I am humbled, honored, and truly excited to begin my new position as Director of Christian Formation. (see the rector’s announcement here) We will explore what this entails practically for St. Paul’s in the coming months, but for now, I’d like to share with you a little bit of my heart and passion for social justice.
I have shown interest in justice issues since childhood, always looking for those on the margins or whose voices have been ignored and trying to make a difference. In high school, I was left “my soapbox” by a classmate in the senior class newspaper. I raised money to save endangered animals in elementary school, began volunteering weekly in the spiritual life department of Sunshine (Children’s Home) at 13, pursued an undergraduate degree in special education, completed my diaconal project (700+ hours) and co-taught bilingual Sunday School at a migrant worker ministry in Washington state during seminary, started a weekly meal ministry at two previous congregations, and currently co-chair the local chapter of the Commission on Racial Understanding and a Muslim-Christian dialogue group. This is not an exhuastive resume, but simply a handful of examples of the things I’ve been involved with in the past. In spring of 2017, I attended the Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference in Washington, DC, to further my understanding of public policy advocacy from a faith standpoint and to begin to network with others.
None of this background is given to boast; none of it is remarkable, and many of you have done much more. I simply want to share my heart with you so that you know more about my background. Social justice has always been my vocation, and I do have some training and experience in some areas. However, it’s very hard to be really “trained” or prepared to lead this kind of ministry. I feel very much like my background has led me “to such a time as this.” But I am not an expert, and I will be learning and growing too. Because advocacy and living out God’s mission are so important to me, it will be my pleasure to work hard with all my heart and mind and life; and since God is leading me into this role, God will take the little I offer and make it grow into something beautiful that builds God’s reign. What a privilege to participate in any way in God’s work!
My first call pastor, when I was just 23 and starting as a deacon, told me that my defining leadership style was “catalyst.” I help to guide and organize so that others can live out their calls and positive changes can happen. To use another metaphor, Paul and the vestry have told me I’m driving the bus, the Outreach committee is navigating, and the parish is invited to jump on as passengers. Several of you have already been talking with me about Outreach – you’re already on the bus and ready to go! Others will join us, and others will wave and support from home. God will lead you to participate in whatever way is right for you. The journey is uncharted, but we know the end goal:God’s kingdom, where all invited to have a seat at the table and be fed.
I appreciate your prayers and help in discerning God’s Spirit and direction for St. Paul’s outreach and education ministries.
No justice, no peace! Know justice, know peace.
-Dr. Jennifer Vasquez, Deacon, ELCA