As the fall begins again, so does our countywide justice ministry. We’ll soon be gathering for our ‘house meetings,’ and we welcome Greg Stout as a new team leader. Let Greg tell you more about our ministry…
Dear fellow Good Shepherd Members,
About a year ago I found out that Good Shepherd has a Justice Ministry and I was asked to join the Justice team and attend a Zoom meeting. I had not known that we had a Justice Ministry. After participating this first year, Pastor Keith has asked me to become more involved in our Justice Ministry, and I would like to share some insight I have come to know about what this important mission is all about.
The Good Shepherd Justice team is one of the teams that belong to a Pinellas County-wide organization called FAST—which stands for Faith & Action for Strength Together. FAST has several paid employees called “organizers” in an office in St. Petersburg and there are around 50 congregations of many different denominations and faiths in Pinellas County.
FAST is part of a large national Justice Ministry called DART: Direct Action & Research Training. DART was started 42 years ago in Miami and is now in 10 states, mostly in the south and mid-west. DART has done amazing things all over the country. I recently attended their national convention in Orlando and came back with incredible information and inspiration. I had never realized that our Bible is full of scriptures that call us to Justice. Some examples:
Isaiah 1:17: Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
Zechariah 7:9: This is what the Lord Almighty said: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.
Proverbs 31:8-9: Open your mouth, judge righteously; maintain the rights of the poor and needy.
One of the wonderful speakers at the convention defined Justice as “the act of sorting out what belongs to whom and returning it to them”. After attending this very informative and moving presentation, I realize now that working for justice has been commanded to us by God. Since much injustice is caused by greed, it is hard to work against it without large sums of money. The very well-organized DART organization works for justice with large numbersof people publicly calling on our elected officials to be accountable.
Our local FAST Justice group has made some wonderful changes in Pinellas County in the last few years. We have gotten the Pinellas County Sherriff to start using “civil citations” for children instead of arresting them (previously 250-300 children were arrested per year and had a permanent felony on their records). In the past several years we got the St. Petersburg City Council to commit $15 million, and the County to commit $85 million for affordable housing. This happened by large numbers of people showing their support for these projects.
We would like to have two Justice teams at Good Shepherd. Pastor Keith and Leslie will continue to be the Team Leaders for one, and I will be the Team Leader for the other. Our goal is to have ten team members on each team. There is NOT a lot of time commitment for team members—only 3–4 functions per year. There are some organizational meetings in the fall, then after the year’s project is selected, there is a large group meeting to approve it. The most important meeting is called the Nehemiah Action in the spring, where we ask all team members to attend and bring three friends, so that there can be a very large crowd to witness the decision makers being publicly asked to agree to our Justice request. The amazing success of the entire DART organization shows that you don’t need tons of money to stop injustice, just people of faith working together.
In the next few weeks we will be hosting some “Home meetings” to explain how the FAST Justice ministry at Good Shepherd works and what is involved. I ask you to read some of the scriptures about Justice and come to a meeting to see how you can help in our struggle toward Justice in our community.
Thank you and God Bless!