haley-lerner-headshot.jpgI could not think of a better way to spend my summer, a better way to immerse myself in the life of the church, than by being present with and learning from the wonderful community of Kirkwood United Church of Christ. And I am having so much fun! My work as the “Summer Student Minister” has meant anything from preaching with the congregation on a Sunday evening, to teaching games at VBS, moving chairs around the sanctuary, being utterly confused and lost at finance meetings, cuddling puppies, holding newborns, eating snow cones, and spending time and drinking coffee with some of my amazing church family members.

And sometimes—sometimes—it means joining with thousands of others to protest the injustices in our city and out country. On June 30, a group of KUCC members gathered at the Atlanta Detention Center to rally and march in protest of the injustice of family separations at the border. It was inspiring to be a part of this, to witness our city coming together to remind each other and our elected officials that we will not stand for putting children in cages, that the right to seek asylum is a human right, that no human is illegal, and that we really do care for our neighbors at the border. I am thankful for the witness of the many in the KUCC community who passionately and regularly use their voices to speak out against injustice. I love being a part of this family that prays together, moves together, and protests together in solidarity with children and families at the border. 

These rallies took place just days before we celebrated Independence Day, which made the family celebrations all the more difficult to comprehend. How can a country that so proudly boasts of its freedom so readily accept and defend imprisonment as a norm? The family separation at the border, the gross injustice that it is, is only a fraction of our larger prison industrial complex that tears apart families and calls it “justice.” As I heard fireworks go off the evening of July 4, I thought about the families that do not get to celebrate together and the children who are separated from their families in the name of this freedom we hold so dear. I was grateful to have been present at the Families Belong Together rally with KUCC and humbled to have been there with other so many people as we, together, embodied the belief that all people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. I hope and pray that so long as we sing of “ the land of the free,” we continue to work for justice until all are truly free.