Saturday, March 28, 2009

Stations of the Cross will focus people of faith on the passion of Christ and the suffering of their neighbors

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN (March 28, 2009) -- Suffering is no stranger to the tradition of Stations of the Cross, an observance practiced by Christian believers on Good Friday, the day commemorating Jesus of Nazareth's crucifixion.

This year, however, people of faith in West Michigan will put a new spin on that theme. On Friday, April 10, the Micah Center will sponsor a Stations of the Cross observance focusing participants on Jesus Christ's suffering as well as social injustices afflicting their neighbors near and far.

The idea was conceived of by the Micah Center's Kate Kooyman, Congregational Justice Mobilizer for the CRC Office of Social Justice.

During Holy Week last year, Kooyman organized a similar event with some colleagues from Western Theological Seminary. Despite unseasonably harsh weather, a strong group of twenty people turned out to examine and pray for injustices and the people affected by them in the greater Grand Rapids community.

The event is scheduled to start at Heartside Ministries (54 S Division, Grand Rapids) at 4 p.m on Friday, April 10. Participants will begin with a litany reading and prayer before departing Heartside to visit various locations in the downtown area. Each location will tie in to various aspects of injustice, relating them to the teachings and sufferings of Christ during his passion.

The gathering will reconvene at Heartside Ministries at 6 p.m. for a brief service to conclude the observance.

The event is not intended to be a protest or demonstration but rather a prayerful meditation on the meaning of the crucifixion and how Christians might respond to Christ's sacrifice.

"We are hopeful that this observance will strengthen people's resolve to act against injustice in the community," says Kooyman. "We want this to be an intensely spiritual experience, one that connects Christ's suffering with the suffering of those in our midst."

Those interested in participated are invited to meet at Heartside Ministries (54 S Division) at 4 p.m. on April 10; for more information and inquiries about accessibility for those with mobility concerns, please write to

Brian Paff, The Micah Center

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A call to reform: Don Cooney to urge reshaping of educational system in Micah Center lecture

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN (March 26, 2009)--Don Cooney will examine the plight of the U.S. education system and propose how it might be reshaped to provide equal access and opportunity to America's children in a lecture at the Micah Center  at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 7. Cooney, in the spirit of social theorists Jonathan Kozol and Alex Kotlowitz, plans to lift up the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) as a model of educational reform, one that urban communities might do well to replicate.

HCZ was touted as "one of the most ambitious social experiments of our time" by New York Times Magazine; it has created a vibrant community which holistically addresses the many needs of children and their families in New York's Harlem neighborhood. President Barack Obama and other political leaders have called attention to its many good works in the name of justice.

Dr. Cooney teaches in the School of Social Work at Western Michigan University and serves as city commissioner of Kalamazoo. His resume includes over thirty years in the classroom and numerous roles in community organizing, both in the U.S. and abroad. As commissioner, he has supported the Living Wage Coalition in Kalamazoo and has worked to strengthen relationships between schools and the community.

The lecture, to be held at Hope Reformed Church (2010 Kalamazoo SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49507), is free and open to the public.

Brian Paff, the Micah Center

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Planting a forest: Four Micah Center members write letters to Sen. Levin; many more to follow

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN (March 19, 2009)--Four trees might not make a forest, but the small handful of mustard seeds that were planted at the Micah Center this week remain hopeful that their faith will enact change. Tera Dent, Hunger Justice Leader with Bread for the World and key member of the Micah Center's Poverty & Hunger Action Group, guided three of her colleagues in an Offering of Letters workshop on Tuesday evening.
The workshop introduced participants to the advocacy process as outlined by Bread for the World, a Washington-based effort to focus Congress's attention on the many needs of the developing world. Bread possesses a rich history of advocating for the world's poor and marginalized. The organization's current letter-writing campaign calls not for a
dditional aid but rather more responsible and responsive assistance to ensure that money allocated for alleviating poverty is achieving that end. 

"At first I was pretty disappointed--I put a lot of time into preparing for this," Dent said 
afterward, reflecting on the small turnout. "But twenty minutes after we were supposed to start, Lou (Havemann) shared a story about a pastor who planted a church in a farm community that somehow made a lot of sense." 

Havemann, co-leader fo the Poverty & Hunger Action Group, told the group that on the farmer's first Sunday, only one other person showed up. The pastor tried to discern whether or not to move forward with the planned service, but the lone farmer insisted. "If I only have one cow in my barn, I still feed it," Havemann said.
Dent's planning and preparation were not in vain: at the workshop's conclusion, four hand-written letters to Senator Levin were sealed and ready to be mailed; furthermore, each participant expressed interest in Dent bringing the workshop to their own community of faith to expand the efforts of Bread for the World.

And so goes a grassroots effort to effect change--planting a forest, one tiny seed at a time.

Brian Paff, The Micah Center

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Kate Kooyman merits attention for role in immigration reform movement

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN (March 12, 2009)--Kate Kooyman, co-leader of the Micah Center's Immigration Action Group, earned a spot in the Grand Rapids Press for her role in immigration advocacy and action in the West Michigan community. Press reporter Erin Albanese produced an excellent article focusing on Kooyman's contributions as a staff member with the CRC Office of Social Justice. 

In the article, Albanese describes the February prayer vigil held at La Iglesia Metodista Unida La Nueva Esperanza that gathered over 100 people of faith, Latino and non-Latino alike, co-sponsored by Kooyman's office, the Micah Center, Michigan Organizing Project, and Justice for Our Neighbors. It represents regional interest in an issue that has long been pushed aside in our national agenda, neglecting the needs of thousands upon thousands of immigrants across the country.

To view the article, you may click on the link below. For more information on the Micah Center Immigration Action Group, visit the Center's "Action Groups" page.

Brian Paff, The Micah Center

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Forty-two cents goes a long way when it calls for justice

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN (March 10, 2009)--A forty-two cent stamp and a heart for the world's needy will find a welcome place at the Micah Center next week. At 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17, the Micah Center's Poverty & Hunger Action Group will host a Bread for the World Offering of Letters workshop. Tera Dent, a Bread-trained Hunger Justice Leader, will introduce the advocacy group's mission and objectives and engage participants in letter-writing to urge just action in Congress with regards to its foreign assistance policy decisions.

We're not asking to send more money overseas but rather making sure that money that is already being sent is put to good use. This is an opportunity for people to get involved in advocacy efforts that can make a significant difference," Dent says. It is also part of an effort to spread Bread for the World's grassroots efforts to mobilize local Christians and their church congregations in prayer and social action, fulfilling its mission as a collective voice calling for change on behalf of the poor and needy.

The workshop is open to the public and will be held at Hope Reformed Church, located at 2010 Kalamazoo SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49507. Participants are encouraged to bring a business-sized envelope, a forty-two cent stamp, and a writing pen of their choice. To learn more about Bread for the World, visit

Brian Paff, The Micah Center

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Don Cooney 4/7/09

On April 7 2009, Don Cooney will address the Micah Center social justice with a talk entitled "Towards Educational Reform: The Harlem Children's Zone As a National Model." The meeting will take place at Hope Reformed Church (corner of Burton and Kalamazoo in Grand Rapids, MI) at 7:00 pm.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Micah Center's blog moves to a new location

The Micah Center has moved its blog to its new website in order to strengthen its communication efforts. Please visit our new website at