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Intern immersed in social justice with Church Council

Jenn Hagedorn

Jenn Hagedorn meets with Senator Patty Murray after a meeting on comprehensive immigration reform. Photo courtesy of Jenn Hagedorn

Immersion in different areas of work for social justice through the Church Council of Greater Seattle, has deepened Jenn Hagedorn’s awareness of the connection between faith and social justice.

Involved with the council and with Plymouth Congregational UCC in Seattle as one of four young adult justice interns this year, she currently has three emphases in researching and organizing efforts to educate people on a living wage, gun control and immigration reform. She believes research is important for developing effective action.

“Much education is needed around issues before action or marches are done,” she said.
The church council is engaged in a campaign with workers at the SeaTac Airport for jobs to offer dignity, respect and enough money to live on.

Participating in actions at the airport and spreading the word, she has been impressed with involvement of faith leaders who join 50 to hundreds.

Hagedorn has learned the process for social justice is long, but she has seen results.

A delegation of faith leaders is meeting with the CEO of Alaska Airlines, the largest airline at the airport, to build a relationship. On March 26, four Alaska subcontractors involved in passenger, baggage, wheelchair and other services voted to unionize, as a result of the Church Council of Greater Seattle (CCGS) forging collaboration between different communities of faith, labor and community groups.

“It has been amazing to see how people have responded and how the faith community has been able to open doors others cannot open,” she said, noting that state and federal representatives have previously tried to meet with the CEO, but the faith community succeeded.

“Mike Ramos, the CCGS executive director, said that the community cares to hear the voices of faith,” she said.

Hagedorn is most engaged by her work on the living wage, because she is interested in going into public health.

“Income inequality creates inequality in access to health care,” she said.

In mid March, she met with 30 people from 19 faith communities who have been working for a living wage for many years. She is impressed with their passion for a living wage.

“We discussed what form a living wage would take in the future,” she said. “The church council convenes people, to build bridges and tell stories that facilitate moving forward.”

Hagedorn and others at the church council recently met with Senator Patty Murray to promote immigration reform that combines recognition that all people deserve dignity and respect, families deserve to be together and immigrants need to be able to find jobs so they can live full, productive lives. We need to value all individuals who live and work in the United States.

“That’s what all God’s children deserve,” she said. “Legal status should not affect a person’s value.”
Hagedorn believes the time is critical for comprehensive change.

Plymouth, which has been involved with the church council many years, also helps her see how her faith and justice are interconnected.

“Growing up in the United Church of Christ, I’ve always understood that faith and justice are connected, but being with the church council and Plymouth, I am connecting how UCC theology allows me to serve in this way.

“At Plymouth, people have been working tirelessly for decades,” she said. “It gives me as a young person some historical perspective about what has been tried and about the rich history of inspiring people. I see that the root of justice work is in faith and I see how others are living out that connection.”

Hagedorn, who graduated in 2011 from Western Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in human services and rehabilitation, organized an urban plunge on March 2 for eight high school youth at Plymouth.

To do that, she had to build relationships with different agencies so the youth could learn about people who experience homelessness.

“The youth challenged themselves by going outside their comfort zones,” she said.

They attended a service at Mary’s Place, a shelter and drop in center for homeless women. The youth served meals there and met people. After visiting the agencies, they discussed and debriefed.
Hagedorn saw that youth grew from an experience she organized.

In June, she will organize a larger, two-day urban plunge for 15 to 20 youth from different churches. They will learn about Operation Nightwatch, Compass, Housing programs, Mary’s place and a new emergency family shelter being developed by Mary’s Place and Union Gospel Mission, Urban Rest Shop.

In January, Hagedorn participated in the One-Day Homeless Count, helping a young adult justice team colleague who works with the Seattle/King County Coalition for the Homeless.

“They asked me to organize churches and run the one-night count in Woodinville,” she said. It was an amazing experience to be in my home city, where few think there is homelessness.

For information, call 206-525-1213 or email CCGS email.

Copyright © April-May 2013 Pacific Northwest Conference United Church News


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