Blog Post by
Rev. Vanessa Hawkins
Designated Associate Presbytery Leader
This past Saturday, the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, Director of the Office of Public Witness, posed two question to approximately 70 Giddings-Lovejoy members. What is your passion? What are your concerns? The Office of Public Witness is the public policy information and advocacy office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Jimmie is the director and also my brother.
The Social Witness Action Team (comprised of social witness team members from across the Synod of Mid-America presbyteries) hosted the Troubling the Waters: For the Healing of the World event. It was a wonderful and relaxing event filled with relevant information, dynamic music, discussions, a nice lunch and fellowship. There were Giddings-Lovejoy members who came from the North and South and East and West in Missouri to learn more about the Office of Public Witness (OPW) and local issues.
For over 45 minutes, Jimmie gave an overview of the work of his office and reminded us that “people are looking for the presence of the church outside the doors of the church.” He also reminded participants that our Presbyterian forefather John Calvin wrote, “Civil magistery is a calling not only holy and legitimate, but by far the most sacred and honorable in human life… Therefore, we are called to be engaged in the public arena, and ask how God is calling me to act out my faith in the world.”
What I truly enjoyed about this event was that the Social Witness team provided presenters who embodied a national focus as well as those focusing on local issues. Jimmie discussed national issues (i.e.; sex trafficking, racial injustice, gun violence, and the opioid epidemic, etc.) while the six panelists from local Presbyterian churches and community organizations highlighted their passion and concerns for educational and health equity, community and church relations, elder care, racial justice, payday lending, and the benefits of providing access to community gardens. Each individual presented participants with a wealth of information and resources.
What I loved about this event was that Giddings-Lovejoy folks showed up. The diversity of the participants (age, faith community, race, geography) demonstrated that Presbyterians across this presbytery care deeply about justice. In fact, so deeply that they gave up their Saturday to be a part of this event. Also, people in our communities are passionate not only about engaging social justice issues, but they continue to learn other ways to be a presence of hope and mercy in and for the world. My hope is that this event not only provided new information, but also opened the doors to new friendships and partnerships.
Below are a few links to some of the resources that were mentioned.
Rev. Vanessa Hawkins
- Social Witness Office (PCUSA): https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/compassion-peace-justice/acswp/topics/
- Office of Public Witness: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/compassion-peace-justice/washington/
- Booklet: Holy Discontent: Grassroots Advocacy and Organizing in the PC(USA): https://www.presbyterianmission.org/resource/holy-discontentment-advocacy-resource/