Authentic faith demands that we must act
By David Peake
June 6 2018
As a member of an Anglican youth group influenced by Catholic Social Teaching, David Peake learned that Scripture and an authentic faith demand that, when we see a social justice need, we respond with action.
Growing up as I did (some would question this fact) in a home that, over the years, became home retreat for the mentally challenged, an alcoholic, an Indigenous cross-dresser, some lost souls and a dinner table for the hungry, the downcast, the young, the seekers, the holy – including a CHN nun, Sister Connie – and not so holy, was, on reflection, the ideal setting for an ordination aspirant.
Being the eldest son of working class parents I soon learned that they had a “unique” way of thinking, being and seeing their world, their community and their church. They wouldn’t have used the language but they were advocates for a just society in which the dignity of all people should be recognised and those who were vulnerable, cared for.
I had no idea at the time that their commitment to hospitality would become a reflection of what Fr David Conolly (the then vicar) shared with the members of Youth Action – the youth group at St James’ East Thornbury, during the early 1970s. It was a model born from the perspective and principles of Catholic Social Teaching which included insight from the Scriptures, as well as understanding from the thinking, reflections and lived experience of people throughout the life of the church.
This tradition of Catholic Social Teaching encouraged our young people in new ways of thinking about the Scriptures and about issues around social justice.
For our group of young people, a three-step process challenged us to look at the social justice issues as they affected our community: 1) SEE. To understand what was happening… and why it was happening; 2) JUDGE and then discern/ plan the actions that we needed to take to make a difference; 3) ACT.
So – in 1972 there was a major intersection in Preston where a fatality had occurred – the group decided (using the See, Judge, Act model) that it would take the issue to the local council with a petition. No response. So, in the early hours of one morning the group gathered with paint tins, paint brushes and a wonderful sense of “righteous anger” painted skull and cross bones in the middle of the intersection and a danger sign on all approaches.
All newspaper editors were contacted; photographers arrived to take pictures for the press. Enough information was provided to indicate that concerned young people had taken the decision to raise concerns about the safety of this intersection. Within a month sets of lights where mounted where they still remain to this day, 46 years later.
This model was also used by our group as a tool to read Scripture. What have we read? What is it saying to us? What do we do in response? It has always been a great tool for getting things done – especially in the social justice arena. Scriptures always demand it. What’s it demanding of me/us today? Can I/we do it? I/We must!
This has been a cornerstone activity for me for over 45 years of ministry.
“An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it.” (Pope Francis).
The Revd David Peake is an associate priest at St Peter’s Eastern Hill and attached to the parish’s Lazarus Centre for the homeless.