Community, Commitment, and Creativity: A Summary Reflection of the 2018 Activist Council Gathering in Minneapolis, MN

Creativity, Community, Commitment. These were some of the themes that emerged during the two and a half days that the Activist Council gathered in Minneapolis at the Church of All Nations September 20-22.

The 2018 Activist Council Gathering at the Church of All Nations

Our time began with a panel led by staff and members of the Church of All Nations and the Underground Seminary. Since 2014 PPF has been in a relationship with CAN when the Underground Seminary became one of the first Peace Communities that PPF supported for a time. Pastor Jim Bear Jacobs, Hikari Nakane, Pastor Jin Kim, and Laura Newby. They spoke of community requiring a commitment to dismantling the evils of white supremacy and colonialism in our society and also within ourselves. These evils are the root of so much of the violence in our world. They also spoke of the need to re-think our relationship to money and transactionalism–that Western society believes everything is a transaction (I give you money for food, I show up to church and donate and in return I expect to be moved or entertained personally), but the Gospel teaches a different way, where everyone is cared for regardless of what they have to offer in that moment and where the needs of the whole community are central.

 

Ashley Bair serves communion to abby mohaupt at the 2018 Activist Council gathering

Building and sustaining this kind of community takes commitment and creativity, which we explored together through the rest of our time together in worship, working groups, antiracism self-evaluations, mealtimes, and more. This gathering was an intimate and engaging one–about 30 people–where we had almost equal numbers of people who have been a part of PPF for many years and people who are newer to PPF. This balance reflected a lot of the intention of PPF over the last several years to become more multi-generational and more open and inviting to people who are discerning how to be involved in PPF. The feel was one of collaboration as we discerned together how PPF is being called to act and how we are being called to be in the next year.

 

Here are a few highlights of what we explored and committed to together:

 

A leaf on the tree we created in worship to remind us why and how we do this work.

The Creation Justice working group committed to supporting and encouraging local congregations and presbyteries to invest in solar and wind energies as part of becoming carbon neutral congregations. They also committed to collaborate more with ecumenical and interfaith partners and looking for the movement  of the Spirit as we continue to engage in the fossil free movement. This group also began to look forward to the 224th General Assembly in 2018 to come up with creative ways to witness there to the urgency of climate change and Presbyterians’ moral imperative to be part of the movement to protect the planet and bring justice to those most affected by climate change–the poor and people of color.

 

The Gun Violence Prevention working group committed to creating a church response to gun

Some members of the Gun Violence Prevention working group plan together

violence and shootings. They are also exploring the possibility of holding an Institute for Pastoral Courage that would help pastors and other church leaders explore how to faithfully and boldly preach, teach, and work to end gun violence. Like the creation justice working group, they also began to look forward to the 2018 General Assembly which will be held in Baltimore and began brainstorming ways to deepen our commitment to ending gun violence, connect with denominational and local groups, and build upon the overture that was passed by this year’s GA, which included a prayer for congregations to use. 

 

The Activist Council was also mindful that, as we approach PPF’s 75th anniversary in 2019, this is a time to look back to our roots and also forward to the ways that we are called to continue to bear fruit in the world. With all of our plans for action, we also paused at several times to reflect on how we are putting into practice our values of becoming an anti-racist, anti-oppressive community and organization. This reflection builds upon work that we’ve done with Crossroads Antiracism trainings over the past several years and will continue to guide us forward.

The worship space, with the banner from the PCUSA Walk to Divest decorating the communion table and the tree the Activist Council created together in the background

As we seek to build community that bears fruit–the theme of our gathering time–we also talked about how we will continue to sustain this work, through our own sharing of financial resources, whether it be through monthly giving, IRA distributions, building up the endowment, and/or keeping PPF in our wills. We know that this is a part of our commitment to each other and to the future of PPF.

Finally, our time of worship was truly a time to create and gather in community together. Together we created a tree that bore fruit as we sang, prayed, served communion to each other, and reflected on Isaiah 11:1-10. (Huge thanks to Ashley Bair, who coordinated the worship planning group, Zach Light-Wells and Jin Soo who led music, Rebecca Segers who led us through creating a tree together, and everyone else who participated in various ways). 

Jin Soo, director of music at the Church of All Nations was one of the worship leaders

Zach Light-Wells, from Dallas, was one of our worship leaders

This brief reflection cannot possibly capture all the conversations that were had while we were together in Minneapolis. There were also conversations about how we can deepen our work around gender-based violence, supporting the campaign to make congregations HP-Free, supporting and nurturing Peace Churches in the PCUSA, being in solidarity with the Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia as well as partners in Central America, and more.

 

If you would like to join in this work, you are most welcome, even if you’ve never been to an Activist Council gathering before. PPF’s work is driven by the passion, energy, and commitment of those who speak up and show up, so we hope that you will lend your creativity and commitment to this community. We need all of us. Be in touch with us and we’ll help you get connected.

The Activist Council is a very serious group. No fun, ever.