What is the relationship between faith and justice? Is justice a priority for individuals and congregations? On February 6, a one-act play called Just Faith? depicted some of the tensions around those questions in the Christian Reformed Church.
Written by the MT Space Theatre company, the play was commissioned by the Justice and Faith Project to mobilize justice throughout denomination. The Justice and Faith Project is a research initiative by the Institute of Christian Studies (ICS) and the Centre for Community Based Research, and the Christian Reformed Church in North America,
After gathering data from CRC communities through over 250 surveys and interviews, the research team commissioned the play to present its research and engage conversation. “The play simply brings the issue to life in a way that no research report ever could, and it really gets people excited,” said Ronald Kuipers, director of the Centre for Philosophy, Religion, and Social Ethics at ICS and a member of First CRC in Toronto, Ontario.
“From my perspective, the most important finding is that a large majority of people think that pursuing justice is an important aspect of living a faithful life. At the same time, many people feel stymied in their efforts to make justice central,” Kuipers reported.
The play depicted moments within church life to show the tension of seeing injustices but being unsure of how to act. Joe Koole, member at Rehoboth Fellowship CRC in Toronto, enjoyed the “thought-provoking play” and being together for discussion. Darren Roorda, the CRC’s Canadian ministries director, thought the play was excellent. He appreciated the character driven by gratitude, pointing out that the motivation to take action should be grace, not guilt.
The discussion explored ways to take action, such as encouraging gifts and goals within church communities. “I think it's important to discern what one’s own gifts are, so as to be able to use one's energies well,” said Shannon Hoff, professor at ICS. Other specific actions included political advocacy and helping those living in desperate need in refugee camps. “They need a home and we have the space,” suggested Bart Velthuizen of Grace CRC in Scarborough.
“Just getting people talking about this already has a mobilizing effect, I've witnessed it already several times,” said Kuipers. “No one on the research team can guide the outcome or force mobilization to take place. Yet one nevertheless sees the Spirit at work.”
This was the first forum, held at the University of Toronto. Organizers plan to hold several more across Canada this year.
“The Justice and Faith project began in July 2013 to give a better understanding of what ‘doing justice’ means and to be a catalyst in thinking about justice,” explained Steve van de Hoef, the Justice and Faith Project coordinator for the CRC’s Canadian ministries. “We hope that it will indicate what barriers exist and how to take first steps.”