Last Friday, various staff members of the Presbyterian Mission Agency decided to surprise everyone on Staff Development Day with a flash mob! Just about two weeks prior, Abbi Heimach (who works with the Young Adult Catalyst office and has been published on Unbound) and Sara Sotelo (who is on the communications staff of Compassion, Peace, and Justice) came to my office and said, “We have an idea.” And right there, Friday’s flash mob was born, sparking numerous rehearsals, a lot of fun, and incredible organizing by Abbi and Sara.
The song, “Without You” by Usher featuring David Guetta, was chosen because, as the song says, we “can’t win, can’t reign… won’t run, won’t fly… can’t resist, can’t fight… won’t soar, won’t climb” without you. But the “you” isn’t just one individual. It refers, in this flash mob, to all the members of this church and to those who have been pushed beyond its walls, to the young striving to find a platform for their voices and to the older striving to say they still have much to contribute. It refers to justice, peace, and truth-telling. But it refers, most of all, to God and the grace upon which we depend. Like the song says, “I am lost, I am vain, I will never be the same without you, without you.”
The flash mob was a reminder that we are in this together, relying on God—and that paralysis is the inevitable result when we forget that. It is a reminder that there is no church without “you”—no church without justice, without the empowering of those made marginal, without Jesus clothed in the tattered coat of a homeless woman or the uniform of an incarcerated man (Matt. 25).
It is also a reminder that we need to mix things up or, as Jesus does in Matthew 21, turn over some tables. In fact, this flash mob represented much of the enthusiasm and vision being poured into a Compassion, Peace, and Justice Big Tent Summit called “Turning the Tables,” August 1-3, 2013, Louisville, Kentucky.
Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.” The blind and the lame then came to him in the temple, and he cured them.—Matthew 21: 12-14
We are gathering a diverse community on fire for justice and Jesus! Together we will explore the tables or structures that hold up systems of injustice and violence, and learn how to turn over those tables in our own local contexts (or even in the church). This will be no ordinary conference where speakers dump the world’s problems on you. This will be a creative, interactive space for action and reflection, open critique, art and play, alternative worship, and training in sustainable and effective organizing practices. At “Turning the Tables,” we will begin to deepen lasting connections, which will empower, resource, and support us in the radical ministries of justice and peace. The focus will be on food justice and its intersecting issues, but the models for action, analysis, and self-care will apply to whatever justice need your community is facing or to which you feel called.
Are you in?
For more information on Big Tent, and to register, go here. Check back with the Compassion, Peace, and Justice website and with Unbound for further updates on the “Turning the Tables” summit—and for how to register for this specific program of Big Tent. More to come!
——Patrick David Heery, Unbound Managing Editor