In May 2023, 16 ministers—the inaugural cohort of the Leadership Center for Social Justice (LCSJ)—graduated from the nine-month program of education and formation. For their final project, each minister provided a showcase of their church’s social justice work. Some graduates have partnered with grassroots organizers to support migrant and housing justice. Others have implemented relational curricula for easing intergenerational conversations about race, gender, sexuality, and class.
Rev. Clare Gromoll (’14, pictured at right) who participated in the inaugural LCSJ cohort, is the pastor of a church and congregation that was going through a transition. The congregation also had a passion for putting faith into action, but as the pandemic wore on, organizing grew harder.
“My experience with LCSJ,” Clare asserts, “helped my roots sink into my way of leadership. I drew upon community organizing principles and strategies so I could equip our Pastoral Relations Committee to engage in one-on-one conversations with church members on the periphery.” Engagement was key since the congregation was experiencing “a significant time of multivalent discernment, change, and growth.”
During its first year, LCSJ events have also attracted alums, United students, and others from local universities and faith-based organizations. The three-part Praxis series drew many participants. In December 2022, LCSJ presented “The Praxis of Love: A Community Conversation on All about Love by bell hooks.” In February this year, there was the “Praxis of Hope: An Evening with Ricardo Levins Morales,” and the series concluded in March with “The Praxis of Faith: A Panel on the Life and Faith of James Cone.”
|May 18, 2023 Graduation of the Inaugural Cohort for the Leadership for Social Justice Program
LCSJ even hosts its own podcast. Started in December 2022, podcasts have featured national and global social justice and theology experts including Beverly Mitchell, professor of systematic theology at Wesley Theological Seminary; Peter Linebaugh, historian and co-author of The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic; Bridget Anderson, director of Migration Mobilities Bristol and professor of migration, mobilities, and citizenship at the University of Bristol; and Lewis Gordon, author of Fear of Black Consciousness and head of the Philosophy Department at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. Episodes have been downloaded by more than 1,500 listeners from across the globe.
As we reflect on a very successful first year, we are inspired by all the possibilities the Center has brought to life. And, in the spirit of hope, faith, and love, we eagerly anticipate the transformational work that will continue to unfold for those affilitated with United’s Leadership Center for Social Justice.