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Sister Cheryl Liske Addresses Community of Christ Delegates
Sister Cheryl Liske Addresses Community of Christ Delegates

November 11, 2015, University Center, Michigan – Sister Cheryl Liske, OP, community organizer and executive director of Gamaliel of Michigan, had the “distinct pleasure” of addressing some 425 delegates from 87 congregations of Community of Christ during their 2015 Fall Conference. Held November 6-8 at Saginaw Valley State University, the conference focused on “Liberating Disruption.”

The purpose of the 250,000-member Community of Christ Church is to “proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace,” with love as the “proper foundation of our relationship with others.”

Dan Nowiski, of the Community of Christ, welcomes Sister Cheryl. Photo by Adam Bouverette

In the first of three talks, Sister Cheryl spoke of her 25 years of work at Gamaliel, “founding and creating all five of the faith-based organizations in Detroit Metro, Saginaw, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and Lansing.”  In describing her membership in the Dominican family, she noted St. Dominic’s movement from serving as canon in the monastic community to the foundation of the Order of Preachers to serve “people who longed for the Church to reach out to them, come to them in their every day lives, and live like them…in their towns and villages.”

In her second, longer talk, Sister Cheryl focused on helping the Community of Christ delegates to understand the tools of community organizing that they could use in their own outreach to the world. “All of the trainings, issue work, and ongoing contact …creates in our member organizations a kind of ‘culture’ that enhances the work of the church,” she said. 

Sister Cheryl introduced the delegates to a number of attitudes that are “foundational to community organizing”:

  • - Relationships are key. “People remain committed to an organization or a church primarily because of relationships – not strategic plans or food pantries,” she noted.  Community organizers thus focus on one-on-one relationships people to discover who they are as individuals and what they seek in life. 
  • - Our work is important. “This work isn’t about a plan and a paycheck,” Sister Cheryl said. “It’s about saving lives.” The key to this attitude, she said, is agitation, which challenges church members to serve people and make a difference in their lives. “We can’t afford to have our sisters and brothers locked within four walls and hiding behind service projects when the lives of low-income and people of color are chewed up and thrown away by our school and judicial systems,” she said.
  • - Urgency. “If our work is important, then we must act,” Sister Cheryl said. “Actions are the tools of urgency. Actions break through the fog and get people to think and decide for themselves what they are going to do next.”
  • - Everyone is called to be powerful. “We are not talking about power over or power under or power with any other qualifier,” Sister Cheryl explained. “Power is the ability to act, the ability to stand up for our values and act them out in the world we live in.” She noted the confusion that many Christians face because of what they learned about humility. During weekend training sessions on power, she said, the Gamaliel network focuses on the “right attitude about power – the power to throw out the demons that inhabit our communities.”
Delegates listen intently to Sister Cheryl’s talk. Photo by Adam Bouverette

In a third talk, Sister Cheryl was invited to reflect on the Community of Christ as an outsider looking in. “I told them…that because of their team-like structure they were less like Superman – a single, solitary man of steel living in an ice palace – and more like Supergirl (in the new television series) – someone who lives in a little apartment [and] gathers a team around herself…in order to do the good things she wants to do.” 

Adam Bouverette, part of the five-member Interim Michigan Mission Center President Team, thanked Sister Cheryl for addressing their organization and for learning about its purpose and mission. “We have no doubt that your affirmation and agitation will help us take steps toward abolishing poverty, ending needless suffering, and pursuing peace on Earth,” he said.







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