– Judith Roberts

“We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality… tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly” – words made famous by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As a person of faith, this quote reminds me of the oneness of God, “We are One in the Spirit and we are one in the Lord.” As I think about the current divisions in this country along religious beliefs, the legacy of inequities based on racial and socioeconomic status, the violence attributed to gender, discrimination experienced because of sexual orientation, the abuse of the environment, the rejection of the stranger, the separation of the family, and the construction of walls that divide us from our neighbor—it is hard to consider the unity of humanity. Yet, as people of faith, that is exactly what we are called to do. The words of Dr King couldn’t ring truer, sink or swim, we are all in this together. Remembering my baptism in Christ reminds me that I am called into a world that has been turned upside down. For me, there is an unyielding hope: first in the cross, and secondly, that I am one among many that are claimed, called, and sent.

In 2015, I joined with other passionate, insightful, caring, and courageous youth and their leaders at the Gathering in Detroit. The ELCA Racial Justice program hosted an interactive learning exhibit based on the ELCA Social Statement, “Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity & Culture.”

The words of the ELCA baptismal covenant and a water-filled basin represented a baptismal font. The font served as a reminder that it is through our baptism, we are filled with the Spirit to strive for justice.  The exhibit engaged participants to understand racism and the intersection of other forms of oppression through the lens of history and stories.

The work of racial justice is not just analyzing and understanding systems of inequity, but also ongoing working proactively and against it.

Some participants came with questions about working for racial justice; others shared personal stories of their experiences of discrimination. Some just came for conversation and connection. By the end of the Gathering, we collected over 3,000 handwritten pledges called “God’s Work, Our Hands for Justice.”

I left inspired by the commitments made at the Gathering.  Although the ELCA does not reflect the racial diversity of the broader country, my hope is in the vision being created by youth and the leaders that work with them. They are eager to learn, willing to use all of their privileges as a platform for transforming this world in continuing the journey of their baptism by showing up for justice.

I look forward to joining members of this church in Houston, TX for the 2018 Youth Gathering.