Tag Archives: Social Justice Nashville

Good Friday: City Wide Stations of the Cross

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Andre, Stations, cross and cranesEvery year in Nashville on Good Friday, a group of us embark on an urban pilgrimage to ask where Christ is being condemned and crucified in our society today. The Stations of the Cross originated as a way for Jesus’ followers to retrace his path to the cross. Rather than observing the stations in a church building, many of us feel the need to journey on foot through our city. We cannot be content to stay within the walls of our homes or churches on this night. We need to feel the energy of the city pulse around us. We need to see the faces of the people our society ignores. We need to stand in the shadows of the structures that too often dole out death for our people.

You see, we believe that where we read Scripture affects how we read Scripture, and for far too long, our theology and spirituality has been “domesticated.” This domesticated theology is meant to perpetuate the status quo, keep us comfortable, and tell us Jesus’ message was one of personal salvation. What could happen if we look at these texts with new eyes? What could happen if we understood Jesus’ message as one that also points us toward the movement for collective liberation?

STATION 1: JESUS PRAYS IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE

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station-1-lindsey-by-calvin.jpgMatthew 26:36-46 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” 40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” 43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying thestation-1-by-amanda-e1522511194320.jpg same thing. 45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Station 1 was held in the Church Street Park, directly across from the Downtown Public Library. This park is an important place of rest for people experiencing homelessness in Nashville. Jennifer Bailey spoke about the need to keep watch with Christ and stay awake to the ways so many people, especially people of color, are being oppressed, incarcerated, and murdered by police. Brian Jones, who moved into housing just over a year ago, ledstation-1-crosses-on-ground-by-diane.jpg the closing prayer. 

Participants picked up crosses with words like “Racism,” “Homelessness,” “Capitalism,” “Borders,” and “Mass Incarceration” to carry along the way.  Theologian Dorothee Söelle says, “To attain the image of Christ means to live in revolt against the great Pharaoh and to remain with the oppressed and the disadvantaged. It means to make their lot one’s own. It is easy to be on Pharaoh’s side if one just blinks an eye. It is easy to overlook the crosses by which we are surrounded.”

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STATIONS 2 & 3: JESUS IS BETRAYED BY JUDAS & JESUS IS DENIED BY PETER

Station 2, People in Pews edited, by Calvin

Station 2, art, by DianeLuke 22:1-6, 47-53 – Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus.They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.47 …Later, while Jesus was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49 When Jesus’ followers sawStation 2, altar, by Molly what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. 51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”

Station 2, Stop Separating Famlies, by MollyMatthew 26:69-75 – Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed.  Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Station 2, BrendaStations 2 & 3 were held at Downtown Presbyterian Church, a historic church at the heart of our city that was once used as a hospital for the Northern side in the Civil War. Lauren Plummer curated a beautiful altar space with candles and photos throughout the sanctuary of people who are so often betrayed and denied by Christians and our mainstream society. Participants were invited to look at the pictures and light candles at the front altar space. Brenda Perez then lead us in a reflection calling us to embrace people who are different from us and resist injustice.

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STATIONS 4 & 5: JESUS IS JUDGED BY PILATE & JESUS IS CROWNED WITH THORNS AND CARRIES HIS CROSS

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Station 3, Chris with cross, by CalvinMatthew 27:11-26 – Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him. While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent station-3-ingrid-by-diane.jpghim this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Station 3, Sarah with cross and Kim, by CalvinMatthew 27:27-31 –  Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Station 3, Justin, by CalvinStations 4 & 5 were held at War Memorial Plaza (also known as Legislative Plaza). Beneath this plaza, there is a network of offices and meeting rooms where TN state legislators meet to work on bills. The plaza rests in the shadow of the State Capitol that holds Governor Haslam’s office.

Justin Jones lead this station and talked about how our governor and elected officials in TN “wash their hands” of the blood of so many people who die without health care in our state. He also told the story of Matthew Charles and talked about how we, like the crowds who cry “crucify him,” stand by as our people are unjustly incarcerated. He prayed for forgiveness and transformation. Then he and Ingrid McIntyre led the song, “Guide My Feet.”

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STATIONS 6 & 7: JESUS IS HELPED BY SIMON & JESUS CONSOLES THE WOMEN

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station-4-walking-up-by-diane.jpgLuke 23:26 – As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.

Luke 23:27-31 – A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?

Station 4, Capitol and Sunset, by DianeStations 6 & 7 were also held at War Memorial/Legislative Plaza in the shadows of the State Capitol. Liz Shadbolt and her son Isaac led this station and talked about the women who wail today from gun violence and the “green wood” – young people – who are leading the charge today and showing us how to carry the crosses of our collective sins. Isaac spoke about why he participated in the walk-out the other week and the struggles he and many of his classmates face with not feeling safe in school.

Station 4, Liz and IsaacLiz and Isaac read the names of 18 people who have died of gun violence so far in 2018 (15 of whom were people of color), and participants came forward to put cards with their names and photos on a prayer line. Lauren Plummer explained that prayer line held strips of fabric where students and family members wrote our their hopes and prayers at March for Our Lives that was held on March 24th. Liz and Lauren also named Stephon Clark, the 22 year old unarmed black father who was killed by police in California and Jocques Clemmons who was killed by police in Nashville just over a year ago and would have turned 32 today.

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STATIONS 8, 9, & 10: JESUS IS HUNG ON THE CROSS, JESUS PROMISES PARADISE TO THE THIEF, & JESUS DIES AND IS LAID IN THE TOMB

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Capitol with crossesMatthew 27:33-44 – And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots;[a] then they sat down there and kept watch over him. Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by derided[b]him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.[c] He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, ‘I am God’s Son.’” The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way.

Station 5, banner by CalvinLuke 23:39-43 – One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Capitol, crosses at doorMatthew 27:45-54, 57-60 – From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink.49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” 50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c]went into the holy city and appeared to many people. 54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” 57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.

station-5-molly-2.jpgStations 8, 9, & 10 were held at the TN State Capitol which is where execution orders are signed for people on TN’s death row. Molly Lasagna spoke about her work with the TN Higher Education Initiative which provides education to people who are incarcerated. She spoke about the failures of our criminal justice system and the humanity of the people she works with who are trying to rebuild their lives. She also spoke about the ways we continue to crucify the very people Christ asked us to visit, clothe, and feed. How will we stand up and un-crucify them? How will we resist the unjust policies of our state – our empire – and be “Easter people” even in the midst of such death?

CLOSING: CANDLE LIGHTING, LITANY OF RESISTANCE, EASTER ENVELOPES, & MAKE-SHIFT ALTAR

Litany of Resistance, group with candles, by Calvin

Candles lit 2, by DianeDuring the last station, the sun set across the city. In the gathering darkness, I invited the participants to gather in a circle and we passed out candles. I spoke about the darkness and uncertainty of the moment when Christ died. “When the light of the world goes out,” I said, “let us light one another.” I spoke about how on Pentecost, the Spirit descended on the disciplines in “tongues of flame” and that we, too, carry this spark in us and must let it shine, even in the midst of such present darkness. We lit one another’s candles and the circle was illuminated.

Litany of Resistance, Andrew, John, Peyton, Aaron, by CalvinIngrid McIntyre led us in the Litany of Resistance (see below) and then John Culbertson and Peyton Williams gave out envelopes they prepared with a message of resurrection and asked participants to wait until Easter morning to open them.

We then carried our crosses to the front steps of the Capitol and laid them there. We tied the prayer line to the columns and laid the banner out. Participants kept their candles as a reminder of that spark we all carry.

Capitol, final altar edited, by Molly

LITANY OF RESISTANCE

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(Please join us by reading aloud the words in bold.)

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world.
Have mercy on us and free us from the bondage of sin, oppression, and death.

For the victims of war,
Have mercy.
For refugees and immigrants,
Have mercy.
The abandoned and the unhoused,
Have mercy.
The imprisoned and the tortured,
Have mercy.
The widowed and the orphaned,
Have mercy.
The weary and the desperate,
Have mercy.
The detained, deported, and all who are living in fear,
Have mercy.

O God, have mercy on us all.
Forgive us, for we know not what we do.

For the scandal of billions wasted on war and desolation,
Forgive us.
For putting our hope in militarization and devaluing human life,
Forgive us.
For our acceptance of police violence,
Forgive us.
For the hatred that is rooted in our hearts,
Forgive us.
For the times we have turned others into enemies and scapegoats,
Forgive us.
For false borders between nations and the borders around our hearts,
Forgive us.

Deliver us, O God. Guide our feet into the way of hospitality. Grant us the peace that comes from justice.

From the arrogance of power,
Deliver us.
From the fear of those who look or love or worship differently,
Deliver us.
From the poison of white supremacy,
Deliver us.
From the idolatry of nationalism,
Deliver us.
From the violence of apathy,
Deliver us.
From the ghettos of poverty and human suffering,
Deliver us.

We will not conform to the patterns of this world. Let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds. With the help of God’s grace, let us resist evil wherever we find it.

With the waging of war,
We will not comply.
With the separation of families,
We will not comply.
With mass incarceration,
We will not comply.
With the destruction of community,
We will not comply.
With principalities and powers that oppress,
We will not comply.
With governments that profit from human misery,
We will not comply.
With the theology of empire,
We will not comply.
With the business of militarism,
We will not comply.
With the dissemination of fear and hatred,
We will not comply.

Today we pledge our allegiance to the Kin-dom of God.

To vision of community rooted in justice and peace,
We pledge allegiance.
To the Kin-dom of the poor and broken,
We pledge allegiance.
To the least of these, with whom Christ dwells,
We pledge allegiance.
To the transnational Church that transcends the artificial borders of nations,
We pledge allegiance.
To the refugee of Nazareth,
We pledge allegiance.
To the homeless rabbi who had no place to lay his head,
We pledge allegiance.
To the banner of love above any flag,
We pledge allegiance.
To the one who rules with humility and compassion rather than an iron fist,
We pledge allegiance.
To the revolution that sets both oppressed and oppressors free,
We pledge allegiance.

And together we proclaim the Way of Love, from the margins of the empire to the centers of wealth and power.

Praise and glory be to the lamb of God who welcomes the stranger, liberates the oppressed, restores life to the dead, and sets the captives free!

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This litany was adapted by Lindsey Krinks and Lauren Plummer from litanies by Christian Peacemaker Teams, Shane Claiborne, and others

Special thanks to Calvin Kimbrough, Amanda Cantrell Roche, Diane Smith, Molly Lasagna for your photos. And thanks to Ingrid McIntyre, Samuel Lester, and Lauren Plummer for making the crosses and banner this year. This event was hosted by Open Table Nashville, an interfaith, homeless outreach nonprofit. 

 

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A Playground for the Rich, a Prison for the Poor

People Over ProfitIn order for injustice to exist, a large segment of the population must be misguided, unethical, apathetic, or asleep. Or they must be so beaten down that they forget the power that burns in their bellies, their bones.

For the last several years, a large segment of Nashvillians have watched silently as huge swaths of our city were bought by the highest bidder. The hunger for profit drives the market. Money flows from developers in L.A., New York, Atlanta. They know the drill, they know when and where to invest, how to fit through loopholes, move in the dead of night. And in Metro government, few, if any, checks and balances exist to ensure that the “rising tide lifts all boats.”

Nashville has given millions upon millions of tax breaks, tax incentives, and public money to high end development projects while thousands of affordable homes, duplexes, and apartments are bought out. The low income tenants are evicted, moved further out of sight, out of mind. The housing is razed or renovated, replaced by expensive condos, “tall and skinnies,” boutique hotels, or Airbnb units. Poverty rates climb. Food stamps are cut. Homeless camps are cleared. Anti-refugee and anti-LGBTQI+ legislation is passed. Police cameras go up in public housing projects.

1 arrest, Kyle LincolnAs political organizer and professor Sekou Franklin says, “Nashville is being built like a playground for the rich and a prison for the poor.” The message is clear: the new Nashville is for people with money in their pockets—the young, the privileged, the white, the rich. So instead of the “rising tide lifting all boats,” a few drift by in pricey yachts while our people are drowning. The progress Mayor Barry’s administration is making is throwing life preservers out, but real change, real equity, real justice, will take decisive leadership and bold actions from the Mayor’s Office and City Council. And it will take a critical mass of people who are awake and willing to hold our city leaders accountable.

Andrew KrinksFor too many years, we’ve watched silently, waiting for a tipping point, waiting for something to shake us out of our slumber. And then, for many of us, the buzz of bulldozers rang in our ears, jolting us awake. For many of us, that tipping point came when the Mayor’s Office announced that they would move forward with plans to evict the people camping in the woods at Fort Negley who had nowhere to go. So on April 15th, hundreds rallied, marched, camped out with the residents. Others in homeless camps across the city joined together with low-wage workers, people fighting for racial justice, students, faith leaders, and organizers. With open eyes, the feeling of love, of newly discovered collective power, blazed in their bones.

Sekou FranklinDuring Mayor Barry’s State of Metro Address on April 29th, this same group came together for a silent vigil, followed by “The People’s State of Metro” press conference.  The following reflection is the speech I shared during the press conference. The other speakers included Steve Hopper who lives in an encampment south of downtown, Neptali Perez with Workers’ Dignity, Rhiana Anthony with Black Lives Matter, Marie Campbell with Showing Up for Racial Justice, Sekou Franklin with Democracy Nashville, Dick Blin with Jobs with Justice, and Ingrid McIntyre with Open Table Nashville.

What happens next depends on all of us. “The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe,” says Ernesto Che Guevera. “You have to make it fall.”

The People’s State of Metro SpeechApril 29th

Ballons with housing signHow many people here have struggled to find housing they can afford in Nashville over the last couple years? How many people would have to move if your rent doubled overnight? All of us on the bottom and in the middle are united in our struggle for safe, decent, affordable housing.

We came here today to ask a question – What does the “State of Metro” look like from below? For me, it looks like a homeless woman name Alyce freezing to death in her car. It looks like over 70 deaths in the homeless community last year. It looks like clearing homeless camps like Fort Negley when there’s not enough room in the inn. It looks like Section 8 waiting lists with over 14,000 people waiting…. waiting for a better life, waiting for a better future for their children, hoping and praying their name is called.

Yes, this is the State of Metro in 2016, the state of the city we love. It’s a playground for the rich and a prison – or graveyard – for the poor. But it doesn’t have to be like this.

People Over Profit signWe’re not here today to protest Mayor Barry, per se. We’re here to protest silence and apathy in the face of injustice. We’re here to protest the perpetual displacement of our people in camps, projects, and low-income housing. We’re here to protest the watered down, status-quo, business-as-usual politics that have given this city to wealthy developers and taken it out of our hands. This is a crisis. This is tipping point. People are waking up, coming together, demanding change, declaring that this city must start putting people over profit.


Stop Displacement Now, photo by John PartipiloThe banner that now hangs from the Pedestrian Bridge reads, “Stop Displacement Now!” These are our demands: End all the closures of campsites and low-income housing until we have sufficient alternatives. Come up with a strategic, comprehensive plan to create 20,000 units of low-income housing – the units we need to address this crisis.

So if you are listening now and find yourself one of the wealthy, one of the privileged, one of the decision makers, we ask you to join us. Use your privilege, your resources, your influence for social, economic, and racial justice.

If you are listening now and find yourself in the middle, we ask you to join us. Help us build bridges to those in power and to those on the bottom. Use your networks to mobilize more people into this crucial work.

And if you are here and find yourself on the bottom, we want to say we are with you. Stay strong. Your voice is most important in this struggle and you are not alone. We see your suffering, we see your strength. So keep raising your voice, keep telling your story, and keep coming together in solidarity. The future of our city depends on it.

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