2021 Program & Grantmaking Report Spotlight: Vacation Justice School

2021 Program & Grantmaking Report Spotlight: Vacation Justice School - Proteus Fund

Giving Progressive Faith Leaders the Tools to Promote Social Justice: New Organization That Trains Clergy Emerges from RFDC Cohort

Vacation Justice School has a crystal-clear goal—getting progressive, faith-minded people in the United States to be as vocal as the country’s right-wing evangelical groups. Despite the latter only accounting for roughly a quarter of all Christian Americans, they have consistently been a loud minority with a clear agenda and narrative, something their progressive counterparts have often lacked. Vacation Justice School seeks to change that. The organization provides curriculum and training for progressive clergy and others in the faith community around a framework of five issue areas: reproductive justice, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, voting rights, and economic justice.

These five areas were identified through an engagement in the Rights, Faith, and Democracy Collaborative’s Georgia cohort, which brought together grantees in the state working on the different issues. It was during this collaboration across organizations and focuses that Vacation Justice School was founded. The organization’s principal, Shannan Reaze, was participating in RFDC’s Georgia grantee cohort through her role with Atlanta Jobs with Justice. Reaze acknowledges that these five issues can be difficult ones for faith leaders to wrestle with and admit that they don’t have all the answers. Vacation Justice School hosts quarterly convenings to give clergy and activists a safe space to have hard conversations, work through their emotions, and adopt new tools and language to connect their spirituality and values with the social justice movement. As a result of the pandemic, these convenings became smaller group meetings which had an unexpected positive effect of enabling deeper discussions.

With 2021 being Vacation Justice School’s first year as an independent organization, Reaze says RFDC’s support was critical. The resources provided made it possible to begin leadership work with seminary students who want to go into social justice ministry. They also supported an update to VJS’s workbook with sections on each of the five issue areas that include citations to scripture, information on related policy battles and organizing efforts, and a menu of actions that can be taken.Not only was the physical workbook revised for a broader distribution with new literature and case studies, but Vacation Justice School was also able to produce a short film series to accompany it.

Additionally, in December, Vacation Justice School mobilized progressive faith leaders to Washington, DC as the nation’s highest court began to hear oral arguments on Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, an abortion rights case. The group held a sunrise service outside of the Supreme Court Building and planned to return in June 2022 when a decision is announced. Vacation Justice School stands poised to help significantly disrupt the status quo narrative about faith and human rights.