A People's School. (Taking Action)

Article excerpt

TUCSON, ARIZONA NOV. 9-16, 2002

In a recent Sunday at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona, prayers of mourning were offered for a group of Mexicans--including a 2-and-a-half-year-old child--who had died the previous week trying to reach the U.S. border. Volunteers were solicited for "Samaritan patrols" in the desert, where temperatures had reached well over 100 degrees, to carry water and transport refugees to safety. Almost two decades after leaders in the sanctuary movement were arrested and put on trial for similar actions, the "conspiracy of compassion" continues.

Tucson--with its proximity to the Mexican border, its indigenous cultures and desert spirituality, its long history of labor and environmental struggles--provides a unique space in which to take a stand to live out the Word of God. It is an appropriate next stop for a moveable feast known as "Word and World," a new educational venture based on the belief that rich theological and social reflection arises when the Word of God and the realities of the world come into dialogue in a local context.

THE FIRST WORD and World school was convened in April in Greensboro, North Carolina, a perfect place to launch this radical discipleship endeavor that involved participants from all over the United States and five other nations. Visits were made to the downtown Woolworth's, where the first lunch-counter sit-in sparked the student movement of the civil rights era; and to the site of the 1979 massacre of labor marchers by Klan and Nazi members--sacred spaces where we paused to pray and remember. Participants and witnesses to these events--and to ongoing struggles around labor and race issues--were our teachers, inviting us every morning into their powerful stories.

OUR AFTERNOONS WERE given to Bible study and classes based on church and social practices, covering such themes as movement history, the Beloved Community, spirituality and struggle, restorative justice, the arts and social change, and global violence. …