By Jessica Brodie
NORTH CHARLESTON—United Methodists joined with other social justice advocates in South Carolina’s Holy City Jan. 11 and 13 to rally, march and pray to spread awareness about the issue of poverty.
The event was part of Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, which included a neighborhood voting drive and poverty testimonies designed to help people understand the plight of the poor and what all people can do to help.
Monday’s rally and march culminated at Cherokee Place United Methodist Church.
“We came together as an ‘Assembly of Poor’ and impacted people to end social injustice, and to really change the moral narrative of what’s said about poor,” said the Rev. Amiri Hooker, pastor of Wesley Chapel UMC, Lake City, who helped organize United Methodist involvement in the weekend. “Poor people aren’t poor because they choose to be poor; they are poor because the systems, different agencies and different government programs, have led to a systematic trap of poverty year after year.
Hooker said the poverty weekend made “another step forward” in raising awareness about the plight of the poor.
The Poor People’s Campaign is endorsed by the United Methodist Women and the General Board of Church and Society. The Charleston weekend was part of a 25-state “We Must Do MORE” tour led by the Rev. William Barber and the Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign. MORE stands for Mobilizing, Organizing, Registering and Educating.
The tour will lead into the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington, where thousands of poor people and moral agents will gather at the nation’s capitol June 20 to demonstrate their power and call for action.
“We view the MORE tour as an opportunity for the conference to recommit to Wesleyan understanding of social justice gospel of Jesus for all people,” Hooker said.
The South Carolina Poor People’s Campaign calls all people of conscience to engage in deeply moral civic engagement and voting that cares about poor and low-wealth people, the sick, immigrants, workers, the environment, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ community and peace over war.
The Rev. Richard Reams, one of the United Methodist pastors in attendance, had the opportunity to speak during the “We Rise” litany for the MORE tour. Reams spoke as “Voice One” before the crowd, stating among other things, “Today we stand as truth-tellers witnessing to the pain and suffering caused by the injustices within our community and across this country. We gather to declare that we need a moral revival, a radical revolution of values. … When there are 140 million poor and low-wealth people in this country, we must rise!”
“Those statements are a big reason why I’ve been involved in the Poor People’s Campaign,” Reams told the Advocate. “If it was important enough for Jesus to read from a prophetic scroll with a similar message (i.e., Luke 4:18) to officially announce His ministry, then it’s probably pretty important for those of us who claim to carry on that purpose to engage in the things Jesus found essential.”
The Rev. Wendy Hudson-Jacoby, another United Methodist pastor in attendance with some of her parishioners, said the Poor People’s Campaign gives a platform and a way for those in poverty to share their stories and invites allies in the work, especially those who follow Jesus, to lend their voice and privilege to lift them up.
“The power of the Poor People’s Campaign is in its connection to the Gospel teachings of Jesus, who said He has come to bring good news to the poor, relief to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,” Hudson-Jacoby said.
“Too often, those living in poverty have their voices silenced, their experiences diminished and their presence dismissed.”
Hooker said building and strengthening partnerships with already-present organizations and groups is key to the Poor People’s Campaign effort and very much a part of Methodist connectionalism.
The voting drive partnered with the NAACP and the League of Women Voters.