A Reflection from Dr. Tarris D. Rosell, Professor of Pastoral Theology--Ethics and Ministry Praxis
"And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8 (NIV)
The "Micah 6:8 Project" is a learning activity that I added about 15 years ago to my Christian Ethics course. It is adapted from an assignment that my own Christian Ethics seminary teacher, Steven Mott, had us do about 40 years ago. I recalled it only many years later at a Society of Christian Ethics celebration of Dr Mott's work. So I pulled up my syllabus file on a laptop computer while sitting at that event and added what I subsequently named a "Micah 6:8 Project." It is probably the best thing I've done as a teacher, with gratitude for mine of a few decades ago.
Everything is a challenge requiring innovation under coronavirus conditions. Teaching is. Learning is. Can a 20-25 hour (minimum) project to humbly "do justice and mercy somewhere in the world" be accomplished when one is required to mostly "stay at home"? Yes. Will learners have to think and strategize in order to accomplish it? Surely. I trust them to do so. Our students are amazing.
A first-year student of Chin ethnicity from Myanmar, Tluang Zathang, was challenged by Micah 6:8 Project requirements this past term. He lives in Kansas City, Kansas, with extended family and has no dependable means of transportation, public or private. English is his 3rd or 4th language. What Thang accomplished nonetheless, in just a few weeks, astounded me. It does still.
Accomplishments included teaming up with another seminarian to interview and then advocate for Chin neighbors who make up 70% of workers employed at a regional meat-packing plant. Thang and Tin Sang helped workers connect with union representatives. They participated in talks leading to negotiations for a new contract that now includes benefits and a pension plan, no more unpaid overtime, appropriate breaks, etc. The only thing they didn't get, Thang noted, is that workers still have to pay for hot water for tea. They could live with that, he said.
That was only one of ten sub-projects he engaged during the Easter Term. Thang also helped organize a fundraiser for rebuilding Chin homes burned back in Myanmar this year by occupying military forces. He organized a group of Chin and Karen neighbors to get training in urban agriculture, resulting in several new gardening ventures, including his own. Thang dug up the backyard of his cousin's home (with permission!) to create a large family plot, involving the young children of that household also as a stay-at-home school project.
Seminarians in Christian Ethics are to present their Micah 6:8 accomplishments with photos and descriptions in a Powerpoint presentation during the final class session. Thang did so. I'm still amazed and grateful for the justice and mercy done, carried out with humility while walking with God in this strange time and place.