While I was in Minneapolis for the history of medicine conference, Wesley Church recognized me and four other individuals for their social justice work. I have participated in this annual celebration before (when the theme was Palestine) and was very sorry to miss the worship service, luncheon, and poetry slam. Here are excerpts from the church newsletter.
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May 1st marked Peace with Justice Sunday at Wesley UMC. United Methodists around the world celebrate this special Sunday, but it holds extra significance for the Wesley community. On this day, we pay special honor to the late Jean Cramer-Heuerman, a senior pastor at Wesley who was known as a passionate advocate for peace and justice. Jean believed social justice is profoundly biblical. She pushed us to challenge unjust systems that harm, exploit, and fail those who are most vulnerable. She reminded us that social justice ministry happens “out there” more than it happens “in here.” She contended that social justice ministry forms disciples who respond with action – disciples who don’t just think theologically but act theologically, following in the footsteps of Christ.
The Jean Cramer-Heuerman Peace with Justice Award was established in 1999 to honor Pastor Jean’s legacy, to recognize those in our Wesley community who incorporate social justice in their practice of faith, and to encourage others to do likewise. The awardees’ names appear on a plaque that hangs in the Watseka Lounge. Roses are given in connection with the award, symbolic of the rose bush planted in Pastor Jean’s honor next to the Peace Pole outside Wesley’s Lamb Courtyard. The variety of rose there is named “Peace.” [See photo above; the message is in eight languages.]
This year’s Peace with Justice theme was “Disability Awareness: Accessibility and Inclusion.”
Kristen Ehrenberger has spent the past 12 years at the University of Illinois working towards her MD/PhD. Throughout her time here, she has been an active member in the Wesley Graduate Student book study as well as serving at Faith United Methodist Church in developing their children’s church curriculum.
A constant advocate for racial, gender, and socio-economic justice and equality, Kristen uses social media and participation in community activities to raise awareness of systemic issues of justice that have led to a fragmented community. She has also worked with the graduate student union to ensure graduate student well-being and rights.
Kristen will be leaving this summer to begin her residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where she will being doing a four-year combined adult-pediatrics residency program. She intends to enter the “complex care” branch of medicine, in which doctors seek to diagnose and treat patients with multiple life-long healthcare needs. Kristen is a force for social justice not just in her free time, but in her career and vocation.