Or should that be, Father Commissioner.
I think followers of Christ have a duty to be involved in their communities; for some that Christian duty includes participation in civics. The Body of Christ in the United States is not of one mind on this issue. Some Christians believe we should remain “unstained from the world,” as the writer of the letter of James describes. (1:27) Saint Paul wrote the church in Philippi that our true citizenship is in heaven. (Philippians 3:20) Accordingly, the argument concludes, Christians should stay out of local government and not get involved. I suppose they would be even more adamant about the clergy.
During Paul’s time, citizens did not have many opportunities to participate in government. Our concept of democracy would have seemed foreign to Paul’s church in Philippi. But I think any civics teacher would say that today we have an obligation to participate in our democracy. Can these quite disparate views be reconciled?
Just before James instructed his readers to remain unstained by the world, he wrote, “Pure religion is this: to care for orphans and widows.” I believe that part of the American social contract is that government will care for the most vulnerable in society. I think the Episcopal Church believes that, too. Did you know that a majority of all U.S. Presidents have been Episcopalians? Likewise with the Supreme Court. And, in the 113th Congress, 7% of the House and Senate are Episcopalians compared with only 2% of the population. I have a friend who interned for the Episcopal Public Policy Network in Washington D.C., which advocates for what our baptismal covenant calls us to do: “strive for justice and peace for all people.” Obviously, there have been a lot of Episcopalians in our history and in our government today who do not believe such service stains them.
To that end, I will be sworn in as a member of the Safety Commission for Chula Vista on Tuesday, July 22. I’ve been feeling a call to serve in our local government to help our community. Several months ago, the monthly Chula Vista email contained an article about serving Chula Vista. One of the openings was on the Safety Commission. This commission meets about six times a year and assists the City Council on matters of traffic, parking, sidewalks, pedestrians and bicycles. For some reason, I’ve always been interested in the science of traffic engineering. Maybe it has to do with the many safety issues we face at our school about which I have written earlier. So now, I will get to work on a commission that balances the needs of businesses and of commuters, cyclists, and homeowners. I will be working closely with the office of the City Engineer and have met two engineers already.
I have a degree in political science but this is my first time actually serving in a governmental role. It is a minor capacity in all ways and has a very small time commitment but will give me a good sense of what it’s like to do public service.
I think the Priest-in-Charge at Saint John’s should find ways to get to know our community, to be an ambassador for Saint John’s in the city, and to serve our neighbors. I look forward to writing about my experiences. Who knows? Maybe someone else at St. John’s will feel a similar calling to serve the community through our local government.