July 2022
ECF Fellows: Innovating in The Episcopal Church

Charity and Solidarity Must Come Together

In 2017, I became an ECF fellow in the ministry track. The goal was to develop an intersectional Food Justice ministry and transform Trinity Church Asbury Park’s charitable soup kitchen and pantry into a social justice mission that would be in solidarity with Asbury's community members experiencing systemic injustices. Today, five years later, I am very grateful to ECF for financially supporting that early vision that is now Social Justice at Trinity.

Social Justice at Trinity, takes an intersectional approach to its mission. We believe that all oppressions intersect with one other and that the transformation of unjust structures, including colonialism, systemic racism, economic injustice, patriarchy, LGBTQIA+ injustices and ableism, helps to create a truly just society. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In Social Justice at Trinity, we created this three-pronged program:

  1. We ask why people are hungry and houseless in one of the richest countries in the world.
  2. We continue to meet the immediate needs of hunger and housing until we live in a country and world where hunger and housing is a human right.
  3. We organize in the community to make justice here and now, to bring the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.

To make these goals a reality, Social Justice at Trinity employs both a Social Justice Director and a Social Justice Worker. I serve as director with Kris Hlatky, who holds the worker position. Together, we do case work, organize for justice in the community and operate the following new projects.

A radical well-being program at Trinity

Trinity Church’s Radical Well-being Program (RWbP) is an intersectional, holistic housing program guided by the understanding that housing alone is not enough to create well-being. Well-being can only be achieved when physical and mental health, social support, treatment for and freedom from use disorders and addiction, communication skills and financial literacy are addressed. The RWbP recognizes that systemic racism, sexism, ableism, discrimination of LGBTQIATS+ and classism, among other kinds of discrimination, contribute to homelessness and have a significant impact on mental health. The RWbP offers the following holistic, wrap-around, preventative services – either in-house or through community relationships and partnerships – that provide community members with resources while addressing societal forces:

  • Permanent housing
  • Emergency housing and rapid-rehousing
  • Job training and local job placement
  • Opportunities for physical exercise in relaxed environment
  • Community building conversations and casual walks in the community
  • Mental health counseling, including referrals to local partnerships
  • Use disorders and addiction counseling and meetings, including referrals to local partnerships)
  • Community organizing for powerful and healthy communities
  • Financial literacy trainings and tax assistance
  • Craft and hobby workshops
  • Movie and game nights
  • Self-advocacy training

Committed to community organizing

What really makes the RwBp stand out is our commitment to community organizing and training our clients to organize for power. While we provide direct housing and counseling in solidarity with our community members needs for health and well being, we also want to be agents of change to create a system of government that sees housing as a human right. We have created, in collaboration with community members who experienced homelessness, the Asbury Park Affordable Housing Coalition (APAHC). In the Coalition’s four years of work, we have created eight inclusionary zoning ordinances that require developers who build more than five units in Asbury to include 20 percent affordable mixed housing. We also organized to see that the city create rent control for the first time in the city's history. We believe that we must create the just world we want to see.

While thinking about how to be in solidarity with our community, we realized that as long as systemic racism is alive and well, hunger and housing would always be present. With this understanding, we created the Racial Justice Project at Trinity (RJP). Through it, we engage in popular public education and teach that racism is racial prejudice plus systemic power over one group from another. Our understanding that if the country is going to be equitable, we must recognize the first injustice of settler colonialism, genocide and land theft of the indigenous populations of Turtle Island (North America) led to resolutions passed in both the City of Asbury Park and the Diocese of New Jersey to adopt Indigenous Peoples Day. We started building a working relationship with the Palestinian American Community Center, connecting settler colonialism in the Americas with settler colonialism in Palestine. We partnered with the Urban Revitalization Task Force of the Diocese of New Jersey to bring ESL classes and job training to the city of Asbury Park. And we also started a Monmouth County Task Force for Reparations for Indigenous peoples and people from the forced African Diaspora.

To engage the youth in our community, Trinity Church collaborated with The Light Brigade Collective to organize monthly benefit shows featuring Punk, Hardcore, Hip Hop and other independent music art showcases in support of locally-run, community-based social justice organizations. We look to raise awareness around racial, economic, LGBTQIATS+, disability, housing, environmental, indigenous sovereignty, direct democracy, anti-speciesism, anti-war, food and feminist justice struggles. We are also looking forward to creating an all-ages venue to give youth creative ways to build community and help them connect with social justice organizations, express their art, and enjoy affordable inclusive events. We look to build community through the arts with an anti-oppression lens while also supporting large movements and organizations for collective liberation.

ECF Fellow Derek Minno-Bloom, currently working as Trinity Church Asbury Park’s Food and Social Justice Director, has been working with people experiencing homelessness and housing issues and with many organizations fighting systemic injustice for twenty years. He self-identifies as a white settler, cisgendered, antiracist, queer male currently living on Sand Hill Nation Lenni Lenape territory known today as Asbury Park, New Jersey. Derek enjoys long walks in what is left of wild places, reading, writing, surfing, liberation and earth theologies and spending time with friends and family.


This article is part of the July 2022 Vestry Papers issue on ECF Fellows: Innovating in The Episcopal Church