ICE protest
ICE protest in Milwaukee, WI during the UCC General Synod

Children in cages, concentration camps, and jails – hungry, abused and scared as hell.

Young people shackled by and to the (in)justice system via electronic monitoring and/or criminal records that hold them back like the proverbial ball and chain.

Families grieving yet another child lost to senseless gun violence – their gifts, dreams, and promise negated by the label “known gang member.”

I write these words in total exhaustion, often-times paralyzed with a sense of uselessness.

And then “Ella’s Song” rises up from the recesses of my memory—

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

We—the songwriter and prophets proclaim. Not “I” and not “you.”

WE who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.

It is waaay past time to reclaim our role and responsibility to care for and look out for one another.  We must take back the power we have summarily handed over to the police.  As people of faith, we are truly the ones called to “serve and protect.”

This would require knowing our neighbors. Truly seeing each of them. Caring for and about them.  Allowing ourselves to be known and seen and cared for. Creating space for vulnerability and accountability. Leaving room for mistakes and new ideas.  Letting go of fear and practicing abundance.  Finding power in our common struggles and joy in the building of a common good.

The role of the police was never about the common good. As Rev. Anne Dunlap shared in her recent RevGals post, policing was put in place to serve white culture and to protect the rich.  Policing perpetuates the “us vs. them” necessary to criminalize the “other,” providing the Black and Brown bodies needed to fill the detention centers and the prisons while corporations amass millions of dollars at an unprecedented rate.

The role of the church was never to become complicit to the ruling system or to hide behind our big red doors.  Jesus modeled for us how we are to hold the powers that be accountable to the well-being of the people. Jesus modeled what it meant to serve and protect—to go where the people were and to disrupt oppressive systems, practices, and even laws!

Imagine a church responding to the call to serve and protect with a resounding and unapologetic YES! A church that not only provides sanctuary in the midst of raids and arrests—but a church determined to dismantle the very system that creates the need for sanctuary in the first place.

Are you willing to have a conversation with your congregation and help them to get free? Here are a couple of resources that might be helpful.  Also, restorative justice is a practice that many are engaging as we do the work of collective healing, loving on our people and co-creating the beloved community.

I look forward to hearing about your journeys. I will share mine. I cannot do this alone…and…

We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes


Rev. Dr. Marilyn Pagán-Banks (she/her/hers/ella) is a queer womanist freedom fighter, minister, spiritual entrepreneur, teacher, and life-long learner committed to the liberation of colonized peoples, centering the marginalized, building power and creating community. She lives in Chicago with her spouse and has three children and nine grandchildren.  Dr. Pagán-Banks currently serves as executive director of A Just Harvest, pastor at San Lucas UCC, and adjunct professor at McCormick Theological Seminary.

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