F.A.S.T. (Faith and Action for Strength Together)
FAST clergy receiving the Pacesetter Award at the DART clergy conference! Of 21 different justice ministries, we had the highest Nehemiah Action turnout in 2018! Let’s make it the same in 2019 too!
St. Joseph ‘s Parish is a member of F.A.S.T.: a faith based, community organizing group in Pinellas County .Over 40 congregations currently belong to F.A.S.T.!
This ministry promotes Catholic Social Justice Principles, builds solidarity and seeks to bring about important systemic changes in our communities.
If you would like to know more, please contact Chuck Greensladecgreenslade1@tampabay.rr.com
Exodus 3: 16-17
“Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites….a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Tonight, our scripture passage comes from the account of the Exodus. When the Israelites, God’s chosen people had been slaves in Egypt for 500 years they were liberated from their chains and travelled across the desert to the Promised Land.
So what does the Exodus Account have to do with us? Why bring it up here, at our Nehemiah Action? We read this Account tonight because it recalls how God’s people worked together to change their oppression to freedom with God’s mighty hand.
Last fall, over 700 gathered in small group meetings where we heard stories of those in our community who being treated unfairly. Stories of single parents working two jobs, stories of elderly couples on a fixed income whose land rent keeps rising, stories of college students living in their cars because they can’t afford rent. A single mom with kids needs to work 79 hours per week to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in St. Petersburg. That’s 2 fulltime jobs. How would she have time to be a mom.
We heard stories of those who were struggling with mental illness. Many tried to seek treatment but got caught up in a complicated web ofproviders and programs and often fell through the cracks. These brothers and sisters of ours often end up arrested or in jail because they could not get treatment for their mental illness.
We heard stories about our children in schools who were given suspension after suspension. Instead of being given help, these children were pushed one step closer to dropping out, one step closer to jail, one step closer to losing faith in the adults entrusted to nurture them.
And what does God have to say about this? He says “I have seen what is being done to you, and I promise to bring you out of oppression into freedom, out of powerlessness to power, God was with us in our small group meetings when we shared our burdens. God was with us when we were doing our research and identifying solutions. And God is with us now as we take our first steps toward liberation and freedom.
But what Is powerful about the exodus account is that God doesn’t just snap his fingers and free the Israelites from slavery. They all have to work together to get to the Promised land. They had to stand up and straighten their backs up,
As Martin Luther King said. “When people straighten their backs and stand up it means their going somewhere, because you can’t ride a Man’s back when it’s straight “.
God delivered them and liberated his people but they had an active role. They had to be faithful to God, they had to stand and trust God. And tonight, we must do the same. We must stand FAST together we must straighten our backs as we move toward our own Liberation and Freedom in Pinellas county And let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty river,
When I say “we must stand” you say “FAST together.”
We must stand….FAST together
To make sure that every family has a home they can afford, we must stand…FAST together
To make sure that those with mental illness can access the help that they need, we must stand…FAST together
To make sure that no one is treated differently because of the color of their skin, we must stand…. FAST together
To make sure that all children are given help instead of just suspended or arrested, we must stand…FAST together
Tonight, we invite our public officials to stand with us. The officials here with us tonight are our allies. They are the servants God has called to action for such a time as this. They are the ones in our community who have the responsibility to work with us to help those who are struggling.
We have invited our elected officials here tonight so that we can help them make the changes our community needs.
So tonight, let us be unified. Let us hear resounding yeses.
We must stand…FAST together
the fact that they weren’t being treated fairly.
Justice Ministry Events
St. Catherine of Sienna Catholic Church
1955 S Belcher Rd, Clearwater, FL 33764
Monday March 18th 2019 6:30PM
Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg (Goal 3,000 Standing F.A.S.T Together)
April 8th 2019 6:30PM
A message for Justice
God is Great, All the Time and All the Time God is Great.
We Gather tonight in Hope, that Standing together we can transform our community, in the words of Dr. King, we transform the dark days we find ourselves living in into Bright Tomorrows. Our Society, our Community and our Nation are in turmoil. Hatred, and Prejudice has raised its ugly head.
We here from God’s Word that the time of Isaiah, the nation of Israel was in turmoil. Remember that many generations before, God had delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. They settled into a new land and build a community. For centuries, they lived a blessed life as a people of God.
Then, the people had turned away from the Lord and their world was turned upside down, again they were taken back into captivity to Babylon Suddenly their entire society was in ruins and they were shackled in chains. Israelites felt as if God had abandoned them. As it states in the passage, the whole of Israel felt as if they were sitting in a dungeon of darkness.
I’m here to say that today, there are still members of our community who feel that they’re sitting in that darkness. But there is hope, We are that hope.
This Fall we conducted house meetings attended by many people who opened up their hearts and shared their stories.
WE heard stories of the darkness and the shackles that still envelope many in our community.
The darkness surrounding parents who can’t afford decent housing and who fear for where they can lay their children to sleep at night.
The shackles of people who suffer from mental illness but instead of getting help are thrown into a jail cell.
The shackles of people who are still labelled as ex-offenders and can’t vote and can’t get jobs even though they have served their time years ago.
Honestly that could have been me. When I was a kid and growing up in Cleveland, I had a best friend named Steve. Steve and I would have a good time riding bikes and hanging out together. But sometimes Steve would want to do things that I knew were wrong. I remember once we were in a local store, and Steve wanted to steal Chips. He has tucked them into his jacket, I told him No, we’re not steeling, My Dad is a city council member and I’m not getting into trouble. “So put them back.”
When we gathered in house meetings and heard other stories, some of which are posted in the back of the sanctuary, we had heavy hearts. Sometimes we even questioned
why do such horrible things happen?
Yet we left our house meetings with a spirit of hope.
Into this place of fear and despair, God injects reassurance and hope.
I, the LORD, have called YOU in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
7 to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
God is saying “your story is not over. I have not abandoned you. I have not left you to suffer.” Instead, God is assuring us that deliverance is coming.
And guess where that deliverance comes from? God uses us as his instruments, his vessels to do His will, to bring deliverance to peoples lives.
God is reminding us that our purpose, our calling, is to not only help ourselves, but to extend His blessing to all those who are suffering.
God has called us to Justice and given us the ability to do acts of mercy to help shelter, cloth and feed people and also he has given us the ability to “do justice” to change the systems in our community to ensure that more affordable housing is built, to ensure that children aren’t branded for life with criminal records.
We have the power to change these problems in our community if we work together. We have heard the stories of the suffering in our community in our house meetings and tonight is the time for us to take action.
Each of us has a role to play. By being Justice Ministry Network Members and coming to 4 assemblies per year and each bringing 3 people with us to the Nehemiah action.
This is how we will be that light to the people of Pinellas County who are sitting in darkness. This is how we will open the eyes that are blind and free the captive. By being part of the justice ministry network in our congregation we can bring changes that tell families living in their cars that all hope is not lost,. Our work together tells children who are labeled as troublemakers and pushed out of school that they are loved and valuable.
God wants justice done and he wants us to do it. So the question is
Are we going to help God bring Pinellas County out of the darkness?
How do we stand? FAST together