Kevin Fleming offers a blessing to judges, lawyers, law enforcement officers, elected and appointed officials at the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Law Celebration conducted Friday at Evansville's First Presbyterian Church
The Rev. Kevin Fleming, pastor of Evansville's First Presbyterian Church, challenged local attorneys, government officials and others Friday to find a connection between faith and justice.
"Whenever we're about the work of bringing people together, lifting people out of oppression and making the world what God created it to be, we are in one way or another about the business, the God-given business, of doing justice," Fleming said.
Approximately 50 people attended the midday service, a Liturgy of the Law Celebration that continued a tradition of judges, lawyers, law enforcement officers, elected and appointed officials and students of all faiths gathering and request God's blessing and guidance in the administration of justice.
A spring tradition organized by the St. Thomas More Society of Southwestern Indiana, an association of Catholic lawyers, and normally celebrated as a Red Mass at a Catholic church, the observance was moved the Presbyterian church this year. The move made after the Most Rev. Charles C. Thompson, bishop of the Diocese of Evansville, objected to non-Catholic attorneys presenting readings in the mass.
Thompson had offered to conduct two services, an ecumenical one and a Red Mass on the same day. In a statement in March, the bishop said his desire was "to be ecumenically sensitive to non-Catholics while preserving the integrity of the Eucharist as a sign of Catholic unity."
Sue Ann Hartig, staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society, explained since this year's service wasn't in a Catholic church, the name needed to be changed.
"It's the first time at this church; it's the first time with this title, but we just didn't want to let that tradition die," Hartig said.
The St. Thomas More Society held a luncheon in the church Fellowship Hall after the service.
In his sermon, Fleming noted Friday's service that the First Presbyterian congregation was the oldest established in Evansville. He expressed hope that participants would find the service to be a time of empowerment, reflection and hopefully a work they do.
In his "Faith and Justice" sermon, Fleming questioned the connection between faith and justice.
According to Fleming, examples of justice can include — a faith community that opens its heart in scores to those without a place to be, a faith community that feeds those who are hungry, and a faith community that provides clothing to those in need.
However useful, Fleming said that's treating symptoms and not the disease of injustice.
Fleming said justice and power must be brought together so that whatever is just will be powerful and whatever is powerful may be just.
"What will doing justice look like for you," he asked. "It's hard to tell. For each of us it is different."
The service opened with Piper Chad Buttry, of the Evansville Fire Department, leading the procession into the church. West Terrace second graders Samuel Wolf and Logan Tillotson, from Wolf Scout Troop No. 371, led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance as they saluted the American flag.
Other participants included Evansville Police Sgt. Darren Sroufe; Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke; Father Attila Frohlich; Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Office Lt. Ken Tenbarge; Attorney Todd Glass, president of the Evansville Bar Association; Superior Court Judge Robert J. Tornatta; and soloist Mark Fox.
Sandra Mants, 66, from Dayton, Ohio, said she believes the annual service is vital because previous work in politics opened her eyes to the hard work people put into their career.
"And they don't get a lot of support sometimes," Mants said. "So I think a service like this, ecumenical, that talks about the real work that they do, which is justice, is very important. And so it needs to be done every year."
"Whether it's in the line of work that you do as a police officer, a judge or a magistrate in a court, it's all a part of what makes our civilization important," she said.
By Megan Erbacher
Source: The Evansville Courier & Press