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Churches Prepare for Day of Justice

March 21, 2018

Last June, Synod 2017 called for an annual Day of Justice to be held in churches beginning on Aug. 19, 2018.

As many churches gear up for this new event, they can look to congregations in New Mexico for advice. That’s because Classis Red Mesa and Rehoboth (N.Mex.) Christian Reformed Church were so excited about synod’s decision that they held a Day of Justice in 2017, a year ahead of schedule.

Gail De Young, a member of Classis Red Mesa and an adviser to Synod 2017, said that they decided to hold this special Sunday last year because they believed the quest for justice cannot wait.

“It has to happen as soon as possible, given the many forms of oppression, persecution, prejudice, and discrimination that occur every day,” she said.

De Young has served as a teacher, counselor, and administrator at Rehoboth Christian School for many years. Working alongside the Native American people there, she says, she has witnessed oppression, discrimination, hardship, and marginalization.

“This call for justice is a passion that runs deep,” she said.

When pastor Rob Byker of Rehoboth CRC introduced the idea a year ahead of schedule, it was a challenge that was welcomed.

The planning team quickly decided to use the Belhar Confession, adopted by Synod 2012 and categorized as a contemporary testimony by Synod 2017, as the basis for the liturgy they used and the communion service they held.

The call for justice “also brought us to the table affirming that we are one in Christ as we celebrate Christ's suffering and death for all people,” said De Young.

De Young said she hopes aspects of the service can encourage other churches to do the same. Here are some of the things that their service included:

After some opening remarks, everyone read: “We believe in the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects and cares for the church through Word and Spirit. This, God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end.”
This was followed by song, prayer, and greetings.
Then a person read: “Lord God, you have called us to be salt of the earth and light to the world. Your church is called blessed because it is a peacemaker. We are witnesses by word and deed to the glorious promise of a new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells.
“But, Lord God, we come to confess where we have sinned against you and against our brothers and sisters who cry out for justice.”
Another person read: “We confess, Lord God, that though Christ has conquered the powers of sin and death, hatred, irreconciliation, bitterness, and enmity, we are still bound by our disobedience.”
Another reader: “We confess that in our Christian land, the divisions of races and alienation run deep and hide the way to new possibilities for society and the world.”
And yet another: “We confess, Lord God, that out of prejudice, fear, selfishness, and unbelief we have separated ourselves from those who seek justice. Lord, forgive us when we hide behind our church doors, preferring to stay safe.”

De Young said her hope and prayer is that as churches join in a Day of Justice this summer, “it will ignite a passion to stand up for others who have no voice.”

The planning team for the 2018 Day of Justice agrees. They have gathered a variety of resources to help congregations plan a service that matches their individual justice journeys.

“Different congregations have different instances of injustice in their community and different understandings about what their response should be,” said Kristen deRoo VanderBerg, a member of the planning team.

“We’ve tried to compile resources that can meet churches where they are, whether it is at the beginning of their justice journey or much further along the line.”

The 2018 Day of Justice resources can be found here. This site includes study materials about justice, background information on a variety of justice topics, and suggestions to help plan a justice-themed worship service.