Presbyterians Today

JUN-JUL 2018

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | JUNE/JULY 2018 19 I f the apostle Paul had to cite an example of his words spoken to the Romans — "We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us through wordless groans" — all he would have to do was point to St. Louis on a map. It is there, in one of the nation's most racially segregated cities, where loud cries and wordless groans against racial injustice are being heard through the Hands & Feet initiative. The initiative invites Presbyterians to come to the host city of General Assembly to not just cast their votes in an air-conditioned con- vention room, but to also become part of the community, working with their hands, their feet and their hearts, for justice and peace. Behind Hands & Feet is the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The son of a South Carolina pastor who was on the front lines of the fight for racial equality and justice in the 1960s, Nelson grew up with social justice being integral to the call to ministry. "It's part of my spiritual DNA," he said. So when Nelson attended the 222nd General Assembly (2016), he was keenly attuned to — and baffled by — what was happening on the streets of the host city, Portland, Oregon. Nelson had never seen so many homeless white people. "That was something different for me," he said. Nelson says he felt he was being given a new set of eyes to better understand the depth of homelessness. Nelson knew then he wanted General Assembly to be an opportu- nity for those attending to be part of the work in helping a community change for the better. "I didn't want us being like Congress, coming to a city and spending money and leaving it just as it was when we came," Nelson said. "Hands & Feet is about leaving a city better than it was." Hands & Feet, though, is not about "riding in on a white horse," says the Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard, transitional leader of the Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy in St. Louis. "Our best work is done in collabora- tion, and we are working on mission projects with folks already engaged in this work," Howard said. "We want people to come and be part of mission work at General Assembly and then go home and take what they learn to their communities." Working and healing St. Louis, the site of the 223rd General Assembly, is the debut city for Hands & Feet, and those behind the initiative couldn't have asked for a better testing ground to show what The Hands & Feet initiative engages Presbyterians in racial healing BY PAUL SEEBECK AND DONNA FRISCHKNECHT JACKSON Spirit St. Louis at work in

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