“FAITH IN NEW YORK?”
Ah. You who make iniquitous decrees,
Who write oppressive statutes,
To turn aside the needy from justice
And rob the poor of my people
Of their right,
That widows may be your spoil,
And you may make the
Orphans your prey!
What will you do on the day of punishment,
In the calamity that will come from far away?
To whom will you flee for help,
And where will you leave your wealth,
So as not to crouch among the prisoners
Or fall among the slain?
For all this his anger has not turned away;
His hand is stretched out still.
The poem from the Prophet Isaiah 10.1-4, offers the voice of G*d’s wisdom delivered to a misguided leadership who legislate what they may perceive as good, but yet remains bad for the vast majority of their people. The prophet reveals to them that their policies have not diagnosed, nor altered the harm done to those “whose backs are against the wall.”
Isaiah understands this violation of Torah to be a violation of the very soul of the people. The biblical reference to those harmed is “widows, orphans, and sojourners.” Yet, today, this nomenclature is expanded to include the unauthorized migrant, the dreamers, the imprisoned, the underfunded students, the working poor, and in NYC, the 47% who are either in the midst of economic catastrophe, or are unable to dream a sustainable future for themselves or their families.
The Prophet reminds us that when we voice our prayer G*d listens to the suffering. When that struggle joins with others who place their faith into public action the struggle becomes majestic. Hope cannot be extinguished.
Over the last several months many faith leaders have learned that, “fear is the emotional plague of our planet.” Yet, as people of faith each of our traditions hoist the voice of G*d that says, “Do not fear.” Prayer and a public faith sustain our courage. As Mahatma Gandhi reminded us decades ago, our “soul force” seeks to take away the “brute force” of our surroundings.
Today we experience a brute force through mean legislation and political policy that is racialized or is marginalizing many from participating in democracy. The voices of our families are silenced by the overwhelming needs of their every-day lives, and for many Christians daily prayer is literally “give us this day our daily bread.” Our communities suffer from the aggravation of making it from day to day. We live in a debt-riddled society, yet the prophet Jesus taught, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” He remains a voice toward the reconciling of an economy for the whole of the nation and not just for the few.
Prophet Isaiah reminds us that when wealth is hoarded and mindlessly separated from the common good G*d is angry; “G*d’s hand is stretched out still (v.4).”
People Improving Community through Organizing (PICO) activates faith into public action. The spiritual integrity and the ability to act through our spiritual traditions build healthy community. This remains valued and true.
As we continue to be challenged by the prophetic voice deep in our traditions, we have learned from our neighbors that our power rests in the integrity of our local action. Our people trust one another through the art of one to one meetings. However, we have also come to realize how interconnected we have been and remain.
Neighborhoods are the tapestry of our city.
We have five interconnected interrelated boroughs. For decades, we have competed with each other for certain resources and policies of our Board of Estimate, City Council, and Mayor. Yet, we also know that our urbanized suburban villages and rural life all intertwine through the policies that affect our well-being either positively or painfully. The lingering affects of Hurricane Sandy continue to remind us of that political reality.
This relational, organized, spiritual power has nurtured over 70 clergy from within our five boroughs of NYC. There are over 70,000 faithful in our ministries who are prayerfully tied
together in “the single garment of destiny caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” That garment is called Faith in New York. National PICO has been assisting us in developing this soulful venture. Leaders from our former organizing efforts in Queens and Brooklyn (QCUA and BCU), together with new powerful relations in The Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island see a fearless future strengthened by our shared stories of faith.
Faith in New York is a citywide PICO affiliate that seeks three things: the building of relational power, coalitional power, and missional power. It is a trained power that understands how to be strong and faithful at the same time. That is the delicate walk of faith along the line of separation between what Americans have named, “Church and State.”
Our shared purpose is to weave the public tapestry that already manifests itself in neighborhoods in such a way that the wisdom of Prophets, such as Isaiah 10, is heard before catastrophe whirls through our city and nation. Clergy are eager to share this spiritual journey of public faith across the boroughs.
We see no other way than to build congregations dedicated to the “inescapable network of mutuality.”
Rev. David H. Rommereim
 This phrase comes from Dr. Howard Thurman in his masterpiece, Jesus and the Disinherited, Abington Press, 1949. The phrase crystallizes the ministry of Jesus focused toward those who are severely challenged in our, and any, racialized culture.
 Philosopher Patrick Viveret quoted in an article from Frances Moore Lappe.
 The phrase, “ability to act,” is common among organizing faith communities. It is understood as “power.” It is best understood in the Spanish word, poder. Poder refers to the nature of “to be able.” Faith Based Organizing leaders are not afraid to talk about power, poder/ability to act. Power is best understood in terms of one’s ability to act. One’s power is limited, and often destructive when acting alone, or over-against another person or group. One’s power is increased as individuals develop their commonness with the larger community. Power, then becomes a healing potential rather than a zero sum game of winners and losers.
 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution” quoted in John a. Powell, Racing to Justice, Indiana Press, 2012.