From the Pews – A reflection on our partnership with GBIO by Rev. Brita Gill-Austern

Like many of you, I am deeply concerned about the increasing polarization and divides in American society and culture which undercut a sense of common identity and purpose.  To move toward a healthy democracy and society that honors difference, while also seeking the common good, requires that we find ways to place ourselves in the intersection of differences.  This is one of the reasons I am such an enthusiastic and ardent supporter of the work of GBIO, the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, and so deeply grateful that our church is one of its supporting members.  I know I am not alone in my support.  Just two weeks ago, we had 25 members of our congregation gather as delegates to its important annual meeting at the Roxbury Mosque with over 100 other congregations.  This is a huge turnout for a relatively small congregation, part of the excellent work Mark Smith and Kathleen Hobson have done as our GBIO liaisons in galvanizing support in our congregation.

GBIO provides an opportunity to gather in small groups and large gatherings with persons of different faith backgrounds (Protestant, Catholic, Unitarian, Jewish, Moslem being the most prominent), as well as with people of different ethnic, political, cultural and economic backgrounds to talk about and then act upon issues that are most important to us for working for the common good of our state and country.  Each year the membership of GBIO chooses new or reaffirms previous priorities for the focus of its energy and grass roots organizing for changes found critical to the wellbeing of our commonwealth and country.  Last year the foci were criminal justice, housing, health insurance and gun control.  This year, a focus on immigration has been added.  Each focus area has specific goals the organization works together to achieve.  It has been part of some remarkable legislative victories.  GBIO has been called the most effective grassroots political organizing in the state.

What is different about GBIO is that it seeks  to find consensus within great diversity in working for the common good.  This means that sometimes issues I and others may care deeply about will not be chosen as a focus, either because it is not the priority of the majority or there simply is not enough consensus around it as an issue that can unite us in a common struggle.  Yet there is never a shortage of issues where consensus can be forged.  These foci then are tied to very specific political actions and goals to achieve outcomes that are top priorities of its membership.  This work is carried out by very active task groups.   An extraordinary sense of empowerment happens when between 1,000 and 2,000 people gather each year to ask political candidates and elected officials if they will support the goals for each of these foci.

GBIO makes a difference in the lives of individuals and in the systems and  laws that impact thousands of people.  If you have an itch to help change both the culture of division and work for the common good, GBIO has a place for you.  Mark Smith and Kathleen Hobson, as our liaisons, can help you find your own right fit in GBIO.  I hope you will discover GBIO as one place where you really can make a difference in strengthening our common bonds, our common purpose, and the common good.