Adventist Peace Church in Chattanooga works for racial and economic justice (by Lisa Diller)
(The Well in Chattanooga is one of five Adventist congregations currently working toward certification as an “Adventist Peace Church”. Lisa Clark Diller, a professor of history at Southern Adventist University and the APF coordinator for the The Well, shares this update of recent Well activities focused on racial and economic justice as well care for creation.)
One of the Well’s (wellonthesouthside.org) core values is that it must strive to be an incarnational community. This means the Well is very intentional about being present in the physical space of our immediate neighborhood.
When the community is celebrating, mourning, building, or dialoging, we at the Well want to be there alongside our neighbors. We host the local Jefferson Heights Neighborhood Association meetings at our facility. Our once-a-month Deep Well Sabbaths take our worship into the neighborhood through fellowship, education, service, or small group worship.
It is this commitment to being part of the Kingdom of God in the Southside of Chattanooga that leads us to connect with the mission of the Adventist Peace Fellowship. Becoming an Adventist Peace Church, when we discovered this network, was a very obvious move for us to make. The APF campaigns that we are most deeply involved with as a natural part of our life and ministry on the Southside are racial reconciliation, care for creation and economic justice.
We appreciate the vocabulary and the language of APF in helping us root our peacemaking activities in the theology and history of the Adventist Church and its local congregations around the world. Thinking intentionally about what we are doing helps give greater meaning to it. It is also true that being part of the network of Peace Churches helps us stay accountable to what we are doing.
For instance, in the months of November and December we helped the Cowart Place Neighborhood Association plant dozens of trees in the industrial landscape of the Southside as they turned an empty lot into a park. Our children/family group collected quarters and handed out Christmas greetings with rolls of quarters and small quantities of laundry detergent at local laundromats on the Southside. While this small activity does not go far towards achieving lasting economic justice, it does educate our children and families about the realities of many people in the urban core and the challenges they face in going about the most mundane elements of everyday life, such as doing laundry.
Finally, members from the Well joined several urban peace workers and the Chattanooga Police Department on a march for peace and reconciliation in one of the most challenged of our Southside Communities, Alton Park. This was a way of recognizing, in a peaceful way, the national conversation we are having in the U.S. about the police violence and racial reconciliation. The march consisted of a very diverse group of people, and it was an educational experience for the Well members who participated.
We look forward to more inspiration from our sister churches and for more ways to be part of the Kingdom of God and as we grow the followers of Jesus in Chattanooga.