Guest post from Dan Tomlinson
In the past fortnight I’ve read two books: “Marching for Justice” and “Go Set a Watchman”, the widely publicised sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird”. One, a pamphlet on community organizing and the Salvation Army and the other a novel exploring issues of race, family and faith in the USA in the 1960s. Different though these titles may sound, they both showed me the importance of looking beyond the things that divide us. I wanted to highlight how this is an essential feature of successful community organising.
“Go Set a Watchman” returns to the Finch family of Macomb, Alabama, 20 years after the events in “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Jean Louise is now in her late twenties and has been living in New York for a number of years. She returns to the family home for a summer break and discovers that many of the people she knows and loves hold very different views on race than her own. This progressive New Yorker is forced to accept that the town she loves is, at least in part, a town of hatred and division. Continue reading “Though we are different, we are decided…”
While doing some of the research for Marching Towards Justice, we were excited to re-discover some of the great advice that is held in Orders and Regulations for Salvation Army Officers (O&R). We focussed particularly on the sections on ‘visitation’, which is defined there as personal contact with people… where they are to be found, with a view to furthering each other’s spiritual interests. We take it as self-evident that seeking to further someone’s spiritual interests involves a concern about their material wellbeing.
For example, if you’re concerned about how somebody’s Bible study is going, you also need to be concerned about whether they are being paid a fair wage in order to put food on the table for their family, or whether the children have enough space to do their homework, or whether the whole family feels safe on their way to work or school. While the earthly and spiritual might be formally distinct, the two are joined together so tightly that neither can survive separation. It is therefore implicit that a visit should lead to action. Continue reading “The Craft of Visitation”
By Nick Coke
Today I’ll be celebrating a great victory with a plateful of meatballs. This afternoon I’m off to IKEA (a huge Swedish furniture chain-store) to buy some furniture for the house I’ve just moved into. I’ll be honest and admit I really dislike going to IKEA. I’m just not a shopping kind of guy. But today I go with a spring in my step because the CEO has announced they will be paying the Living Wage. Not the watered down version but the real one. When I step across the threshold I will do so with great pleasure and some pride because I’ve journeyed with Living Wage campaigners for the last 8 years. And today is a momentous occasion. Last month I snapped a selfie with Abdul Durrant, a cleaner from HSBC, who 12 years ago stood up in the shareholders meeting and challenged the CEO to pay the bank’s cleaners a living wage. He did not do this alone. Behind him was Citizens UK – at that time a fairly small alliance of unions, churches, mosques, synagogues and schools based in East London. Since then the campaign and Citizens UK has blossomed. The Living Wage Foundation has accredited over 1500 employers and ensured millions of pounds goes into the pockets of the UK’s lowest paid workers. The living wage has become a hot political topic and dominated the Chancellor’s recent budget statement. In our pamphlet, Marching Towards Justice, we relate our own living wage stories – how we identified it as a prophetic and just alternative to families forced into poverty by low wages; how we worked with poorly-paid members of our own congregations to fight for a living wage; and how we took inspiration from The Salvation Army’s living wage campaign of the 1890s in the match factory. The work goes on – look out for Salvation Army announcements later in the year. Today’s victory is so important because IKEA is the first national retailer to go living wage. Imagine what can happen if others go the same way – John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, WH Smith? Thousands of workers lifted out of poverty. Bring it on! And so, today I’ll eat IKEA meat balls with pride – I even promise not to whinge when I put the flat-packs together. Well done campaigners (every victory takes great persistance, patience and invention) and well done IKEA.
By Nick Coke
In our pamphlet, Marching Towards Justice, we outline a methodology for justice-seeking. We highlight four key elements required for bringing about lasting change: visitation, power analysis, training and development, and public action. Of the four, public action is the most contentious. Why? Because it involves struggle and agitation. In our section on ‘public action’ you will find the following words and phrases: ‘actions are targeted and personal’, ‘they should involve confrontation’, ‘the appropriate action is the one that will provoke the action one is looking for’. Provoke, target, confront – words that might make us uncomfortable as followers of Jesus. After all, isn’t the Christian life all about love, mercy and grace? Yes of course it is, but if we ask the question ‘what would Jesus do?’, we might soon realise that he would not have been too squeamish about the kind of public action we write about. In fact, not only was he a remarkable practitioner of agitation and confrontation (turning over the tables in the temple courts, healing on the sabbath, telling stories about good Samaritans, reclining at the table of ‘sinners’ and ‘outcasts’), he also taught his followers exactly how to do it in some of the most revolutionary political statements you’ll ever find. In Walter Wink’s wonderful short book, ‘Jesus and Non-violence: A Third Way’, there is brief exposition of Matthew 5:38-41. You will know the passage well: Continue reading “What would Jesus do? The art of public action.”
On Friday 3 July, at the Bryant and May match factory in Bow, ‘Marching for Justice: Community Organising and The Salvation Army’ (click to download PDF) was launched. In a hot bar, packed to the rafters we remembered the brave match-girls who had fought for and won justice. We felt like we were standing on holy ground, a ‘thin place’, where heaven and earth collided – a place where justice had flowed like a river. Continue reading “‘Marching for Justice’ Launched”