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Spiritual Preparation for Social Action

By Joyce D. Sohl

The justice issues that need addressing are numerous: war, domestic violence, date rape, gun control, immigration reform, poverty, the justice system, health care, racism, education, climate change, refugees, and on and on goes the list. Should I get involved in one or more issues in the midst of my hectic life? And if I don’t, am I not supporting the status quo which is unjust, harmful to many, and ignores the principles of my faith?  Deciding to publicly participate in social action involves assessment of values and desired outcomes of the action group; my own motives and skills; logistical requirements; and my need for spiritual preparation before I commit to action.

John Dear writes: “Publicly resisting evil [injustice] is at the heart of every authentic spirituality.” He goes on to remind us that most of us separate our private spiritual life from the world of injustice in which we live. Becoming a social activist demands a strong spiritual base that can inform our decisions and actions. Included should be spiritual work on:

  • Self-assessment of motives, skills, and attitudes toward those I disagree with
  •  Understanding of collaboration between activists and those experiencing the injustice
  • Acceptable and appropriate strategies for action for myself and others.

Important spiritual practices to aid in the achievement of the above might include: prayer and meditation; silence for listening to the Divine; reading and reflection; labyrinth or nature walks; fasting; music or art meditation; etc.  Worship as a community concerned about a specific issue is good, if possible, but must be open to those of all faiths or none. It is hoped that through intentional spiritual preparation fear and hatred can become love in your actions; angry speech can become gentle and strong words of persuasion; and courage and commitment can become your public witness to justice. You can “Stand and Speak Out for Justice!”

January 18-20, 2016 we will have a retreat that will assist you in your spiritual preparation for social action. Julie Taylor, Executive Director of National Farmworkers Ministry will lead the retreat in activities necessary for sustained social justice action including 1) embracing who you are, 2) making relationship and collaboration, 3) prayer and fasting, 4) learning to speak out, and 5) strategy for action and celebration. Spiritual practices, labyrinth walks, dialogue/conversation, worship, and reflection will be part of the retreat. Registration closes on January 7 so register today at:

Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, and quarterly retreats and art exhibits.