We fellowship with each other throughout the year- we avoid "preacher" stuff when we get together. Rather, we seek to be friends to one another. In what must seem the definition of irony, we who have answered the call of this vocation often find ourselves the most lonely. I bear witness that this can be so. To have this unique fellowship is a means of grace.
Only on one previous occasion have we marshaled our resources to speak as a group. It was during the horrific murders on Lester Street last year. We find it necessary to speak again. As I did during the Lester Street response, I was asked to write a pastoral response from our group on the current situation regarding The Med. Although the final version may deviate from this one just a bit, this word represents us all. We will be sharing this with our congregations seeking to join our voices for the good of our community. We invite all people of faith to join with us in this quest.
Dear Sisters and Brothers of Faith,
As clergy leaders from across Memphis and Shelby County, we celebrate the unity shared in common fellowship. We have found our resolve strengthened, and our love of and deep desire for a city that lives up to the fullest measure of its slogan – the “city of good abode” equally true for all of its citizens. Because of our friendship and fellowship, the better nature of our faith traditions and theological perspectives transcend divergent viewpoints, which too often serve to divide our community.
Today, we stand uniformly and unequivocally gathered around the question of care for the most vulnerable of our society, the least of these, and those pushed to the margins unable to access life’s basic needs because they are poor. The mandates of the Hebrew Bible and the Holy Gospels on this point are unyielding and unavoidable.
In the current climate, this question is manifest most profoundly in the poor’s inability to access proper healthcare in the City of Memphis. Like the rest of Memphis and Shelby County, we have heard the dire warnings of the imminent closure within The Med’s Emergency Department in February, 2010. We find such an option untenable for our community and we call upon elected officials and community leaders to explore all creative and appropriate means to sustain The Med through this crisis as long term solutions for indigent healthcare are studied and implemented.
While the circumstances prompting this crisis are complex, the need for sustainable care is constant. The Med’s role in offering this care to our community is essential. The impact of closure will ripple from the river’s edge across Shelby County and beyond. And surely, it is those in greatest need with least ability to access care who will most suffer. Our unwillingness to respond to this crisis will serve as an indictment upon the character of our community.
As clergy and pastoral leaders, we are compelled to the urgency of this moment. We invite our congregants to join us in appealing to our elected officials and community leaders to make a way for The Med’s services to continue unabated. While this is not solely a political question, political courage will be necessary to sustain The Med. We believe it to be a matter of faith for the common welfare of the people—our neighbors, our sisters and brothers. We call upon our congregants to join us in a season of prayer for our leaders that wisdom will prevail over political expediency.
Join us as we advocate for the least of these in the name of our Loving God.