Ujima Fund Investor Report Interview: Reverend Arrington Chambliss
October 1st, 2022 -- Ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in 2004, Reverend Arrington Chambliss served five years as Assistant/Associate Rector with the Church of St. Andrew in Marblehead, MA. She is particularly interested in the intersection between the inner work of contemplative prayer, reflection and healing and the outer work of nonviolent direct action, reconciliatory dialogue, and community organizing to bring about social change.
Paige Curtis spoke with the Reverend Arrington Chambliss who is the Executive Director of the Episcopal City Mission.
Paige Curtis: Tell us about Episcopal City Mission and how it got started.
Rev. Arrington Chambliss: We’re an Episcopal-affiliated church working towards racial and economic justice in Massachusetts, as an expression of God's transforming love. Throughout our long history, since we were founded in 1844, we've heard that call for justice. In the early years, we did much more charity-oriented direct service, but in the 1960s, we pivoted to working on systemic injustice more holistically.
Everyone has very different points of connection to Ujima. How did you first hear about our work?
We were invited by the Center for Economic Democracy to participate in an initiative called “Solidarity Philanthropy” around 2019. Led by leaders from Access Strategies, CED, and Boston Impact Initiative, we were given the space to learn more about solidarity economy principles and reflect with peer organizations. We had heard about Ujima’s work before this, and some of us on staff attended a number of faith-related member meetings, but it really gelled in this learning circle when we were able to expand our imagination around what’s possible.
Why did Episcopal City Mission decide to invest in the Ujima Fund?
Like everyone who experienced the pandemic and the racial justice uprising in 2020, we bolstered our actions, as it relates to philanthropy and organizing. The bulk of our philanthropy supports grassroots community organizing, and on the organizing front, we work with Episcopalians across Massachusetts to advance racial and economic justice. Internally, we moved half a million dollars to support Black movement leaders leading the resistance. We also have an endowment and wanted to go deeper on mission-related investment, but didn’t just want investments to be based on returns, but [also on] social impact. Ujima was the most profound expression of that. Our grantmaking, investing and organizing all began to converge around the start of the pandemic.
We also did a year-long process of listening to community leaders and assessing our programs, to figure out how we could align more closely with racial and economic justice efforts. We grounded all of our work in liberation theology, which involves being in deep solidarity with those who live in the margins and we have chosen to adopt a reparative frame for our work. William Appleton, who made his fortune from shipping – with likely connections to the Atlantic Slave Trade – was the first funder of ECM, which also implicates us in slavery.
One of our guiding principles around investment is partnering with BIPOC-led movements and solidarity economy initiatives around the state, [which] are creating sustainable economic models to redistribute power back to Black and Brown communities, and lay the foundation for a meaningful contribution to reparations and solidarity.
What does being a faith-based anchor institution mean to you?
Money and how we relate to it and justice, are talked about everywhere in the Bible. Because we’ve all grown up under the system of capitalism, myself and others are still learning how white supremacy, capitalism, Christian hegemony, and patriarchy shape our mentality and our actions. But, if we’re working on one, we have to understand the others. From a faith-rooted perspective, investing with Ujima allows us to most profoundly live and practice our faith. We’re excited to partner and follow the lead of Ujima and others who are imagining a world where people and planet are prioritized over profit. You all are helping me live and my faith to the core.
What are you most looking forward to when it comes to the future?
Rev. Arrington: I feel so proud of our grantmaking team who transformed our processes using the “resonance” framework from Justice Funders. Our team is so good at reaching out and building relationships with an incredible cohort of folks who will likely receive funding through our Burgess Urban Fund. I’m also very excited about our new director of organizing, the Reverend Edwin Johnson, who will be leading our work to organize Episcopalians. Finally, I look forward to our team continuing to learn as an organization. We have a long way to go as a church with many decisions to make along the way, but I truly believe we’re on the path that will help us to manifest our values most profoundly and follow a God of love and justice. ●