From the Dean’s Desk: Transform Unjust Structures, Challenge Violence, Pursure Peace
The Very Reverend Paul Lebens-Englund
Seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind, and to pursue peace and reconciliation.

As you may know, the community of Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral has entered into a five-week period of intentional prayer and discernment, looking for the signs of God's presence and activity in us, around us, and through us as glimpsed through the framework of the Five Marks of Mission.

In yesterday's homily, our guest preacher, the Reverend Barbara Mraz, invited us 'to look up,' just as Jesus did prior to praying the Beatitudes (Luke 6:20-31). The practice of 'looking up' allows us to better situate our prayer in a particular time and place - allowing us not only to better describe the dissonance between our reality and God's dream, but also to better discern the subtle signs of God's present in-breaking among and around us. The practice of 'looking up' is about seeing the world for what it is - hurting and hungry for sure, but also full of compassion, kindness, and generosity of spirit. Finally, the practice of 'looking up' is also about not only tending to the cares and concerns that come to our front door (as outlined in Mark of Mission #3), but is also, as wonderfully expressed in Mark of Mission #4, about looking upstream to discern not only the 'symptoms' of disrepair, but also the 'sources': to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind, and to pursue peace and reconciliation.

The primary metaphor we've been using this year at Saint Mark's is the story of the fisher-people who keep pulling people from the river. While delighted to help, and morally obliged to do so, they also recognize they might save themselves and others some needless hurt and heartache by moving upstream to figure out who's throwing folks in the river, and why?

Saint Mark's has been faithfully engaged for years in the work of tending folks downstream, offering generous hospitality and delicious meals to those who come to us hungry, hurting, and alone. Saint Mark's continues to provide monthly meals on the 2nd Sunday of each month, in partnership with other downtown faith communities, and continues to provide daily bag lunches, including a targeted partnership with the Student Services Office at Minneapolis Community & Technical College (MCTC). These are good and meaningful ministries and will grow and strengthen over time. And, beginning this year, Saint Mark's is also exploring new mission partnerships to address chronic community concerns further upstream, be it partnering with MCTC through the LionHeart Scholarship program, partnering with the Emerson Elementary PTA and the Hennepin UMC Dignity Center through various fundraising, mentoring, and volunteering, or partnering with Circle of the Beloved and the Northside Achievement Zone through wide-ranging organizational support. In all this, we're 'looking up' to the source of our community's hurts and hungers and are committing to be part of the long-term solution.

Our individual and collective footprint in the greater Twin Cities is significant and is marked by our commitment to social transformation, to violence reduction, and to the building of a more peaceful and reconciled community. Are you in? Are you committed? Consider making your pledge today!

Now, ask yourself, HOW do I or will I engage in social transformation, violence reduction, and peace-building?
Idea: Reflect on your 'rule of life': Among the areas of 'prayer, study, & action,' do you feel well balanced?
Idea: Reflect on this question: How are you already offering your loving service to the community around you?
Idea: Reflect on this question: If you're looking for new ways to serve, what community needs speak most clearly to you? Hunger, homelessness, the education gap, public safety, domestic violence, gun violence prevention, etc.?