April 11, 2015 / 2014 / July / The Marks of Mission: An Example

The Marks of Mission: An Example

submitted July 17, 2014 by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1>The Marks of Mission: An Example</h1>

To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.
- 5 Marks of Mission

In my last blog post, I talked about the critical role that language plays in how we see our neighbors and those in our community. I found this communication from Mayor Bramson in New Rochelle, NY cited as a rare example of political courage. I agree, and I also think it is worthy of being passed along here. We often have occasion to reflect on the Baptismal Covenant; my thoughts usually gravitate to this portion:

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

I often think about this and hope that I will act accordingly when the time comes. But what does that mean? Does that mean I should simply be nice and think kind thoughts about those who make me uncomfortable? That I should acknowledge the person with the sign asking for money, so they know that I see them as a full person while my car idles next to them at the stoplight? 

Or am I called to do more, to not only think about and treat others with respect while they are with me (aren't they always?) but to seek out opportunities to share my voice on behalf of those who often have none? Yes, I know, it specifically says "to seek" in the quoted mark of mission at the top of this page. It couldn't be more obvious, yet it's not always easy to do. 

And this is why I think this statement from Noam Bramson, the mayor of New Rochelle, NY is so worthy of being read in its entirety. It is respectful and assumes sincerity from all involved, while offering a clear, coherent witness to the dignity of those attempting to be denied their home.

In the case at issue now, an agency called Cardinal McCloskey Community Services is proposing to purchase a property in a pleasant, close-knit, middle-class neighborhood.  It will serve as a home for four young men with autism.

The neighborhood is opposed – strongly, passionately, and just about universally.  At a meeting at City Hall a couple of weeks ago, residents turned out in big numbers to voice their objections in polite, but very forceful terms. 

Mayor Bramson then gives an eloquent, well-reasoned defense of the young men proposing to live in this neighborhood, refuting with specifics objections based on fear and 'not in my backyard' justification. Most importantly, he reminds the community that these individuals are people worthy of dignity and respect. 

Read Mayor Bramson's statement here.

We often frame behavior as a response to the negative: "Don't be like that guy." Mayor Bramson has given us a positive example of how to interact with others and live out our Baptismal Covenant in real-life situations. I have no idea of his religious background, if any. I don't know anything about his politics. I do know he has given me an example of the importance of using my voice to actively support others and combat injustice. 

I hope that I am able to recognize these potential opportunities in my community. I hope I will have the courage to speak up for the respect and dignity of all people, even when it makes me uncomfortable in the moment. Actually, that's probably how I will know it's the right time and necessary to do so.