Left Justified: Prayers, potlucks and sundry meetings

During this time of year, I do not like indoor meetings—especially with sunshine and all the flowers bursting into bloom. I’d rather be outdoors walking along a forest path than indoors at some stupid meeting. So it is with great pleasure that I invite you to the May Sierra Club meeting hosted by the BlackHawk Group.

This month it will be outside at Severson Dells, and we’re starting the program at 6 p.m. with a potluck picnic. And I’m buying the pizza! (So there’ll be plenty of food for you lazy bumpkins who don’t want to pick up anything even at the grocery store.)

At 6:30, the award-winning director of Severson Dells Environmental Education Center, Don Miller, promises he’ll give us an extra-special tour of the grounds. Of course, if it’s raining cats and dogs, he’ll show us around inside his beautiful education facility. Then at 7:30, we’ll talk about the major environmental concerns of the area.

Nathan Hill has concerns about the Kishwaukee River, and even Mayor Doug Scott says he’ll drop in unless the City Council meeting runs late. Now that’s what I call a good meeting! A little bit inside and a lot outdoors with a bunch of food.

The next meeting will be an interfaith gathering—prayers for peace on Thursday, May 27, 6 p.m., outside at the Puri Peace Plaza. That’s the place with all the flags just off Perryville, south of Riverside. At that time, groups from all over the United States are supposed to gather together and share interfaith prayers. This is one prayer service I think most will agree with. During these troubled times, we could use prayers for peace, because it’ll be a miracle.

Meetings make up my life. It’s what gets things done, and it’s one of the few ways people get to be heard, make decisions, and plan big projects. I work for Rockford Urban Ministries, which is an outreach of 25 congregations, mostly United Methodist. Our annual business meeting is held the same evening as the interfaith prayers for peace. I’ve been working on my big speech for the meeting. It’s an overview of last year’s activities and what I expect for the coming 12 months. I was going through the figures: Rockford Urban Ministries spends $60,000 a year, hosted 22 work crews with almost 500 volunteers working at 12 different nonprofit sites throughout the city, educated people on the issues of gambling, addictions, peace and justice, the Winnebago County Jail, and a host of other stuff. These are success stories, but also woefully inadequate for making a real difference in this city.

I think I’m going to just talk about the need for overcoming our fear of making mistakes, our fear of going into neighborhoods where we have few friends, and our fear that we cannot do anything to make things better. I think we can only overcome that fear by trusting in a higher power and by sharing our concerns with others. So even though meetings are boring, long-winded and sometimes get nothing done, they really are one of the few places that something can get done. So you’re invited to these meetings. Some of them will be just inside a church building, but others will be outside and with food. When in doubt, eat. And pray, and do good.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

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