In witnessing to God’s call for justice and human dignity, the Mission and Social Justice Commission of The Riverside Church seeks to celebrate diversity, build inclusiveness, and ensure equity for God’s people locally, nationally and internationally. The Commission facilitates the planning and implementation of activities available to every member of the Church and community through worship, reflection, education, service and action. Toward these ends, the Commission is responsible for the benevolence, service and social justice ministries of the Church.
On Monday, April 18, Riverside traveled to Washington D.C. for a rally at the Supreme Court in support of DACA and DAPA?. Here are reflections from one of the participants:
At 3:00 a.m., I got into a cab. After a few minutes on the road, the driver Max, curious about my travels asked, "Where are you going this early and why?" I answered, "To Washington D.C. to demonstrate in support of our immigrants." Then Max told me he too was an immigrant and proceeded to share his story: He had come from Italy speaking no English, his first job was a dishwasher at a bar. He remembered another newcomer who stopped for a drink and was rudely asked to leave by a patron who said, "Get out, you don't belong here." Max then said he would never forget the American blonde who stood up to the man to tell him the newcomer has as much right to be here as you do. "That is when I first knew I too could belong."
Rev. Bertram Johnson and ten of us from The Riverside Church joined many others in D.C. to support immigrants from across the nation at the steps of the Supreme Court, demanding that President Obama's executive action be upheld. The President's order, known as the Deferred Action for Parents of American and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), provides relief from deportation for 5 million immigrants, including 250,000 New Yorkers, allowing them to work legally keeping families together.
On the ride there, people shared their reasons for coming. Daniel told us he witnessed the removal of parents from their home, recalling how he saw the horror in the child's face as his hands were peeled off his dad. This brought me back to my childhood, feeling the grip of my mother's hand whom I rarely let go. Daniel said he can still hear echoes of that youngster screaming for his parents.
Hearing this made it clear why I was on board. Diana Butler Bass, in her book Grounded, calls it, "we--the power that binds us to one another, to God, and to the world. To encounter God here, we must walk out of the building... to share, to commune... to decide things together... a way of life."
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Below are descriptions of social justice ministries, task forces and programs:
1. Global Justice and Peace:
Witnesses to Riversiders’ involvement as an international peace church and focuses on the United Nations’ role in peace making and peace building.
Maranatha, a ministry of The Riverside Church, is committed to serving God by fostering greater understanding while promoting equity for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning people. To these ends, we have organized our ministry to serve, advocate, and support the LGBTQ community.
3. The Million Man Marchers:
Riversiders’ under God’s direction gather for physical, mental and spiritual strengthening, and seek to make a positive impact upon the lives of our children and families inside and outside of The Riverside Church.
4. The Prison Ministry:
Arranges and participates in worship services in New York State prisons, supports prisoners in struggles to obtain justice and to re-engage life in community, and brings before the Riverside congregation issues facing the imprisoned today.
Riverside Coming Home:
Riverside Coming Home seeks to empower men and women who are returning to the community from incarceration. Riverside Coming Home is based on a well-established model with a track record of success and over a thousand graduates in the New York Metropolitan area in the past two decades. Participants work with facilitators and mentors to support personal healing and growth, skill development, and reintegration into the community.
5. Riverside Sojourners: Supporting Detained Asylum Seekers and Those Recently Released from Immigration Detention:
People fleeing persecution in their home countries who request asylum at a U.S. port of entry are arrested, handcuffed and confined to immigration detention -- a traumatic experience that adds to their suffering. In New York, Sojourners volunteers reach out in friendship with regular visits to the most isolated of immigration detainees -- those who have no friends or family in the area who can visit them.
Asylum seekers can spend months, even years, in windowless detention centers before they win asylum or are deported.
Sojourners responds by sending a team of volunteers two Saturdays each month to visit detainees, providing hope, solidarity, and a link to the outside world. Sojourners also seeks to support those recently released from detention with no one else in the U.S. to help them with free housing, connection to food pantries/soup kitchens and other services and social support.
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6. Riverside African Fellowship:
Offers spiritual and social solidarity among African members of The Riverside Church who seek to build a bridge to other African communities within the U. S. and Africa and to support peace and justice in all parts of the African continent. 7. Riverside HIV/AIDS Ministry
The Riverside Church Global HIV and AIDS Ministry mission is advancing community HIV and AIDS prevention, education, care and support for all humankind impacted by HIV and AIDS disease. More information Committee Mission Statement
To Advance Community HIV Prevention, Education and our HIV/AIDS Ministries. Contact Information:
Email the committee co-chairs at firstname.lastname@example.org TASK FORCES 8. Anti-Death Penalty Task Force
To educate the congregation and community about the violent, racist and cruel nature of the death penalty and to make known our empathy with the families of murder victims 9. Latinos/as @ Riverside
Brings political, cultural and spiritual issues of our Latino/a members and neighbors before our Riverside congregation. 10. Overcoming Violence/Empowering for Peace:
Actively involved in the advocacy, educating, mobilizing and organizing Riversiders community to this issue and fostering continued dialogue between the New York City Police Department and our community. 11. South Africa Support Group:
Supports and promotes the healing and reconciliation work of its partner organization, the South African Council of Churches, in the hope that we may learn from each other how best to achieve a just, multiracial society. COLLABORATIONS/MEMBERSHIPS 12. Coalition Against the Violence Initiative:
Seeks and end to the funding and practice of all racist medical research and experimentation, especially that which targets so called “minority” populations and children. 13. Upper Manhattan Together (UMT):
A consortium of Harlem churches initiating progressive justice projects to the purpose of empowering the citizens of Harlem. PROGRAMS 14. The Sharing Fund Committee:
Allocates funds from 10% of the Every Member Canvas (annual congregational pledge) to grass roots projects locally, nationally, and internationally. More Information 15. The Densford Fund:
Distributes small grants to projects, which further Native American appreciation, education and concerns. 16. Handgun Litigation Project:
Riverside acts as a fiscal agent for this program which successfully litigated against the top handgun manufactures and distributors for negligence in the distribution of illegal firearms, which accounts for more than 90% of gun-related deaths in the United States each year