Part of what makes the World Wide Web so interesting is the way it links together things you wouldn’t ordinarily find in the same mental zip code. Two stray clicks and you’ve discovered a connection between the Great Barrier Reef and wine-soaked raisins; robotic sergers and distant quasars; justice and worship. To the church’s great shame, these last two items—working for justice and worshiping a just God—are too infrequently considered together. But those who do think of them as inextricably linked have provided resources on the Internet for those still catching on to the biblical bond between prayer and peacemaking.
Unfortunately, if you simply do a Google search with justice and worship as your key words, you’ll end up on sites filled with pantheistic prayers by gaia-loving champions of eco-justice. But a bit of careful clicking can lead to plenty of material for the church looking to deepen its worship and make its work for justice more authentic.
If you’re looking for prayers, litanies, and so on—the raw material for actual worship services—then feel free to explore the “worship and justice” Web pages of mainline denominational sites.
- Reformed Church in America (www.rca.org/worship/material/peacejustice/peaceworship.php). Walks through a traditional order of worship and offers resources for each worship action.
- United Methodist Church (www.umc-gbcs.org/ csamay21_june2001.htm). A similar page does the same.
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (www.elca.org/dcs/worship3.htm). Lists theological themes related to justice along with scriptural passages in which these themes are rooted.
- Presbyterian Church, Environmental Justice Office (www.pcusa.org/environment/e-day-worship.htm). Focused on environmental concerns; provides a beautiful responsive prayer based on Psalm 104 and a handful of suggestions for children’s sermons.
- Mennonite Church (http://Peace.mennolink.org). “Peace and Justice Support Network” provides educational activities for congregations, children, and youth; numerous sermons; litanies; printed materials (bulletin inserts and pamphlets); clip art; and more.
The Political Dimension
One of the most respected Christian organizations working for justice in America is Bread for the World (www.bread.org). Founded in the seventies by Rev. Arthur Simon (brother of former Illinois senator Paul Simon), it is a “nationwide Christian citizens’ movement seeking justice for the world’s hungry people by lobbying our nation’s decision makers.” Its members include 46,000 people of faith, including 2,000 churches. Their website has a great page for involving your church (www.bread.org/howtohelp/church/index.html) and is an excellent source for educational materials. For example, I learned that “nearly half of US voters believe that either welfare or foreign aid is the biggest item in the federal budget.” In fact, “nutrition programs and welfare together amount to only 3 percent . . . foreign aid takes up less than 1 percent.”
Think Globally, Act Locally
A catch phrase of the justice movement is “think globally, act locally.” It’s easier to think globally when connected, via the Internet, with Christians in other parts of the globe who are working for the same justice and praying to the same God. The Iona Community has been on the forefront of linking justice and worship globally and locally for decades. At their website (www.iona.org.uk or www.ionabooks.com), one can peruse and purchase collections of John Bell’s public meditations, songbooks of global praise and lament, and many other printed worship resources, all infused with God’s vision for a world of shalom. (For more about John Bell, the Wild Goose Worship Group, and the Iona Community, see RW 62.)
Another wonderful international organization is Christian Aid (www.christian-aid.org.uk), which works “in over sixty countries helping people, regardless of religion or race, to improve their own lives and tackle the causes of poverty and injustice.” Their website offers news and educational resources. Each page has beautiful and haunting pictures that tell the story of people working for justice around the world. There are position papers, short articles, quotable quotes, prayers, biblical reflections, and even links to an online community listserve that gives people a forum for publishing their ideas, sharing fund-raising tips, and offering worship suggestions.
Causal Links and Missing Links
One final note about causal links and missing links: some might be put off by the fact that some of these groups work for justice “regardless of religion.” And some groups (though not those mentioned in this article) seem not to connect working for peace with proclaiming the lordship of the Prince of Peace. But whatever skittishness these left-leaning brothers and sisters in Christ might have about boldly speaking the name of Jesus, the causal link between their love for God and their work for justice is clear and consistent. They challenge more theologically conservative groups with their prayerful, persistent, visible, and vocal efforts on behalf of those most oppressed and downtrodden in the world—the ones Scripture clearly tells us God is most concerned about.
More Web Resources
- Alternatives for Simple Living (www.simpleliving.org). Offers a variety of resources for worship and social justice. Whose Birthday Is It Anyway? An Advent and Christmas Resource for Families and Churches includes worship materials and ideas. Their Lenten calendar has a variety of justice-related websites to visit as a part of individual or group devotions.
- National Council of Christian Churches Micah 6 Project (www.micah6.org). A congregational initiative for integrating the ministries of justice, service, and spiritual growth into all areas of their church life and personal lives. Site lists contact information for churches participating in the project. Worship and study materials can be ordered through the site.
- Jubilee USA (www.jubileeusa.org). A group of labor, churches, religious institutions, and activists working together to relieve the international debt of poor nations. The site has a catalog of worship resources and Bible studies related to poverty and justice.