Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"Oh Freedom, Oh Freedom, Oh Freedom Over Me..."
by Rev. David H. Rommereim
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was the Lutheran scholar, ethicist, teacher, and pastor during the rise and fall of Nazi Germany. As an ecumenical Lutheran Christian, he and his colleagues confronted the racialized threats to the Jews of Germany. He wrote the following in a sermon marking the end of a semester. He spoke on July 24,1932 in Berlin.
"The truth shall set you free" (John 8.22). Not a deed, not our courage or strength, not our people, not our truth, but God's truth alone. Why? Because to be free does not mean to be great in the world, to be free against our brothers and sisters, to be free against God; but it means to be free from ourselves, from our untruth, in which it seems as if I alone were there, as if I were the center of the world; to be free from the hatred with which I destroy God's creation; to be free from myself in order to be free for others. God's truth alone allows me to see others. It directs my attention, bent in on myself, to what is beyond and shows me the other person."
Many of you know that I do not react to news quickly because I believe public journalism fails to practice the discipline of unobtrusive observation. The wisdom of true newsworthy experience is often co-opted by large corporations who fund the news they want to print. I still read the NY Times ("all the news that's fit to print"). I read the Daily News, the Brooklyn Rail, and local Spectator. Then I engage in the dialogue with electronic journalism. In a crisis, I wait until the full story emerges. My knees don't jerk to every news item. My pastoral vocation is about seeking spiritual wisdom, faith promises, and egalitarian outcomes in personal and public life.
When the acquittal of George Zimmerman came into the media, I began to focus on the same words that nurtured Jesus of Nazareth in his movement initiated by sacred scripture. Such words seek to voice the truth of malkuth shamayim (What does God have to do with this?), mishpat (Is there justice?) and sadiqah (Is the community able to benefit from this event?). So far, I only grieve while my prayers rise up as incense pleading for truth.
I have only met George Zimmerman on the tabloid. Like you, we have seen his mug shot. I sit and grieve. Like Trayvon Martin, George has become a contemporary poster child of our country. On one side, people see George and are relieved that justice was done through his acquittal. On another side, it is clear that mothers and fathers of black boys are telling their kids to "be careful." They say, "You are being watched...in fact, you are being targeted by anyone who looks at the color of bodies as a code. Your skin color may become a target."
The racified code makes fathers and mothers plea for calm in a world gone mad with profiling. It makes me, a white father of two awesome children, plea for calm in a country mad with racified gun violence. All I can say is that violence affects every single one of us. Violence has no color code.
Mahatma Gandhi of the 20th Century, and Jesus Anointed in the 1st century, kept vigilant of non-violent peacemaking in their violent worlds. Gandhi acted through the notion of the pebble in the spans of water. He taught that each of us affects the other. Jesus acted through the notion of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Action is reciprocal. What is given is felt in return.
When the verdict came out, I became bewildered about being an American. Not a day goes by when I do not hear, or read, the word "freedom." Yet, what is the truth of freedom? Is it a wanton disregard for the other and a vigilante type of disregard to human life? In other words, am I free to do what I want? Am I free to act with pompous disregard for the other even when I may be, or feel threatened? Or, is "the truth (that) which will free us, not a deed, not our courage or strength ... but God's truth?"
Why can a boy get shot by a man with a gun, have the gun in hand when interrogated by police, then, return home for a restful sleep? Why can a man shoot a boy then go home acquitted as if nothing was the matter?
I believe after the news of the trial many Americans went to their computer and looked up the word "acquittal." The root of the word, acquittal, comes from an old English meaning, "to pay a debt," or "discharge liability." Reading further you may have learned that it means, "to set free." Even deeper we learn the word, 'exculpate, or to, "free from blame." That was done. It is finished. Yet, if we are to be a free people, God's truth will need to be revealed.
I love America. I work hard to make our country neighborly, meaningful, loving, just, and healing. I am dedicated to the power in interfaith work that affects social policy and heals the wounds of economic disparity, social inequity, and frequent disregard to the shalom of our city (Jeremiah 29.4-7). Have we failed to be a free people? The case of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman places each of us into the story as it was told throughout the land. Each of us could be free from the untruth (that each is the center of the world). Each of us could be free from a bondage caused by the silence and ignorance of a land divided. America sustains a partial freedom until race and the history of racialized codes of behavior (political, public, and private) are healed.
It became clear that the case of dead Trayvon Martin & living George Zimmerman is not the test case for that which plagues our country. It is one example of the great burden we bear as a people. How long will we remain ignorant that our country is plagued less by enemies from the outside, than by the enemy that lies within?
Like undiagnosed depression, racism that goes undiagnosed leads to tragic loss. Until Americans heal the historic bondage of racism, racial profiling, and a racial economy, we remain outside the truth that God eternally provides. As a white man, I want to be free. As a person of faith, I want to practice the wisdom and truth of God. I thank God for Pastor Bonhoeffer who reminds us that, "God's truth alone allows me to see others."
In the dog days of summer 2013 we lost an opportunity to grieve the tragedy of this dead boy, the tragic loss of his family, and the loss of a communal conversation which could have led to the truth and the sadiqah of the faith, where different people learn to live right together.
Rev. David H. Rommereim
by Rev. David Rommereim
We remember anniversaries, one after the other, and we mature with memory. This August marks the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. At that time, I was a 12-year-old adolescent.
The only concern I had in August 1963 was baseball...LA Dodger baseball. Having lived in Brooklyn these twelve years, I am reminded that the Dodgers moved from Ebbets Field, Brooklyn in 1957. Walter O’Malley, the owner who was responsible for the team’s transcontinental move, remains #3 on Brooklyn’s list of the “worst human being in history.” I was, however, in love with left fielder Wally Moon; third baseman, Ron Fairly; center fielder, Duke (of Flatbush) Snider; catcher, Roy Campanella; pitchers, Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax. How sweet it was.
I lived in a middle class white community of Los Angeles called Garden Grove which was south of the Coliseum where the Dodgers first played. I soon moved to Canoga Park in northern LA County, just north from the famous Chavez Ravine, or Dodger Stadium. My dad and mom were starting Lutheran Home Mission Congregations. Back then my brother and I would play catch all the time.
Opportunity stories were prolific. Most of the neighborhood stucco homes in LA were built out of sand, gravel, and wood from the Angeles Forest of the San Gabriel Mountains east of LA. The money for homes and businesses came from the GI Bill - an expansive tax base, and a military industrial complex, that provided jobs, low interest loans, and a low national deficit.
My opportunity story was nurtured by healthy federal tax rate of 91% on the income earned over $200,000. The ‘heart and lung’ movement of our Adam Smith inspired economy was circulating. The US economic system seemed to be working. Wealthy got their capital and the middle class was becoming the largest part of the American population. If such an economic cycle continued it was estimated the USA would end poverty by 1986. Even though we did not have a lot of “stuff” the fiscal circulation was good in my neighborhood. Congregational giving was exponential. On occasion, my sisters and brothers could afford a burger at Bob’s Big Boy Hamburgers and we even splurged once a year at the newly opened Disneyland and Knots Berry Farm. I had few worries because I was guaranteed education and a hopeful future. The neighborhood was healthy with secure jobs, health insurance, pensions, and solid schools. Eight out of ten workers were unionized. The future was open. We were heading to the moon!
I did not know, nor was I exposed to those news items pertaining to the March on Washington. The small 13 inch black and white TV didn’t turn to the news. I watched “Mr. Funny Button” and “Captain Kangaroo.” The photos of the march were never recorded in my memory.
Over time, the living memory of the March on Washington was viewed through the lens of others with a different opportunity story. I had to learn the memory because my world was not affected by poverty, joblessness, red-lining, or a low tax base that could not sustain good schools. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom seemed to be someone else’s problem.
Nevertheless, I learned this memory when I began to listen to the stories of another side of the American dream. Quickly I became unafraid to raise the unspoken issue of “racialized economy,” “racing,” or economic disparity, because unless such words were voiced we could not begin to heal and cultivate a better America.
Today, the March for Jobs and Freedom should happen this August in the same manner of 1963. In a similar way the faith community should lead the way. We should “pray with our feet” and work for economic justice.
The prayer is for justice-love. The faith communities could inspire the government back to the values shared by commitments expressed in the Preamble to our Constitution. Government policies should garnish the tax codes that make money fluid, jobs circulate, education a priority, health care a right. Such common sense asks us to go “back-to-the-future.” That hyphenated time warp could mean we return to the tax system, which lead us out of the house of cards into an economy supporting the households of America.
Just think if we returned to the values where large corporations find it good business to invest in the community and the hardest hid areas, rather than off shore tax shelters. As a Christian, to me equity refers to what Jesus spoke about as a value in the citizenship of the Kingdom of God on earth (Matthew 25). The Christ-valued-economy understands that neighbors are healthier when those on the bottom are resurrected. Even the wealthy make more of their wealth when they circulate monies into an economy built for all.
In 1963 the separation between the wealthy and the working class were, in no way, near the ravine they are today. Jobs are scarce. Education is plagued by wealthy pundits who blame teachers for the failure of schools, rather than the loss of revenue to support them. I need not look further than my own well-nurtured life, to explain that when money is distributed well everyone has enough, churches thrive, stewardship soars, and jobs develop. Schools are able to nurture the whole-brain through art, music, English, and math.
I learned about the people who led the first March on Washington through my friend, Matt Jones (Gd bless his living memory). He was part of the leadership of August 28, 1963. So that I learned the memory, Matt reminded me that by speaking through faith, their leaders kept them disciplined to non-violence. Their faith taught them to resist the disease of a racialized economy. He reminded me that the cultural illness of the day, captivated by race, developed opportunity stories of different colors.
This past week I tuned in to the song by Sam Cooke who wrote in 1963, “A Change is Gonna Come.” I wish Sam were around to sing it live. The song inspired me with the faith that keeps hope alive. Such hope is divine and deeply biblical. It is located in the Way of Jesus of Nazareth. The Way makes sure that the entire community is doing well when those who have the least are empowered. Such a walk is not too far afield from the golden rule, “Do unto others what you have them do unto you.”
In the year of 1963, 250,000 souls gathered around the Lincoln Memorial. It was the largest gathering in our nation’s capital. The living memory reminds me that many followed their faith and learned how to work together for the common good. Through it all, we remember faith leaders like Andrew Young (US Diplomat and human rights activist), John Lewis (the 13-term congressman from Georgia), Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (who tore up his written speech and let the spirit ride him to “I Have a Dream”), Rosa Parks (who could take no more abuse), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (12-term D.C. Delegate to Congress).
Therefore, I have learned a memory that was not part of my early worldview. Through faith, I join in the effort to build a just, meaningful, and hospitable society. This is why I wear my pastoral collar as a sign of Gd’s grace embracing the public life of ministry. Without Gd, we are a wonton accumulation of DNA merely out to save self and, perhaps, by over zealous behavior, hurt one another rather than give one another love. To me, it is love that abides.
Rev. David H. Rommereim
 Present Federal Tax Rate on wages over $379,300.00 is 37%. For thorough analysis see “Us Economy Comparative Factors” Rev. Robert Emerick, firstname.lastname@example.org
 This was noted in the lecture by Heather McGhee of Demos.org. The lector was at Good Shepherd, October 2011
 Term was used at Good Shepherd with Heather McGhee in the borough wide faith-based conference on “Race and Racialized Economy.” www.demos.org
 A term best used through the writing of john a. powell, Racing to Justice, Indiana Press 2012
 This phrase comes from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschell, as he joined in the non-violent walk for justice during the Civil rights movement of the SNCC, and SCLC.
 Here I refer to the work by Rev. Robert Emerick who has analyzed the economic conditions in the worst of times and the best of times since 1900 to the present. It has become clear that the presidents who had vision for equity were those who raised the tax ceiling on the wealthy, distributed investment (others call this spending) into areas endangered with poverty. The most conclusive article by Rev. Emerick is called: “U.S. Economy: What happened? Facts, Myths, the Best Way Forward” (accessed through email@example.com)
 Matt Jones is a musician, songwriter, former Deputy of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and a public advocate in NYC for 30 years.
(Left) Faith leaders from 53 congregations around NYC filled the room at the 'Reviving
our City Mayoral Candidates Summit,
(an additional 400 faith leaders packed the basement and viewed the event via
streaming video) by David Rommereim
Presented by Staff at Faith in New York
In the wake of Mayor Bloomberg's $20 billion SIRR rebuilding proposal, clergy and Sandy victims grilled mayoral candidates Christine Quinn, Anthony Weiner, Bill de Blasio, John Liu and Bill Thompson about how they would change the growing tide of inequality in New York City. By leveraging billions in Sandy recovery funds, how would they create better jobs for New Yorkers and invest in its neighborhoods.
At the "Reviving Our City Mayoral Candidates Summit, June 2013" Faith in New York - a new citywide faith-based organization - in partnership with the Alliance for a Just Rebuilding, the Sandy Regional Assembly and the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance presented a platform of priorities for Sandy rebuilding funds to create better jobs for New Yorkers in the hardest hit communities, including immigrants and youth, and provide real affordable housing. It was the most heavily-attended mayoral forum in the city to-date.
"Sandy recovery efforts have exposed the long-standing disparities that existed in our city before the storm," said Msgr. Fernando Ferrarese, Ombudsman of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens. "We cannot afford to have our next mayor squander this historic opportunity to increase equity across New York City through economic development, housing and employment for those who need it most. Families in our communities need the mayor's ear on these issues, not just a small group of wealthy developers. Recovering from Sandy is about more than fixing broken buildings; it's about reversing the growing inequality in our city so that we come out stronger than before."
Prominent NYC clergy, including Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn & Queens, criticized Bloomberg for his narrow focus on resiliency that does not take into account the growing inequalities that have chipped away at the resiliency of communities for decades."We cannot do this the old way, where a small number of very powerful people, limited to the mayor and the Economic Development Corporation, are making all the decisions," said Minister Kenneth Brown of Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Rockaway Beach. His church was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. "We need to do this the New York way. All boroughs need to benefit from the rising economic tide in our city."
Organizers critiqued the big promises of affordable housing and good paying jobs, that have accompanied billions of dollars of public money, that has instead subsidized large development projects over the past 12 years such as Atlantic Yards, Yankees Stadium, and Willets Point. Without a new, equitable approach to economic development,one that prioritizes jobs, job training, and affordable housing, the $17 billion in federal Sandy recovery funds will make a few people very rich but will not benefit local communities.
Candidates spoke about providing relief to those still suffering after Sandy, and about how to ensure redevelopment spending focuses on community needs instead of developer priorities.
"The next mayor will decide how billions of dollars are spent, but we'll decide who the next mayor is," said Pastor Marvin Bentley of Antioch Baptist Church in Corona. "If we make the right choices, billions of dollars in recovery money can be used to create good jobs and affordable housing, so all New Yorkers benefit. We're going to hold the next mayor accountable to making New York City more resilient by making it less unequal."
Our community needs the heart and soul of the faith community to clean and renew the well being of all people. Click here for an article written by Pastor Rommereim, in this effort. For more information go to: www.faithinnewyork.org.
Dear Congregation of the Good Shepherd:
As our 2013 school year comes to a close, I am writing to thank you all for your steadfast support of the youth ministry program. There is no way for seeds to sprout unless the ground is fertile, and I thank you for being the soil that nurtures and cares for our children and young adults.
I feel the spirit of this congregation moving and shifting each Sunday, and I am certain that we are on a track of immense growth. I see this in the way we share the peace, crowding the aisles and making sure to shake the hand of each person present. Also in the way we joyfully accept the music the children offer, and in the openness you have in welcoming them into positions of leadership. These are the opportunities that will build them up to be leaders out in the world. The chance to be supported in exploring music and the arts, asking critical questions and assuming leadership roles is something they may not have at school or outside the church.
Let us continue to give them our loving support throughout the summer and into the fall. The Sunday School and GIFT programs are going on break for the summer months, though we will have a couple of summer events including a hike, a picnic, and a bike ride. Everyone is encouraged and welcome to join us. Please check the weekly e-newsletter for upcoming dates.
As each of us here is critical to the mission of the Good Shepherd, thank you for what you do, and for the spirit that you bring into this church. I especially thank Joyce and John Petrusky, Wendy Richards, Lori Jiro-Falls, Olga Zaky, Deborah and John Powers and Joy West for their tireless and consistent support with this ministry.
Children, Youth, and Family Ministry Coordinator