A co-worker came to talk to me recently about her summons for jury duty. She noted that she would have to take a cut in pay if she were selected for a lengthy trial.

Our hospice agency only reimburses for 5 (five) days of jury duty per year. A trial in our county can last up to three weeks. If one is selected for a jury, you can plead financial hardship. However, it means telling the judge that you can’t serve after those five days are up. And judges get a little testy (rightfully so) if jurors say that they can’t serve because they won’t get paid their regular wages.

I mulled over her situation. It is not an easy one: She is a single parent, who moonlights a couple of nights a week on a side job and has family members to stay with her kids and get them to school. She worked her way through college, is paying down her loans, and serves in her church.

“What would happen if you asked for a hardship exception?”

She became thoughtful and replied, “Then there would be one less juror who looked like me in the jury pool. And who would serve on the jury then? The people who can afford to! Who will represent the interests of someone like me, who knows what it’s like to be disadvantaged and discriminated against…  I can’t be that person. I can’t turn my back on them!”

She is right. And it gave me pause…

I have, on more than one occasion, bemoaned my jury summons. I am part of the problem. When I show up for my summons, I strategically wear my clerical collar. Maybe presenting myself as a clergywoman will make me appear undesirable to one of the lawyers as they select jurors, I think to myself. But should my goal be to not serve on a jury? If I am someone who believes in a God of justice and mercy, shouldn’t I be more intentional about being a better witness for justice? Even if it means sitting in a jury box? Am I so driven to avoid the “inconvenience” of jury duty?

I am, selfishly, embarrassingly, that person. Scripture is clear:

I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy,
    and executes justice for the poor.
Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;
    the upright shall live in your presence. (Psalm 140:12-13)

As someone called to serve God’s people, to provide pastoral care and lead them in worship, I know that God asks me to speak up for the needy. To be present and a witness to justice being served. To stand against the imbalanced scales of justice, the “school-to-prison pipeline.” If I do not refute the discrimination inherent in our justice system, who will?

That jury summons for my next opportunity to serve is due in the mail any day now… how will I respond this time around?

Rev. Deborah Vaughn is a hospice chaplain endorsed by the Alliance of Baptists. She blogs at An Unfinished Symphony and was a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit. She is an avid Buckeye fan down to her scarlet-painted toes!

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