At the 2015 General Convention, The Episcopal Church affirmed racial reconciliation and concern about mass incarceration as two of its top priorities. The United States has about 4.4% of the world's population and about 22% of the world's incarcerated people.

We in Pittsburgh have several opportunities to inform ourselves and work on these issues. An organization called the Black and White Reunion, started after the death of Johnny Gammage, is about to hold its 19th Annual Summit Against Racism. On Saturday, January 21, at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (616 N Highland Avenue), events from about 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. will provide the opportunity to learn about the many dimensions of race in our own and our neighbors' lives, and to work together for common goals. The theme is "From Polarization to Cooperation: HOW Do We Get There?"  Registration fee is only $30, with discounts for students, seniors, and groups. Website is www.summitagainstracism.org.

This event will be a good preparation for the visit of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and our celebration of Absalom Jones Day at Church of the Holy Cross in Homewood on the morning of Saturday, February 4th. See www.episcopalpgh.org/pbvisit/ for details.
 
You can follow up these events on Tuesday, February 7, at 7:00 p.m., when the Church of the Redeemer will hold its third panel on race in Pittsburgh. This one will focus on educational equity, with perspectives from Fred Brown, President and CEO of Homewood Children's Village, Jamil Bey, director of the UrbanKind Institute, Jay Huguley, Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh, with a special interest in inequities in school discipline and the school-to-prison pipeline, and Lori A. Delale-O'Connor, Associate Director of Research and Development for the University of Pittsburgh Center for Urban Education. There will be ample opportunity for discussion; a diverse audience is expected. The event is free and open to all. Redeemer is located in Squirrel Hill, 5700 Forbes Avenue, near the corner of Forbes and Murray.
 
With regard to mass incarceration, you can do something through a local organization called Foundation of HOPE, which keeps people from returning to jail by matching them with mentors. Mentors must be willing to attend a two hour training, meet with their mentee three to four times each month, and commit to the program for at least six months. Upcoming trainings will be held for two and a half hours on the afternoons of February 4, March 11, and April 11 (attendance at only one required.)  The first two will be at New HOPE Methodist Church, 114 W. North Ave., and the third at Shadyside Presbyterian Church, 5121 Westminster Place.  See www.foundationofhope.org or contact bbuttrywatson@foundationofhope.org.
 
An opportunity to learn more about both race and prison is available now because Netflix is streaming Thirteenth, the powerful and award-winning new documentary about the connection between the U.S. penal system and slavery. The Church of the Redeemer will be showing it on Thursday, March 9, at 7:00 p.m. with no charge for attendees, and other parishes may do the same if you have a TV screen and connection.
 
Also, keep in mind other ways to help people this winter. The Severe Weather Emergency Shelter needs people to provide meals. Contact Megan Walker at mwalker@pittsburghfoodbank.org.
 
Let the Social Justice and Outreach Committee know of events in your parishes that you would like us to publicize.  Also please give us your own or your parishioners' suggestions for projects to initiate or join in. We will have our usual garden grants this year and will send out another letter about that and later events.
 
After many dedicated and productive years as the chair of this committee, Nancy Lapp has stepped down with our thanks and admiration, so please send your information and questions to me at mnovy@pitt.edu. Other continuing members of the committee are Elizabeth Duckstein, Bill Farra, the Rev. Michael Foley, Patricia Kennedy, Erin Morey, Dr. Colleen Sari, Linda Schneider, Pat Eagon Stafford, and the Rev. Garrett Yates.
 
Wishing you a new year full of faith, hope, and love,
 
Marianne Novy, Chair
The Social Justice and Outreach Committee
of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh