Barry Gittins spoke to Major Marion Weymouth on 9 January 2015 about her tenure as territorial social justice secretary; her lessons, her liaisons and her legacy.
How has it been, looking back over your tenure as TSJS?
We came back home to Australia in January 2012, having served overseas for seven years in Hong Kong and Zambia; since then it’s been a long three years of planning, campaigns and causes. ‘Coming home’ is hard at the beginning but it’s good to re-connect with life in Australia, in a different way.
Having served extensively in other cultures you brought a different understanding and perspective, and your own strengths, to the social justice role; and certainly a holistic understanding of human beings, also, with your pre-officership background as a physiotherapist... what have you most enjoyed in your role?
I’ve loved the partnerships we’ve formed over that time. I’ve worked with many people that I respect and have learnt that others offer much to the social justice space. One example is our partners at Uniting Justice at Little Collins Street. Their research and resourcing have helped so much.
My vision in the area of pursuing social justice was a partnership model, whereby each community is reformed by connecting. The word ‘connections’ is vital. Connecting happens when we acknowledge our limitations and we know that we do need others to reform society, which is one of our territory’s mission goals.
Territorial commander Commissioner Floyd Tidd, at that 2013 conference, engaged with and recognised the fact that social justice is an inherent aspect of The Salvation Army’s theology and history…
And that came through quite strongly – his keynote address affirmed that social justice thinking and ‘acting’ are critical aspects to how we re-shape ourselves, what we believe and how we behave. Social justice leads to changes in ourselves and in others.
He shared a beautiful quote, that no-one gets to heaven without a letter of recommendation ‘from the poor’; you’ve seen The Salvation Army trying to engage with marginalised people. What are the highlights?
Helping people to connect and unite in efforts; refugees and asylum seekers; petitions to senators; mission experience with volunteers at Melbourne Sexpo, whose understanding was broadened.
There is also the ‘shaping’ side, when you have enough contact with people and round table conversations, to talk things through. A person’s thinking and practices/behaviours can change when you get them to see life from someone else‘s perspective. As we are engaged, so we are changed. We see life through a different lens. We go on to help and change others.
We would see this kind of social justice participation squarely in the biblical context of being ‘leaven in the dough’, in terms of Christ’s parable, but that also applies to the social justice impact upon The Salvation Army itself?
Yes; as the commissioner said at that conference, he would love to think that every person in The Salvation Army could be a social justice champion; an agent of change. It’s an aspirational statement that rings true.
We have also built up our connections and relationships, and trust, with our divisional social justice coordinators who are placed to be agents of change. I have found that they are really good people who have a passion for social justice and are able to link that passion for change to their other work. Often they are doing two or three other jobs as well; they are not doing huge amounts of extra work as social justice is not an ‘optional extra’ – it is a thread present in the work they are already doing. The DSJCs have managed to do that well and have been able to facilitate the same passion in others, through events or partnerships. It comes back to that word ‘connections’.
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