by Judy Tierney
On August 16 progressive evangelical Christian minister Rev. Jim
Wallis will address the Block Island community at the Harbor Baptist
Church on "Changing the wind: prophetic faith in the Obama era." The
event starts at 7:30 p.m. and is sponsored by Block Islanders for
Peace and Justice.
Mary Donnelly will introduce him.
Wallis has been changing the wind for decades, beginning in the early
1970s when he and a handful of other students began to meet to
discuss the relationship between their faith and political issues,
the Vietnam War in particular. Subsequently, they began to publish a
magazine, Sojourners, to spread the discussion.
In his quest to promote social justice based on the Gospel's moral
teachings, Wallis has spoken out on the anti-apartheid campaign for
South Africa, the nuclear weapons freeze campaign, the Central
American peace movement and the Gulf Wars. More recently he has
mobilized and educated churches in a moral response to terrorism,
overcoming poverty, the war in Iraq, and now, in support of health
care for all.
In a Huffington Post piece published just last week, Wallis wrote
about the need for universal health care. "In the face of negative
ads, partisan rhetoric, and a news cycle filled with fear and
half-truths about health-care reform, Christians must affirm that we
believe in: quality, affordable access to life-giving services for
all people," he declared.
The winds of change are not the only winds he has known. He is also
familiar with the winds of Block Island. He initially came here to
visit his mentor, the lawyer and theologian William Stringfellow.
Through Stringfellow he came to know Daniel Berrigan, and stayed at
his small cottage on the southeast side of the island.
Agents from the F.B.I. arrested Berrigan for his anti-war activities
at Stringfellow's Spring Street home 39 years ago this week, on
August 12, 1970.
One year ago, Wallis returned to Berrigan's cottage after a decade's
absence, with his wife and two children, and subsequently mused about
the visit on the Sojourner's blog in a piece entitled "Changing the backyard:"
"Some places you never forget," he wrote. "The first thing my boys
noticed was the extraordinary view from the deck of this spartan
writer's cottage 'at land's end,' as Berrigan always said, looking
out over the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean…."
Wallis is on island once again vacationing with his family, but will
take the time to bring his message to the public on Sunday night. If
his spoken words are as joyful and inspiring as his written ones, the
Rev. Jim Wallis' appearance at Harbor Baptist Church Sunday evening
should be an uplifting and informative experience.