There’s a new book from Jim Wallis called On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good. Jim makes the case that it’s long past the time for Christians “to reclaim the neglected common good and to learn how faith might help, instead of hurt, in that important task" (p. 5).  He says that religious traditions need to align themselves on God’s side rather than seeking special blessing for their own enterprises, however worthy they might be. “Trying to be on God’s side requires much more humility and grace …. It means seeing God’s purposes ahead of our own or our group’s self-interest. It means loving our neighbors, even when they are in a group different from ours, and even when they are our enemies” (p. 9).

Here at the Seminary we resonate with Jim’s message because what he is describing is missional living. Missional living is purposeful living as a Christian who embraces loving neighbor as oneself (Matt. 22:36-40). We resonate with Jim’s plea for the faith community to “move from our ideological analysis of problems to practical solutions that would promote the values of both personal and social ethics" (p. 169).  I encourage you to watch Jim’s moving YouTube Video recorded at the Lincoln Memorial:

From time to time in the coming year I will use this blog to highlight some ways that people I know are working for the common good. This first post is from Katharine Oswald who works at the Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia is on the cutting edge of legal aid in some of the city’s most under-served neighborhoods. Legal aid services are prominent in Center City, but few organizations position themselves close to individuals who need pro bono or low-cost services most. In cooperation with four churches and community centers in North, West, and South Philadelphia, CLCP operates bi-weekly “clinics” – three-hour slots of time where individuals can meet with a qualified attorney for up to one hour at no cost. Family, housing, and criminal matters are among the legal issues our attorneys see most.  In a non-intimidating, community setting, individuals are offered the best advice, given quality, low-cost referrals, and connected to other community services they may need.  The prayer and ministry offered during each session place individuals' legal issues within a greater spiritual context, affirming that God cares for them and hears their cries for help. People come weighed down with difficult issues, and CLCP aims to send them away not only with legal help, but with the Hope of the Gospel, the Gospel of a God who carries their burdens with them. Two client stories help readers to see what hope meant to real people. 

Here is Kathryn’s story: 

Feeling alone, exhausted, and traumatized, Kathryn did everything in her power to seek justice. She e-mailed the founder of the low-income housing assistance program to which she belonged. Eventually, she walked through the doors of a legal assistance organization for the first time, knowing they existed to help people like herself who were in dire straits. She provided clear documentation of her predicament, yet, after a brief interview she was simply told, “We have a conflict of interest; we can’t help you.” Her story is called “NOWHERE LEFT TO TURN”

Here is Miguel’s story:

Up to this point, Miguel’s experiences with lawyers had all been negative. After a run-in four years ago that ended in his good friend being stabbed, Miguel found himself in court, under the representation of a seemingly apathetic attorney. “The lawyer did not even meet me once. He pretty much didn’t want to fight my case. I felt hopeless!” His story is called “A SECOND CHANCE”

For more information on how you can make a difference through this ministry:

  • Visit
  • Schedule a visit to their main office at 4455 N. 6th Street, Suite 100, Philadelphia, PA 19149.*
  • Volunteer as a clinic attorney.
  • Accept referrals of clinic clients.
  • Become a donor

Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy - Psalm 82:3 KJV

*This is the same building where Biblical Seminary leases classrooms for its Urban LEAD MDiv program on Tuesday nights and one Saturday per month.

Dr. Susan
Disston was assistant dean of curriculum and assessment at Biblical Seminary and taught in the doctor of ministry program.

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