In this season of struggle and lament we are exposing and casting off the theologies of empire which blame the poor for their poverty, propagate false narratives of peace and prosperity, while spreading lies of scarcity in the midst of abundance. The religion of empire is individualistic and punishes those who seek to expose its lies and injustices. But we proclaim that it does not have to be this way! This lenten season we are giving up and casting off the shame that the religion of empire forces upon the poor and dispossessed and we are rejecting the policies and systems upheld by the theology of empire. We are breaking free of the chains that empire has placed upon us all and turning toward the God of justice and righteousness, the God of the poor.
The Freedom Church of the Poor has developed liturgical seasons which reflect the seasons of our lives and organizing a movement to end poverty. Drawing on the liturgical tradition of mainline Christian churches, the Freedom Church of the Poor season of Struggle & Lament parallels the season of Lent.
Our faith traditions and the Bible lift up expressions of longing, mourning, even anger at the way things are. Over 700 people die every day in the United States due to poverty. Millions of people in the U.S. die each year from inadequate healthcare. Crises of pandemics, state sanctioned violence, storms and other disasters disproportionately affect the poor and people of color. In the richest country in human history, there are 140 million people who are poor or one emergency from economic ruin. These are our people, our leaders, our families and we must mourn and wail and cry out to God for justice. The season of “Struggle & Lament” parallels the season of Lent in many Christian traditions and, also, is a season in which the poor and dispossessed lament our struggles and call for the repentance of those who pursue policies and systems that are killing us.
We invite all to join the Freedom Church of the Poor online every Sunday from Ash Wednesday to Easter, at 6:00 pm EST, as we gather to lament, to worship, to build community and to confront the religion of empire.
Freedom Church of the Poor Service Schedule
(Find info and links to services here as they become available)
Struggle and Lament
Ash Wednesday February 22, 2023 (6:00pm ET)
Ash Wednesday: Season of Struggle & Lament
This Ash Wednesday we welcome members of the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery, as we are called to give up and cast off that which the religion of empire forces upon the poor and dispossessed. In this season of Struggle & Lament, we reject the policies and systems upheld by the theology of empire. We are breaking free of the chains empire has placed upon us all, and turning toward the God of justice and righteousness, the God of the poor.
February 26, 2023 (6:00pm ET online)
Season of Struggle & Lament: Their Cries Have Reached the Ears of God
On this first Sunday of Lent, Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis joins us as we reflect on James 5 and the cry of the workers who have been used and abused by the wealthy. Come hear the good news that poor and low-wage workers are crying out for justice.
March 5, 2023 (6:00pm ET)
Season of Struggle & Lament: The Wicked Ways of Ninevah
We have lessons to learn from the prophet Jonah about how to, and how not to, respond to the wicked ways of empire. As we continue in our season of Exposing and Casting Off the Religion of Empire, we are called to “reject the illusion of escape, align ourselves with the divine, and step forward to do the sacred work to which we are called” (Karenna Gore, Chapter 14 of We Cry Justice, “Wake Up, Jonah!”). In this joint service with La Iglesia del Pueblo, we will discuss the ways that ecological devastation is impacting poor and low-income communities around the world first and worst, and how we can be a part of the work to resist this destruction.
March 12, 2023 (6:00pm ET)
Season of Struggle & Lament: Questioning the Religion of Empire
As we continue in the season of Struggle and Lament Rev. Dr. Letiah Fraser joins us to share the plight, fight and insight of disabled community in our society. She will help us understand how the inherent resistance of disabled bodies exposes and works to cast of the religion of empire and also provide us a vision of a different way, one rooted in justice and love, which we know from history always arises wherever the poor are getting organized – from the early Jesus movement to the Poor People’s Campaign today. Scripture reading: John 20:24-29.
March 19, 2023 (6:00pm ET)
Season of Struggle & Lament: Disrupt the Corrupt
This Sunday we are joined by Rabbi Michael Pollack, Executive Director of MarchOnHarrisburg, and contributor to We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People’s Campaign. With a scripture reading from Ezekiel 22:1-5, we will be focusing on Abraham and his struggles and journey away from the empire of Ur. We will also be studying how Abraham rejected the materialism and militarism of an idol-worshiping empire, and how we can, in our own time, smash the ideology of idolatry that undergirds our empire.
March 26, 2023 (6:00pm ET)
Season of Struggle & Lament: Who Owns the Land?
Dr. Adam Barnes leads us in a reflection on the story of Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21:1-16) and the ongoing struggle to be in right relationship to the land and the abundant resources of our world.
Palm Sunday April 2, 2023 – (6:00pm ET)
Season of Struggle & Lament: Palm Sunday
Join us on Palm Sunday, when We Cry Justice contributor, Clinton Wright will come to talk about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem with his nonviolent army of the poor and the lessons we could apply to today’s conditions. We’ll also hear from leaders from around the country who have taken to the streets this month, including members of the Coalition of Immolakee Workers (CIW) who recently marched in Florida against the exploitation of farm workers, members of the Union of Southern Service Workers (USSW) who marched in Seattle against the anti-union tactics of Starbucks, as well as members of the Apache Stronghold who marched to the 9th US Circuit of Appeals in California to protect their holy land from extraction and destruction by mining company, Resolution Copper. Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:1–11.
This year, on Maundy Thursday, we break bread together to remember the strength of our communal mission. On Good Friday, we bear witness to the ways that empire is trying to defeat God’s mission in the world. And on Easter Sunday, our leaders will reflect on the meaning of the resurrection in the gospel, and testify to how the work and accomplishments of organizations in our network truly embody the good news: that we are not and never have been defeated.
In the past, we have asked folks to join us on Facebook or Youtube, and while you are still welcome to gather with us that way, we are also inviting all of you to join us in the virtual sanctuary created by our community in Zoom for the following services:
- Palm Sunday April 2, 2023 at 6pm ET
- Maundy Thursday April 6, 2023 at 6pm ET
- Good Friday April 7, 2023 at 6pm ET
- Easter Sunday April 9, 2023 at 6pm ET
To receive the Zoom link for these services, you can email [email protected]
Maundy Thursday April 6, 2023 – (6:00pm ET)
Scripture Reading: 1 Cor. 11:17-26.
Good Friday April 7, 2023 – (6:00pm ET)
“Pray for the Dead, Fight for the Living,” Chapter 13 of We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People’s Campaign, by Rev. Erica Williams. Scripture Reading: Matthew 28:5-10.
Days of Liberation
Easter Sunday April 9, 2023– (6:00pm ET)
“Resurrecting Hope,” Chapter 22 of We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People’s Campaign, by Keith Bullard. Scripture Reading: Luke 24:1-6.
Worship and Study Resources for the Season:
This year, the Kairos Center is offering weekly liturgy resources, in addition to a lenten study guide which supplement the Struggle and Lament section of the Kairos publication, We Cry Justice: Reading the Bible with the Poor People’s Campaign. The prayers and liturgies were collectively authored and compiled by contributors to the We Cry Justice devotional book. This resource is intended to offer worship elements that can be integrated into your congregation’s worship during the Lenten season, guided by the plight, fight, and insight of the poor and dispossessed. You are invited to consider incorporating the prayers, artwork, and songs to your worship services throughout this season. Additionally the corresponding chapters in We Cry Justice offer sermon starters for those preaching during the season. The Lenten Study Series is intended to guide individuals and congregations through reading the book. It is suggested that you read each chapter of the book alongside the chapters of this guide. Please use and adapt each of these resources to the traditions and experiences of your particular faith community. And be in touch with us to let us learn about your experiences using these resources for worship!
Cultural Resources for the Season
These visual arts, theomusicology and reading resources are available for you to download and use in your faith communities and/or organizing efforts during the season. The images can be printed out and hung in physical spaces, or shared virtually online, and songs can be played as videos or learned to sing as a group.
The Freedom Church of the Poor is a project of Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice. We help identify and develop moral/spiritual leadership for the struggle to end poverty, systemic racism, ecological devastation, militarism, and the false moral narrative of Christian nationalism. In addition to weekly online services that reach thousands of people, the Freedom Church of the Poor holds regular Bible study, and is developing ways to provide ongoing prayer and support to the church community.
We hope you will join us at our weekly Freedom Church of the Poor worship services on Sundays at 6:00 p.m. EST on the Kairos Center Facebook page or YouTube channel.