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Building community, sharing hope, and standing for justice since 2004

Become a Monthly Sustainer: Our Work Takes Time …

Bringing justice and equi­ty to our society will not happen overnight, or even in a year or two.

We love “quick wins” as much as anyone … but in our work toward systemic change, they are few and far between.

For example, Oshkosh Common Council’s February 2020 decision to fund free busing for Oshkosh Public School students came about only after a sustained campaign over more than four years by ESTHER Oshkosh and other groups. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing the fault-lines in our society into even sharper relief, and it seems the globe will be dealing with the virus’s effects for years.

ESTHER has shown that it has the ability, working within networks and alongside partners, to bring about important, needed change. It is even more important in these times for us to be able to main­tain our effort over the long haul. That is why we need a de­pen­dable fi­nan­cial base.

Monthly Sustain­ers pro­vide fund­ing we can count on for the long run … through automatic month­ly con­tri­bu­tions (of $10 or more) from their check­ing or savings account.

We invite you to become a Monthly Sustainer of ESTHER. Just download this form, fill it out, and mail it to ESTHER, PO Box 784, Neenah, WI 54957.

Thank you!


The ESTHER board gathered on March 12 for what will probably be its last in-person meeting for several months. These meetings always start with an opening reflection intended to help members keep their focus on ESTHER’s larger purpose and not get lost in “administrivia.” We are pleased to share with you now what ESTHER President Gary Crevier shared with the board at that time. We hope it may be of help to you in these times as chaos spreads and the temptation to worry climbs.

When our approach to life comes from an attitude of being scared, without hope, we fail to see the sacredness of creation and everything in the cosmos. That includes you and me.

Notice that the only difference between the words sacred and scared is the interchanged positions of the letters c and a, sacred/scared.

I would suggest that a in the word sacred stands for awesomeness, awareness, acceptance and art-filled presence in all of us, creation, the cosmos; and the c in the word scared stands for cowardliness, contempt and a cynical outlook on life.

So what if now, given the presence of the COVID-19 illness, we “flip the script,” so to speak, and live our lives more as sacred and filled with hope, instead of being scared? Let’s do what we can to confront this crisis, like self-distancing, touching of elbows rather than shaking of hands, sneezing into our elbows or simply avoiding crowds. Regardless of the outcome, it's the right thing to do.

May you be richly blessed in patience and hope during these uncertain times.

Your Contribution Helps Us Share Hope

Optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the belief that if we work hard enough together, we can make things better!”

—Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

These words, highlighting the difference between optimism and hope, can be important touchstones for us in this time of pandemic. The number of those infected and killed by COVID-19 continues to grow. The adverse economic impacts mount. Meanwhile, the inequality and division in our nation grows ever greater.

Faced with these facts, we’ve pretty much set aside any optimism we may have had initially. But we are still filled with hope. In fact, sharing hope, along with building community and standing for justice, are central to ESTHER’s mission. Read more to learn about our work, and how your support can help us share hope….

Help Us Share Hope

The Difference between Social Justice and Charity

“ESTHER works for social justice,
but it is not a charitable organization.”

What does that mean? What is the difference between social justice work and charity work?

It is justice, not charity, that is wanting in the world. - Mary Wollstonecraft ShelleyThe famous Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas” gives us a fine example of charity work. In the carol, King Wenceslas looks out of his window on a cold winter’s night and sees a poor man “gathering winter fuel.” The king and his page set out “through the rude wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather” to take food to the poor man. Along the way, the page becomes cold and tired, but he is revived by walking in the king’s footsteps in the snow, because “heat was in the very sod where the saint had printed.” That is to say that the king is a saint because he is so charitable. The song ends with the admonition, “Therefore, Christian men be sure, wealth or rank possessing, ye who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.”

Icon of King (Saint) WenceslasThis is a story of charity at its best, but the social justice worker says, “Wait a minute. This is all very well, but why should this man be so poor that he can eat only if the king happens to decide to help him? Why should some people starve while others live comfortably? A society in which some people starve while others live comfortably is oppressive. It is unjust, and we should work to make it more just.”

That is the difference between charity and social justice work. Charity helps people in need, but it does not question the justice of the social system we live in. Social justice work aims to change the system. There will always be a need for charity, but, to the social justice worker, it should not be a substitute for a just society, and we have a responsibility to make our society as just as possible.

ESTHER’s members work in a number of ways to make our society as just as possible. To learn more about how you can participate in ESTHER’s work, visit our web site at

ESTHER’s 2020 Officers Announced

At the December 2019 meeting of ESTHER’s Leadership Board on December 12, officers for 2020 were elected.

  • President - Gary Crevier (newly elected): Gary has been an active suppporter of ESTHER for many years, especially through hisGary Crevier receiving the mantle of ESTHER leadership work with the prison reform task force and participation in ESTHER’s Religious Leaders Caucus. Read Gary’s personal profile here.
  • Vice President - Jo Phillip (newly elected): Jo is a member of the Fox Valley Islamic Society and works as a writer and editor in a Fox Cities marketing communications firm.
  • Secretary - Nancy Jones (continuing): A tireless contributor to and leader in many justice-oriented and community groups in the Fox Cities, Nancy belongs to Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Appleton.
  • Treasurer - Melissa Hughes (continuing): Melissa’s strong background in financial analysis, her past work in juvenile corrections in Canada, and her experience as a recent immigrant to the US make her well qualified to serve ESTHER in this role.

Board members expressed their gratitude to retiring president Fr. Joe Mattern, Appleton, and retiring vice president Mamadou Coulibaly, Oshkosh, for their dedicated service and effective leadership on behalf of ESTHER.

I Thought [Catholics] Couldn’t Join ESTHER

The November 2019 issue of The Compass, the official newspaper for the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, contains an article entitled, “I Thought We Couldn’t Join ESTHER.” It was written by Peter Weiss, program manger for the Diocesan Office of Living Justice.

As Weiss notes, the view expressed in the article’s title is incorrect:

So to summarize, Bishop Ricken did not say it was wrong for individual Catholics to belong to groups like ESTHER and JOSHUA [ESTHER’s sister organization in Green Bay]. Rather, he recognized the good work these organizations do in our communities and left the decision [about membership or support] up to the prudential judgment of the individual.

Appleton, WI, Community Care and Mutual Aid Signup

Appleton, WI Community Mutual Aid Signup FormAs our community continues to practice self-isolation to control the spread of the coronavirus, a number people from the Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist fellowship (an ESTHER faith community) and other community leaders1 are gathering information about people in the Appleton area who:

  1. Can provide assistance to fellow community members, or
  2. May need assistance.

ESTHER is pleased to help spread the word about this project and supports wholeheartedly the effort to build up our community’s resilience in the face of this significant challenge.

To participate visit this online form and enter your information.

To contact the organizers, send them an email at

Click “Read more” below for more information.

Immigration Task Force Works Towards a Better Life for Immigrants

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The ESTHER Immigration Task Force has evolved over the years into a wide-reaching group of dedicated people with ties to many groups in the community and beyond. Our agenda includes advocacy for specific policy changes; community education and consciousness-raising relating to the experience of immigrants; and walking alongside immigrants as they negotiate the twists and turns of life in our community. Click “Read more” below to see the complete update from ESTHER Immigration Task Force chair Nancy Bourassa.

Effective Meetings Training - Offered by WISDOM

Posted in
Saturday, May 9, 2020 - 10:00am - 12:00pm
Zoom Teleconference

WISDOM LogoThis Saturday, May 9, WISDOM* is offering an online training program on the topic of “Effective Meetings.”

Organizing for systemic change requires a lot of time spent in meetings. This training will offer a chance to reflect on why we go to meetings in the first place – and to think about what it takes to make them a really good use of our time. There will also be a lot of practical information in this training, designed to be useful for anyone who has a role in designing and carrying out meetings.

To build power we have to organize people. One of the ways we do that is through meetings. We might as well do them as well as we can!

To register, send an email to David Liners, WISDOM Executive Director:

*WISDOM is the state-wide social justice network of which ESTHER is a part.