by Bob Grawey
The Union Congregational United Church of Christ in Elk River will culminate several weeks of looking at and defining social injustice as it pertains to biblical justice with a Martin Luther King Jr. observance Sunday, Jan. 16.
Various speakers, the Minneapolis Gospel Choir Ensemble, plus readings and an art gallery depicting social injustices will highlight the life of King and what he stood for.
Cheryl Wold is chairing the event and says the focus on social injustice came about as the church began exploring what justice-seeking, a core value of Union Congregational Church, meant in today’s world.
“What difference does this church want to make in this community,” Wold asks, “and in ourselves, for the next five years?”
The church was awarded a grant from its denomination to put together a service celebrating King and his mission. Several speakers delivered talks on related topics to social injustice and biblical justice leading up to the King observance.
Union Congregational’s the Rev. Dana Mann says her parishioners decided to explore what biblical justice looks like through the eyes of those who view life in different shades of understanding.
“When you are in a different social strata or culture, you read Scripture differently,” Mann explains, “and you find different things in it. What do the marginalized or oppressed hear in the parables? What comes alive to them?”
Mann, who has a background in dance, and Wold, an artist, say they felt art was the perfect way for people of varying backgrounds to communicate social injustices. They also say art is a way in which people could understand the perspectives of others.
To engage her congregation in exploring social injustice and justice as it relates biblically, Mann, with Wold’s help, encourages Union Congregational attendees to define what social injustice looked like in today’s world through artful expression.
People could use any genre of art, including writing essay or poems.
“For some people, injustice is in environmental affairs,” Wold says. “A lot of people see injustice when it comes to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender issues. For them that’s a huge justice seeking issue. For others it’s homelessness or access to public education.”
A representative from the Minnesota Council of Churches spoke at Union Congregational about refugees and immigrant issues, shining perspective on those social topics as well.
The overall focus Mann and Wold are encouraging fits well with what many have come to associate with King and his message.
Mann says as Elk River becomes more diverse, people of all ages will have a need to grasp diversity and what that diversity means in a biblical sense.
“It’s not a cause. It’s a way of living,” Mann emphasizes. “It’s a way of looking at the world through the eyes of God’s justice. That’s why we’re looking at Martin Luther King (Jr.)’s vision of justice.”
Church attendees and the public will get the chance to view artwork depicting social injustice through the eyes of ordinary people, too, at the art gallery set up in the church. Wold estimates this first social injustice art gallery will yield around a dozen art pieces.
Once word got out about what Union Congregational Church was doing, members of other United Church of Christ churches asked if they could submit art for the gallery and King observance. Some artwork is coming from as far away as the East Coast.
The Martin Luther King Jr. celebration begins a 3 p.m. at Union Congregational Church in Elk River.
It is free to the public, but reservations are needed. To make a reservation, or to get directions to the church, call 763-441-1203.
The art gallery is open through January Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays.
“Within ourselves we are limited. We all come from a certain place and see things a certain way,” Mann says. “Where are our blind spots? Wherever they are, our blind spots need to be pushed open if we are to live ethically and have a relationship with God based on God’s vision for us.”