Justice has always mattered to me—even before I knew there was such a word or what it meant. My first real memory of injustice occurred when I was about 4 years old, although I remember it as though it happened yesterday. Acting on a childish impulse, I stuck my head out the rear side window of the cab in which I was riding so that my braids could bob in the wind. Up ahead was a green traffic light hanging like a pendant above an intersection. I lit up with excitement, wondering whether we get through the intersection before the light turned red! Rotating my body slightly so that my eyes stayed fixed on the traffic signal, I held my breath as our taxi passed underneath what was clearly a yellow light. Success! But my joy was short lived. Seconds later, a police siren wailed and the driver of the cab dutifully pulled over to the curb. Neither my grandmother, whose lips were drawn tight, nor the motionless Black cab driver made a sound. A white police officer suddenly appeared at the driver’s window and declared, “You went through a red light.” With all of the honesty of a child I said, “Oh no, Mr. Police Officer. The light was yellow. I saw it!” “Hush child!” my Grandmother implored, in a tone that made me feel both a little afraid and confused. I obeyed her but did not understand why I needed to ‘hush’. When I became a teenager, then I understood exactly what, according to Jim Crow rules of etiquette, I had done. But I never ‘hushed’ again.
An act of justice is what drew me to the Synod of the Covenant. During my very first Synod Assembly, I entered in as a stranger. No one knew me and I had no official standing or role. My presence there was simply for the purpose of “experiencing” this particular Synod. The agenda that day included a family petitioning the Synod to intervene in an unresolved judicial matter. Their daughter had been raped while on a Presbytery-sponsored youth sleepover and the Presbytery involved was, in their opinion, dismissing their concerns and sweeping the matter under the rug (so to speak). While the parents were presenting their case, the Stated Clerk of their Presbytery attempted to dissuade the Assembly Commissioners from hearing them. One of the commissioners spoke out of turn and loudly said, “Let them speak!”, and a chorus of “Let them speak!” reverberated throughout the room. The outcome? The parents were heard and the Assembly Commissioners voted to intervene. When the matter was concluded I stood up, introduced myself, asked if I was permitted to speak, was warmly invited to do so and said, “Today, I witnessed the Church of Jesus Christ living out it’s call—and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Beyond the limits of misused power, the confines of ‘order and decency’ and beyond what I can see, God is there…standing on the side of justice…being faithful and holy…and calling those of us who have been chosen to bear His name to do the same. May the Holy One continue to bless the Synod of the Covenant.