Prayer vigil focuses on jobs and equity

By Leon Lagerstam, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

MOLINE --Before the train leaves the station, a Quad Cities Interfaith task force prays it stays on the fair and equitable track.

The task force will host a ''Prayer Vigil for Jobs and Jobs Equity,'' as it pertains to a proposed QC Passenger High Speed Rail Project, at 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, at First Christian Church, 1826 16th St., Moline.

A group of local clergy and lay leaders first gathered in December 2010 to examine the proposed railway in terms of what's called ''regional equity,'' according to task force chairman, the Rev. David Geenen.

''Regional equity is a framework for social change that is nestled within, and inseparable from, the quest for economic and social justice,'' Rev. Geenen said. ''The goal is to ensure that everyone has access to essential ingredients for economic and social success.

"Achieving regional equity means considering both people and place – in which members of all racial, ethic, and income groups have opportunities to live and work in all parts of the region, have access to jobs and are included in the mainstream of regional life,'' Rev. Geenen said.

Work so far has involved mainly task force members, including a number of lay leaders, as well as clergy, Quad Cities Interfaith executive director Leslie Kilgannon said. ''We're anxious to see the program get lifted up to the public for people to look at the moral perspectives.''

''From a pastor's perspective, this is all about the folks in our pews who are struggling to get by,'' said task force member, the Rev. Beth Rupe, pastor at First Christian Church. ''It's hard to deepen your faith when you're working two jobs, struggling to feed your family and struggling to make ends meet."

''While civic entities tout this huge investment for the cities and community, a second track that has to be looked at is 'who is going to benefit,' " Rev. Geenen said.

The task force earlier created a community benefits agreement platform listing areas of concern for ''individuals who are defined as socially and economically disadvantaged,'' Ms. Kilgannon said.

Principles listed in the platform deal with relocation assistance for displaced property owners, jobs for local people, job training and support programs, small business encouragement, competitively-let grants, and creation of a monitoring committee of community, faith, business, and municipal leaders that will report every six months.

''Local faith leaders have issued a moral imperative for local jobs, equitable access to jobs and social inclusion for the proposed QC Passenger Rail Project,'' according to promotional materials listed on its www.qcinterfaith.org Web site.

''We believe that how the QC Passenger Rail Project is crafted and administered should reflect our moral concern that all in our community should benefit from this project—especially those living in poverty and are often at a disadvantage to gain access to this great economic development opportunity. Join us as we pray for our community to seek innovative ways to seek the common good where all will benefit in from this project.''

Equality and justice are issues mandated by the Gospel, Rev. Rupe said. ''It's how we view God's justice.''

It also encompasses all faiths and crosses all denominational lines, Rev. Geenen said, adding that task force members represent different traditions, ''and while we may disagree on certain theological points, we find common ground when talking about issues of social justice.''

In addition to Revs. Rupe and Geenen, other involved clergy are pastor Rogers Kirk, Third Missionary Baptist Church, Davenport; Rabbi Tamar Grimm, Tri-City Jewish Center. Rock Island; Imam Saad Baig, Islamic Center of the Quad Cities, Moline; the Rev. Richard Miller, First Presbyterian Church, Davenport; the Rev. Joseph Williamson, Second Baptist Church, Rock Island; the Rev. Ed O'Melia, St. Mary's Catholic Church, Davenport; pastor Benny Powell, Temple Baptist Church, Davenport; the Rev. Jay Wolin, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad Cities, Davenport; pastor Willie Jones, Peoples Ministry Church, Rock Island; the Rev. Michael Swartz, First Congregational Church, UCC, Moline; pastor Larry Westbrook, Community Outreach Worship Center, Moline; and the Rev. Frank Samuelson, Rock Island, a retired Lutheran pastor.

Quad-Cities Interfaith and the task force's purpose are the same, Ms. Kilgannon said. 'That purpose is to help ordinary people do extraordinary things.''

''And the best way we can do that is to raise awareness,'' Rev. Miller said. ''And the best way we can raise awareness is to offer this prayer vigil.''

Rev. Miller discussed the task force and the prayer vigil during his sermon Sunday, and said it raised his parishioners' curiosity levels.

''People know the rail project is coming, but if it doesn't affect them in terms of needing a job or from an personal economic perspective, they don't tend to spend much time thinking about it from a larger social justice perspective,'' he said.''

But when they hear their pastor talk about it, it tends to get them more interested in asking more questions.''

This story originally appeared on Quad-Cities Online on September 14, 2012 and is available here: http://www.qconline.com/archives/qco/display.php?id=608194