Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Project Outreach at Washington Park

I first became aware of Pastor Duane Clinker of the Open Table of Christ church on 1520 Broad St in Providence RI due to a YouTube video in which the Pastor patiently testified before the House Judiciary Committee in favor of marriage equality. In the video, Pastor Clinker presents his view that being a follower of Christ, and a believer in the Bible does not mean that one has to see homosexuality as sinful. He patiently lectures those in attendance about his interpretation of those passages in the Bible that seem to condemn homosexuality. This, I thought, is an interesting dude.

I don't believe that dueling interpretations of the meaning of ancient texts really leads us anywhere. The very fact that two people can read the same sentences in the Bible and come away with two opposing views shows me quite clearly that we cannot use the Bible to help us make moral judgements. But though I can't agree with Pastor Clinker theologically, we definitely have common cause when it comes to issues of Social Justice.

Intrigued by the Pastor's video, I contacted him to conduct my own, more in depth interview for a series I occasionally work on entitled Philosophy on the Ground. My meeting with the Pastor before, during and after the interview was very enlightening. This was a man committed to Social Justice and Service.

The Open Table of Christ Church that Pastor Clinker leads is intimately connected with Project Outreach at Washington Park. From Project Outreach's website:
Project Outreach continues to be the major provider of food, clothing, services, and other programs to the Washington Park community (02905 area code) of Providence and Cranston. We serve some 400 families and individuals each week, providing not only physical support but also much needed emotional support and guidance.
In a previous post entitled Saving the World I talked about a talk given by philosopher James croft in which he made several suggestions for improving the Service component of Humanist groups. Second on James list is "Connect with established service organizations." The trick here is to find organizations that already do good work but are in need of volunteers or donations, and help them.

Project Outreach is that kind of organization.

It's important that we present ourselves as committed Humanists when we work with these organizations. We don't want our philosophy to become confused with liberal Christianity. But as long as the groups we work with share common goals and are respectful and accommodating to our philosophy, we should not hesitate to work with them.

Project Outreach needs food and clothing donations. At the next meeting of Humanists of Rhode Island, which is July 13, 2011 at the Panera Bread in Cranston, I hope that everyone can bring along some non-perishable canned good for this worthy cause.

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