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Turning the World Upside Down Through Living Justice

by Mary Beth Coudal

Alycia Capone.
Through a skit offered by the Theatre of the Oppressed, participants were led to express their feelings or enact moments of oppression. Here, Alycia Capone, Global Ministries missionary, improvises the role of a school principal who condemned children based on their hometowns.
Image by: Mary Beth Coudal
Source: GBGM Administration
Participants expressed feelings and enacted moments of oppression as part of a Living Justice Seminar.
Participants expressed feelings and enacted moments of oppression as part of a Living Justice Seminar.
Image by: Mary Beth Coudal
Source: GBGM Administration

July 8, 2008--In the theater of life, are we protagonists? Or are we spectators?

This question was asked of the diverse group attending the Living Justice seminar, a five-day immersion experience offered by the Office of Deaconess and Home Missioner. The 12 young women and one man came from a variety of life experiences and hometowns to question themselves and one another at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City. The overall topic, "Poverty: Community, Life and Land," focused on how poverty and land rights are connected.

The seminar included on-site visits to the National Museum of the American Indian, where the group discussed how the Pilgrims took land from Native Americans. They visited St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Harlem, where the Rev. Earl Kooperkamp led the group in a discussion on the challenges of gentrification.

The group also watched and discussed the movie Erin Brockovich* and issues of class, poverty, globalization, and systems that disempower.

The group had time to share meals together near where they stayed at the Alma Mathews House, a guest house in Greenwich Village for people in mission, owned and operated by The Women's Division.

"At first I thought I don't know why I'm going to the city to learn about land issues," said Greta Leach, 26, an associate pastor and seminarian from North Plat, Nebraska. "But, really, how connected we all are--rural and urban! I have a lot more hope now. People in the cities care and are doing things. Seeing so many people excited about justice issues is really exciting."
"[Young people] don't want to be just sitting in the pews," said Rebecca Dodson Louter, executive with the Office of Deaconess and Home Missioner. "They want to take action. We need to be supporting and empowering them. We are working with young adults to show them that we can be faith-based and called to and engaged in social justice."

On the afternoon of July 1, 2008, one presenter, Jeremiah Drake from the Theatre of the Oppressed, led the group in improvisation games. He said: "We are all artists. We are all creators. There are no spectators."

Through the theatre games and throughout the five-day seminar, participants witnessed from their life experiences the call to justice. As they did with the chairs in the drama games, the young people turned the world upside-down. 
The Living Justice Seminar is offered yearly by the Office of Deaconess and Home Missioner. It is modeled on the United Nations Seminar Program, an experiential and thought-provoking learning opportunity offered in New York City and Washington DC. Through the Seminar Program, people from all places can delve into timely and provocative issues from a faith-based perspective.

To find out more about the Seminar Program, go to:

To learn more about the Deaconess and Home Missioner office, go to:

* Erin Brockovich is based on the true story of "an American legal clerk who, despite the lack of a formal law school education, was instrumental in constructing a case against the $28 billion Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), of California in 1993." (Wikipedia)

See Also...
Topic: Civil rights Education GBGM events GBGM programs Justice
Geographic Region: North Eastern U.S.United States
Source: Mission Personnel

arrow icon. View Listing of Missionaries Currently Working in: United States   

Date posted: Jul 10, 2008