Monday, February 6, 7:15 – 9:00 p.m.
Columbia University Faculty House

Rev. John Collins, Rev. Paul Mayer (of Occupy Catholics!), Rev. Michael Ellick, Dr. Ray Blanchette

In recent years, the progressive elements in faith communities across the United States have been eclipsed by the rise and political influence of the Religious Right.  Yet people of faith have been active and often influential leaders in some of the great movements for social justice and peace throughout U.S. history—from the Abolitionist movement through the movements for labor, civil liberties, civil rights, peace, full employment, women’s rights, and LGBT movements.  Today, a new manifestation of that progressive vision is occurring through the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Religious activists with roots in previous social justice struggles as well as in the Occupy Faith movement will discuss their histories in the movements for social justice and peace, the lessons they have learned about organizing, the reasons for the seeming eclipse of prophetic religion over the last thirty years and what is now happening as the Occupy Faith movement participates in and seeks to support the larger Occupy movement.

The seminar is at 7:15 p.m. in a room that will be announced in the Faculty House lobby. Please look for a bulletin board posting. To reach Faculty House, enter the Columbia University campus via the gate on the east side of Broadway at 116th Street; go through campus and cross Amsterdam Avenue. Continue on West 116th past the Law School and turn left through the gate, turn right beyond Wien Hall on the right and go down the ramp to Faculty House.

OPTIONAL DINNER: Members of the seminar will gather for an optional dinner in Faculty House at 6:00. The cost of the dinner is $24 per person and payable only by cash or check made payable to Columbia University. (RSVP required – please see bottom of email.)

PLEASE RSVP to Sheila Collins ( Sheila.collins65@verizon.net) by Wednesday, February 1, 2012 with a phone number where we may reach you on the day of the seminar in case of a last minute cancellation.

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University Seminar on Full Employment #613

____ I will ____ I will not attend the seminar on February 6.
____ I will ____ I will not join the group for dinner.
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The seminar on Full Employment, Social Welfare & Equity is chaired by Sheila Collins,sheila.collins65@verizon.net; Gertrude Goldberg,  trudygoldberg@msn.com; and Helen Ginsburg, helenginsburg@yahoo.com.

Biographies of Speakers

John Collins is a retired United Methodist Minister who has served parishes in East Harlem and the South Bronx as well as working with interreligious peace and justice organizations.  In the 1960s, while a student at Union Theological Seminary he helped to found the Student Interracial Ministry which sent hundreds of white seminarians from the North to work in black churches in the South and black seminarians to work in white churches.  During the late 1970s he worked with the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility on a campaign to try to get the Carter administration to provide government guaranteed loans to enable the steel mills that were closing in Youngstown, Ohio to be reinstituted under worker-community ownership.  He also worked on the campaign to pass the Community Reinvestment Act which prohibits the “redlining” of low income neighborhoods by banks.  During the 1980s he co-Directed Clergy & Laity Concerned a national interreligious peace and justice network that organized many national and international campaigns for peace and human rights. CALC was a leader in the formation of the Nuclear Freeze Campaign and also founded Witness for Peace, which sent hundreds of Americans to the war zones of Nicaragua during the Contra war, to be in solidarity with those affected and to oppose U.S. policy.  Collins led several of these delegations.  In 1984 he helped organize Religious Leaders for Jackson during the presidential primary campaign and, with Pau Mayer, wrote speeches for Rev. Jackson on peace. While serving a church in the South Bronx Collins worked with South Bronx churches to build hundreds of units of affordable housing for community residents.  Collins has been arrested in several peace and civil rights actions over the years and currently teaches in the Fishkill Correctional Facility

Paul Mayer A  Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany and a Benedictine monk for 18 years, Mayer’s more than half century of social activism has included work in the barrios of Central America applying the tenets of liberation theology, involvement with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil rights movement in the South, participation in the effort to end the war in Vietnam as well as co-founding peace and environmental organizations.  He served as coordinator of the Catonsville Nine Defense Committee in support of religious non-violent actions during the Vietnam War by the Berrigan brothers and others. In 1978 he founded the Religious Task Force, a national network to convene the various faith communities to work together on issues of peace and social justice.  He was also founder of the Children of War, a leadership organization that helped transform the lives of teenage survivors of international and domestic wars, founder of the New Jersey Sea Alliance calling for the joint abolition of nuclear weapons and power after the Harrisburg nuclear accident, founder of a spiritual peace community in inner-city East Orange, NJ, where he still resides and more recently co-founder of the Climate Crisis Coalition to convey a sense of urgency around the climate crisis and to broaden the constituency for the issue beyond the tradition environmental organizations.  His peace and justice ministry has taken him to Japan to work with atom bomb survivors, to Cuba with Pastors for Peace to challenge the US blockade, to the Middle East for reconciliation work in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, to the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and to Johannesburg, South Africa in 2002 as well as to the San Francisco 1984 Democratic Convention where he addressed the convention on nuclear disarmament. Paul has been involved recently with United for Peace and Justice and the New York City Forum of Concerned Religious Leaders in work for peace and justice in Iraq and the Gulf region.  He was recently arrested in one of the Occupy Wall Street actions, one of many arrests throughout his career.  He is a Yoga practitioner and teacher and has an active wedding ministry as a non-canonical, formerly married priest.

Michael Ellick is the Minister of Judson Memorial Church, and one of the founders of Occupy Faith in New York City.  In his ministry, he has worked as an organizer and a social justice advocate for Immigrant Rights, Marriage Equality, Single Payer Health Care, Economic & Environmental Justice, and Islamophobia.  Rev. Ellick is particularly interested in understanding the Christian Passion Story in an America threatened by falling Empire and failing Plutocracy.  Raised in a Conservative Baptist church in Washington State, Rev. Ellick studied Comparative Religion and Philosophy at the University of Washington before earning his M.Div. at Union Theological Seminary in 2000.  Still hungry for new ways of understanding the Gospel, as well as real world practices for embodying its prophetic compassion, he studied closely under a Tibetan Buddhist teacher for the next five years. Over the course of his life, he has also worked as a courier, a fast-food cook, a fact-checker, a fresh juice delivery person, a copy-editor, an event planner, a barista, a financial analyst, an internet help desk, and even as an assistant at a Marine Biology lab.  At Judson, Rev. Ellick has embraced Judson’s legacy as a Research & Development Laboratory for American Christianity.  Committed to establishing a new Christian vocabulary for a post-Christian world, Rev. Ellick’s exploration of new theological forms has grown out of his commitment to the social gospel in action, and the practice of God’s presence in silent prayer, reflection, and meditation.

Dr. Ray Blanchette is Director of the Black Institute Clergy Campaign for Social and Economic Justice.  He has been active in mobilizing the black religious community around issues of social justice and in working with unions to protect the rights of workers that are under assault.

H/t the Memorial United Methodist Church.

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