Striving for justice, clean air and pure water. Spirited Reflection by Rev. Desmond Jagger-Parsons
By Rev. Desmond Jagger-Parsons, the KAIROS Board Chair and The United Church of Canada representative on the KAIROS Board
Two years ago, I left paid accountable ministry in the United Church and returned to my first profession – as a lawyer working what I consider “poverty law” in Central Newfoundland. Although I work with a secular organization, almost never talk about my faith at work, and am part of the raw humour that besets lawyers, judges, police officers and court staff in the work of being a barrister in rural Canada, there’s no doubt in my mind that this was a response to a calling, and I’m glad I did it. It feels a lot like the sense of call I have in my small participation in the work of this wonderful movement – KAIROS. Striving for justice and walking humbly with God.
The rub has been that my family including my two boys had moved one year before. We really didn’t want to have them move again, after just one year, and change schools too quickly. So I commuted. Daily. Over 100 kilometres. In a car. Usually by myself. Not so much part of the carbon solution for our planet as part of the carbon problem. It’s not my only carbon sin – I’m replete with them. We fly for meetings. Our home is not yet retrofitted with either a heat pump or geothermal heat (solar is not as beneficial in Newfoundland as it is in some other places).
I’ve fretted and grieved over this, and suffered back pain from all the driving. But I haven’t wanted to sacrifice living in the idyllic Newfoundland community, or to move away from the sea. I haven’t wanted to give up living near my parents. I’ve been storing my treasure in here and now.
Our friend Mark reminds us of the time Jesus spoke to the Rich Man who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.
“You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ 20 He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.” [-New Revised Standard Version of the Bible]
Over the last years on the Board of KAIROS, we’ve talked a fair bit about money. Our member churches are, for the most part, declining in their ability to give, and we are grateful to those individuals who’ve donated so much. But one category of giver has stood out to me. Roman Catholic religious orders have continued to be inordinately generous to us. Mostly women, these faithful amongst us are, according to the gospel, free of the particular grief of the Rich Man for they have shed possessions. They speak today as a counter-cultural model. That gospel is lived out with personal sacrifice. And the wisdom is in this gospel – we do this, not for the sake of the poor around us, but for ourselves.
We’re moving to where I work. It will reduce our carbon footprint as a family, though it won’t eliminate it. Everyone will have to give us some things in this move in our household, but when I think of the gifts I can give my children, surely clean air and pure water must be near the top of the hierarchy. KAIROS is a welcome home to those stridently declaring the need for justice and I love that. But let us never forget the model of the saints among us – the path to real joy includes self-sacrifice. Give generously in however you’re called.
Long may your big jib draw.