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The next meeting will be October 8 at 10am. It will be hosted at Greater Mount Tabor Baptist Church. 7345 W. Chicago, Detroit 48204 (between Livernois and Oakland on W. Chicago)


The USSF Detroit Committee on Faith and Spirituality is a group of interfaith and ecumenical clergy and religious leaders concerned and organized to participate in the USSF Social Forum, charged to address the economic, environmental, and social welfare issues of the Detroit area and the world.

Bill Wylie-Kellermann Pastor, St. Peter's Episcopal Church,Detroit is committee chair

Here's the draft of the letter we hope to use as a template for other communities of faith.

Dear Friends:

A “wide door of opportunity for our work” as St Paul the organizer once put it, is opening before us. This is an invitation to walk through it together.

In June of 2010 some 25,000 social movement activists will meet in Detroit for a gathering, the US Social Forum, which is part festival, part conference, part action assembly, and one massive learning-from-each-other occasion. These are folks who have been creating on-the-ground community alternatives to the forces of corporate globalization which have so ravaged our own city. They are actively resisting the idolatry of the Market. They are convinced another world is possible.

The first US Social Forum (which is a regionalization of the World Social Forum – for more on that see below) was held two years ago in Atlanta. Many people from Detroit attended and were moved and changed by it. However, it could be said that the first forum pretty much missed the boat on connecting with churches and faith communities. It treated the city perhaps too much as a convention site, and only belatedly recognized the Freedom Struggle history which ran through the city’s churches. We are bound and determined that will not happen in Detroit. To be sure, dominant and mainstream religion has been historically complicit in empire, in the assaults on the planet and on the poor (and so we confess), but faith has been an undergirding spiritual force as well in the work of social transformation. At this point, both the Local and National planning bodies are embracing the importance of faith communities in the forum process.

Why Detroit? Our city was chosen not because it still aspires to be a world-class convention city (we do have Cobo Hall and Hart Plaza booked for this), but because it may be in the process of becoming the first post-industrial city. We’ve been living for decades what the rest of the economy is just falling into. We’ve learned some things. The tagline for the forum here is: Another World is Possible. Another US is necessary. Another Detroit is happening. (For some personal and theological thoughts on this, see a recent article for recent Sojourners on this very topic.

How can our churches connect?

  1. Participate and contribute to the planning. There is a local religion committee (contact ). We need to make certain it is diverse and representative of our city. A national religion working group may yet be formed. Both need your wisdom and energy. The planning process itself is an opportunity to build relationships with and among Detroit (and national) community activists. (The Local Organizing Committee meets every 2nd and 4th Tuesday, 5:30pm at Central UMC).
  2. Mobilize our people as participants. This is a rare chance for our members to learn from seasoned movement and community workers. To catch a vision. This thing is coming to us. We can ride the bus to it.
  3. Spread the word in church newsletters and press. Invite a speaker to the church board or clergy group. Distribute materials. Bulletin inserts, posters, and cards are all being developed.
  4. Provide space. At any given time there will be perhaps a hundred workshops going on. Our buildings, not only those downtown, but those embedded in neighborhood work, can be a location for meeting space. There will also be need for housing – from sleeping bag floor space to hospitality in homes.
  5. Contribute to the program and content of the forum. These things are open space events where any group or community can offer a workshop. We should be bringing what we know about community development, spirituality of justice and transformation, biblical and theological resources for movement building, prayer as hope – and the like. There will be sacred spaces to tend, gospel fests to mount, history tours to organize, actions to be joined.
  6. Think about concrete projects that could be done in connection with the forum; there is a commitment to it being a hands-on event.

It really is a wide door. Perhaps the very opening we’ve been praying for. Let’s do this.

Bill Wylie-Kellermann

Elena Herrada

The WSF/USSF – By one account, a line runs from the rise of the Zapatista movement in Chiapas 1994 (when NAFTA went into effect) through the Battle of Seattle in 1998 to the first World Social Forum in Brazil, 2001 which was set as a peoples’ alternative to the World Economic Forum (G-8) in Davos, Switzerland. Since then there has been a World Social Forum each year, moving around the globe. Each one celebrates alternatives to corporate globalization or what is sometimes represented as the agenda of “neoliberalism:” free market and free trade, deregulation, privatization. The US Social Forum is part of a process of regionalization of the WSF. The first US forum (Another World is Possible; Another US is necessary) was held in Atlanta in 2007 with some 15,000 people. The forums are open space events where peoples’ organizations offer workshops and plenaries. The national committee anticipates 20,000- 25,000 people in Detroit for June 22-26, 2010.

Notes (and at OpenNotes):