisions of how to proceed with our campaigns and how to move forward as an organization every step of the way. Again, everything’s grassroots. That is very unifying, because we can we can rally around the experiences of our members and our members being members of the community and how we are seeing these problems.
-The Challenge and Hope of Change
Ame Sanders 26:44
What about the rest of your community? Do you feel supported? Do you face criticism or hostility in the work that you do?
Reverend Dianna Deaderick 26:52
Yes, yes, and yes.
Ame Sanders 26:57
So help us understand what communities could expect with this then, and how you deal with it.
Reverend Dianna Deaderick 27:02
First of all, it’s hard work, and you’re going to get discouraged, but you have to keep going. People aren’t used to seeing their elected officials being held accountable. So, when we do that, they often think that we’re being bullies, or that we’re putting them on the spot and asking them things that they have no way of being able to answer or follow through with, which is all untrue. So, trying to get past that image of being bullies, which we’re really not, we’re just persistent.
Reverend Jackie Utley 27:43
We’re trying to bring about change. And we’re trying to bring about positive change. And we all know if you’ve been around long enough, we know that nobody likes change.
Change is uncomfortable for some people. So, we always say that in order to bring about good change, to make a difference, somebody kind of gets uncomfortable because it may affect their comfortability in the position that they hold and so they feel threatened in the position that they hold.
So, I find that we’re criticized a lot because we make people uncomfortable. They tried to say that, “You don’t use the right taxes, and you’re not acting like good Christians. You don’t act like a faith community.” So, that’s the type of criticism that we’re getting because we make people uncomfortable about the changes that need to be made.
Reverend Dianna Deaderick 28:33
We create tension when we get together. That is a key part of the Nehemiah Action and people are not comfortable with the tension we create.
Ame Sanders 28:43
One thing I will say as an observer in your assembly, there was some tension, as you mentioned. For example, with the Mayor, who wanted to be very clear about what he was committing to and not committing to that you’re right about the tension. But, I also observed that it was a very respectful process and very professional. I was also struck by the fact that you guys had invited a number of politicians to the meeting, a number of them came, and they were very prepared and ready to make their commitment. But some of them didn’t come. So, can you talk a little bit about that and how you engage with those guys who aren’t willing to be held accountable are put into a very pointed situation like that?
Reverend Jackie Utley 29:32
Well, for one thing, the cards at the end of our meeting that we had people sign was one way of addressing the sheriff who has been a little reluctant to follow up with what he has agreed to several years ago. So that’s pretty much like a follow up and we do schedule follow up meetings with those officials who did not attend as well as those who did it. We do schedule follow up meetings with our committee.
For the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, we have a committee. The gun violence that was lifted up as an issue, we have a committee for that. So, these committees schedule meetings with these officials, whether they attended the action or whether they did not, but we do the follow up with them, to move forward to see how we can work together and move forward.
Ame Sanders 30:30
So, I just did an interview with youth-empowered group, a group that focuses on empowering youth. When I looked around the Nehemiah Action Assembly, I would say a lot of the group looked to be similar in age to me, which is, I would say, a little bit old. So, maybe this is a question about your organizing and your involvement. What is your organization doing to increase involvement and empowerment of youth in the work that you do? And is that part of your process?
Reverend Jackie Utley 31:02
To answer that, I would say that because a lot of our congregations–because it’s faith-based (church synagogue, what have you) –when you go into these religious institution, you’re going to find a bunch of senior attendees . The congregants usually are older, and there seems to be less of a younger attendance in our congregation.
However, just for myself here recently, my church is located near the Lutheran seminary here in Eau Claire. So, what I’ve done is I have a couple of those students attending there who have become a part of our network ministry, which is a start. Someone had to say to me, “You know, you have a college right around the corner from Columbia College. Have you all reached out?” And I had to say that, “No, I had not thought about that.
But I will now. I will go over and visit that campus and see if I can draw in some of the youth from that college.” We live in a college town, so that was one way. I think that’s an effort that you can put forth to reach out to these colleges and draw in more youth. That’s one of the things I have.
Lizzy Van Harn 32:20
One thing that I would add is in this past year, during our listening process and those house meetings that we have, we have several congregations who had house meetings with their youth groups or with their young adult groups. That’s something that I know is growing and one thing that as we are hopefully moving more into in person meetings, one way that we will broaden our reach.
Reverend Dianna Deaderick 32:44
One of our most successful testimonies ever given in my opinion at a nearby action was done by our youth. It was dealt with issues of education and the disparities that they saw between how people of color were disciplined, based on their Caucasian brothers and sisters. They did an amazing job in presenting their testimony to what they see every day in their classrooms.
-Relationships are Key
Ame Sanders 33:15
When you guys look back at the work that More Justice has done over the five years that you’ve been in place, what stands out to you as the most impactful or longest lasting change that you feel like you’ve been able to implement in your community?
Reverend Jackie Utley 33:35
I often hear Deacon Deaderick mentioned this, and I agree with the about the relationships that we have built across the board with one another with the clergy. It’s just the idea that because we come from diverse faiths traditions, it is so good that we’re building relationships that would have never existed had it not been for this justice ministry. That is something that I hold dear, and Deacon Deaderick can better speak to that as well.
Reverend Dianna Deaderick 34:05
Right, right. We also do something called Tech studies, where the clergy gets together and we choose pieces of scripture and we read it. We call it “reading it on the margins.” We look for the justice theme that presents itself. So you’ll have all different faith traditions discussing a piece of scripture. The relationships that we build, like Pastor Utley said, are critical. I am an Episcopal clergy. I have preached in a synagogue. I have preached in an AME Church. I’ve preached in a Baptist church. I have preached in a predominantly African American Episcopal Church. These relationships, for the most part, were created through the More Justice network of congregations.
Ame Sanders 35:02
One of the things that I’ve heard in the interviews that I’ve done and the research that I’ve done is that when communities are facing challenges, relationships are a key part of them being able to respond to those challenges effectively, and in building resilience, that they will need to face difficult times.
And so, I think it’s really interesting that you guys choose that to say as your most lasting effect of the work that you’re doing, because it speaks to the resilience that you’re building within your community. We will all face challenges, and we may all have incidents, being prepared with those relationships is really critical, so I’m really glad that you guys raised that as a legacy of the work that you’re doing. So what advice would you offer to individuals who want to see these kinds of changes in their own community? Why would you suggest to them that their faith community should be part of or lead this work?
Reverend Dianna Deaderick 36:05
Micah 6:8 gives us that mandate, to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. So that would be the first reason that I would give.
Reverend Jackie Utley 36:16
Ame Sanders 36:17
Lizzy, you look like you have something you want to add. Jump in there, girl.
-Power of People
Lizzy Van Harn 36:22
Well, I think as I’ve been part of this work for a few years now, and I’ve seen how our community is being transformed, and I see the vision of how our community will be transformed. I believe very strongly that it’s our grassroots people power built through our faith-based community organizing, that is one of the best ways that we will actually see true change and true justice in our community. And I think we see that through the changes in policy, we see that through the relationships that are built, I think that is one of the strongest legacies of this work. And so, I just see so much power in, in the work that we do.
Ame Sanders 37:09
Well, that’s probably a good place to stop. I want to thank you so much for all three of you for joining us today on State of Inclusion and for sharing about the work that you’re doing with More Justice. Thanks so much, ladies.
Reverend Jackie Utley 37:22
Thank you, Ame.
-Conclusion from Nehemiah Action Assembly
Ame Sanders 37:25
As we close out this episode, let’s one more time go back to the Nehemiah Action Assembly as we listen to the words from Reverend Ivory Thigpen:
Reverend Ivory Thigpen 37:35
We fully enlist our hearts and our minds for the here and now. As we lean into the tension–I do say tension–tension that is necessary to create change, for we are agents of change.
Anointed by God. Appointed for this work. For this is the age-old work of all of those who hunger for righteousness, to eradicate injustices, to transform systems, and heal communities, building communities in which the strong as well as the weak can flourish, where peace and power can collaborate, and justice and mercy shall have their day and above all, love shall win the day.
As we come together for our first in-person Nehemiah Action in almost three years since this pandemic began, we come in the name of more justice, but equally if not more so under the banner of our God. So, God grant us your grace, honor our effort, bless our work for the here and the now, for this work cannot wait.
This work is sacred.
Ame Sanders 39:29
This has been the State of Inclusion podcast. Join us again next time, and if you enjoyed this episode, the best compliment for our work is your willingness to share these ideas with others leave us a review. We’d love your comments. Thanks so much for listening
Guest: Rev. Dianna Deaderick, Rev. Jackie Utley, Lizzy Van Harn
Host: Ame Sanders
Social Media and Marketing Coordinator: Kayla Nelson
Podcast Coordinator: Emma Winiski
Sound: FAROUT Media