The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is meeting in St. Louis, MO this week. This is the 223rd time this denomination has done this–meeting, praying, worshiping, deciding, leading, listening–on behalf of the church for the good of God’s created world. When the Presbyterians come to town, we stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and all around add to the local economy of the host city. Yesterday, we did something we’ve never done before. We left the comfort of the convention hall and literally took to the streets.
At opening worship on Saturday, the offering taken was dedicated to provide bail for people who have been prescreened for release. We raised more than $47,000. $47,000!!!!!!! Presbyterians partnered with The Bail Project, a community group that screens incarcerated individuals and seeks to help those whose bail is less than $5000. I learned that jails are full of people being held on minor offenses who are unable to pay cash bail. That I didn’t know this is embarrassing. Cities and states that require cash bail is another form of oppression. If you have enough money, you can post bail and then work and be with your family while you await trial. If you don’t have the money, you stay in jail.
So, on Tuesday afternoon, about 500 Presbyterians walked from the Convention Center to the City Justice Center. Once there, the money was presented to the coordinators of The Bail Project. Over three dozen people will now be leaving jail.
It would be easy to pat ourselves on the back for this one. And I have to guard against “feeling too good” about walking in the heat and being one of the marchers. The truth is this is what it looks like to be a disciple of Jesus Christ–embodying the truth of Matthew 25.
We are brothers and sisters with all God’s people. Injustice exists based on race, gender, economic disparity, sexual orientation, country of origin, religious beliefs. It is incumbent upon those of us who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior to learn the life situations that so many people created in the image of God know as a daily reality. And then to step out of our churches, out into the streets and do something about it in the name of Jesus. Thank you 223rd General Assembly for the witness.
Image Source: Presbyterians taking to the streets; June 19, 2018; St. Louis, MO; Mel Tubb via Guidebook