Riverside religious leaders stand with the marginalized

By Joshua Burciaga

The Calvary Presbyterian Church of downtown Riverside participated in the Second Annual Faith Walk for Peace on Oct. 15 to confront and resolve social issues.

Prior to the walk, Rev. Erin Thomas disclosed the services that the church offers to the impoverished.

“Every Sunday we have a hot meals program here at the church,” Thomas said. “Up to 200 people are served meals every Sunday and we have a clothes pantry downstairs for them as well.”

The church also enacted a program titled Sole Exchange, inspired by the biblical verse John 13:1-7, where Jesus washes the feet of his disciple Peter.

They provide free shoes to those in need and offer to wash their feet as an act of service. They then pray with them afterward if they wish.

Medical vans also come to the church to treat the ill for free and help connect them to the neighboring Riverside Community Hospital.

Thomas informs that anyone is welcome to volunteer on Sundays to help out.

“We always have a need for volunteers,” Thomas said. “You can donate, bake goods, help make tables, play music. There’s lots of things you can do to help.”

Participants then walked to the All Saints Episcopal Church.

Once seated, Rev. John Conrad spoke about the history of the church.

He informs that they’ve always had a tense relationship with government over the years.

They were originally the church of England during the Revolution and their ties to England were detrimental due to their loyalty to the monarch.

He indicates that the church has sought to integrate democracy into the church ever since.

“The most powerful factor in our religion is the people. The Holy Spirit moves from bottom up,” Conrad said. “Our revelation starts with the disenchantment of the people.”

Conrad stated that there were more slave holding bishops than abolitionist church goers and that it was those at the bottom that pursued change.

He informs that the church has always advocated for social change and challenged authority.

“People of faith need to come together and preach the Gospel to people in power who don’t want to hear it,” Conrad said.

He recalls Lyndon B. Johnson’s visit to the church back in 1964.

Johnson sat in front of the congregation while the reverend preached a sermon denouncing the sins of the Vietnam War.

“Not much has changed in 50 years,” Conrad said. “The same problems we faced then, we face now.”

The participants then marched to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Institute of Religion.

Snacks and refreshments were served as the next speaker, Rev. Scott Kneeland, prepared his following statements.

Kneeland teaches at the Institute and offers bible and Mormon book studies seven days a week.

“The Institution gives students the opportunity to learn more about God and religion in a positive and supportive environment,” Kneeland said.

Kneeland has done missionary work in Argentina to assist impoverished communities and notifies that Mormons commit themselves to missionary work as well.

He then quoted Corinthians 1:10-13, where Jesus taught that there were divisions and arguments even inside the Church.

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you,” Kneeland said. “Look at society today and there’s divisions. This is not what God wanted.”

Students and faculty from Riverside City College also contribute to those in need.

RCC professor Evan Heimlich, for example, has taken 10 trips to Mexicali, Mexico to assist the needy.

“The poverty in Mexico is more severe than here in the U.S.,” Heimlich said. “Anyone who cares about poverty should give the place a visit.”

Monica Ramirez, president of the RCC Well Christian Club, informs about the services and duties that her club carries out, such as Bible studies, featured guest speakers and a place to socialise for anyone on campus.

“We just want students to know that everyone’s going through something in their lives, even us Christians,” Ramirez said. “If they need help or a shoulder to cry on, we just want to show them that they’re not alone, we’re here for them.”

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