Tapestry of Faith: Spirit in Practice: An Adult Program for Developing A Regular Practice of the Spirit

Taking It Home: Justice Practices

In the days and weeks to come, try these tips for using social justice work as part of your spiritual regimen.

Don't try to do it all. Remember the definition of ministry offered by the Protestant minister and novelist Frederick Buechner: "the place where your deep passion and the world's deep hunger meet." Another great reminder comes from theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman: "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people have come alive." Explore what causes and aspects of justice work give you the most passion, energy, and purpose, and get engaged with those. Go in the direction that your heart and the world call you to go.

Remind yourself, and those you work with, why you are doing what you are doing. Don't get so caught up in the task that you forget the task's deep meaning. Frequently ask yourself what inspires you about what you're doing; ask how it makes you "come alive."

Act. Reflect. Act. Reflect. Explore ways of intentionally deepening the spiritual experience of justice work. Take time to reflect after actions you take, whether they are as simple as signing an online petition or as challenging as building homes for a week on the Gulf Coast. Reflect on your own, and reflect with companions. If you're looking for specific tools, several books on theological reflection are available online and at religious-themed bookstores.

Remember to refresh yourself. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, "Life is full of suffering. But it also has sunshine, blue skies, and the eyes of a baby. It would be a shame if all we saw was the suffering."

Even small steps move the cause forward. You don't need to start a homeless shelter; simply taking the time to say "hello" and to look into the eyes of a homeless woman as you pass is something. Writing a letter to the editor or to a legislator, bringing something to your congregation's canned food drive—these are not as drastic as selling all that you have and giving it to the poor, but they are steps in the right direction. And every step counts.