(#28 in a series of people who changed the course of my life)
Serving on a board can be a fulfilling—yet sometimes cumbersome—task. While the goals and pursuits of the organization are what bring the members together, there are still the requisite meetings and tasks related to financials, bylaws (zzzzz), committees, and of course going over all the details.
Not unlike other boards, the board of Hope for Peace & Justice (H4PJ) must go through all these tasks as well. And yet, the passion and faith of the board members—current and former—really raises the level of what I will forever expect from a board of directors.
The H4PJ board is extremely diverse—particularly in life experience and background—and also in interests. But what brings us together is our passion for social justice. Though every member possesses specific and useful areas of expertise, it really is the passion that both unites us and drives us. (And we know future board members are only going to expand both our diversity and our passion!)
Of course, that passion is also responsible for our marathon board meetings and prolonged conversations around issues and missions. Yet we always come away from those interactions having gained some broader perspective, deeper understanding, and firmer commitment to our work.
These folks I’ve been serving alongside for about three years have inspired me with their hearts and their willingness to give of their energy and influence to the organization and our pursuits. They have given me a great deal of trust to allow me to lead the organization and have supported many of the things I have gotten us into. And each one of them understands the importance of our role as activists because of our faith—not in spite of it. You see, many activists don’t welcome people of faith into their causes; and many people of faith don’t believe activism is something they should get involved in.
But not these folks. They believe that their faith calls them to be an activist. And by showing up and putting their bodies into movements and not treating issues as passing fads, H4PJ has been able to form coalitions with other groups and other activists who are coming to trust our intentions and motivations.
Each board member has taught me so very much—in particular our female board members who have been so patient with me to nurture from me a greater understanding of their struggle and to speak with a more informed voice as we advocate for an end to sexism.
Rev. Dr. Hood—our own John the Baptist, sandals and all—inspires me with his radical, deeply loving self. Previous executive director (ED) Rev. Jim Mitulski helped nurture my budding interests beyond “gay” and into other communities to pursue coalition and understanding. Lynn Walters’ unwavering commitment to peace is never far from my awareness as we work to help others know justice so they may also know peace—so we all may. Former board chair Steve Jolly showed me what strong, committed leadership grounded in faith looks like. Our admin Roger Stanley exhibits every day a dedication to H4PJ and to justice that is deeply inspiring. And of course we would be nowhere without the vision of our founder Rev. Michael Piazza and founding, decade-serving board members Steve, Ferrell Drum, Dennis Bolin, and so many other faithful activists.
And I could go on and on about the current board members and the talents and gifts they bring to our organization—whether it’s through the spiritual gift of social media, for championing the rights of a specific marginalized group, deftly handling procedural and organizational tasks, or a willingness to show up, every time, and do what’s needed—even if it’s the most mundane, humble task.
But I have to write about one board member in particular who, during her board interview, told us that she “wasn’t an activist” and was concerned because she just wasn’t “the stand-on-a-street-corner-with-a-sign” type. Then, as if she felt like she should disqualify herself, she said, “I’m really more of a ‘sit down at home and pray for the effort’ type of person—you know, someone who lifts up the people involved in prayer.”
Well, I myself chuckled at her response; for that comment sealed her “worthiness” as a member of our organization and adds the kind of “activist” depth the organization needs. (And by the way, she has been spotted holding signs at events and protests on more than one occasion!) In fact, the faithfulness and belief in a Creator who truly wants peace and justice for his creations is the standard of each person who serves with us.
I have felt empowered by working alongside these stalwart comrades and have learned from every one of them.
While I am on many levels sad to already be resigning as the ED of the organization, I am hopeful I will be able to do justice to my role as a board member while I am away. I am excited about the direction our interim ED will take us and what the collective passion of this merry little band of activists will inspire from the world.
29. he never stops