Rev. Monica Jefferson received this year’s Social Justice Award for her ongoing leadership and successful collaborative work in North St. Louis County before, during and after unrest in Ferguson/Florissant. Jefferson has been the senior pastor of St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Florissant since 2007.
Jefferson’s roots are in the inner city of St. Louis, where she learned at an early age that lives are changed through people that care and that all people matter to God. She began her ministry with such a vision and passion. This was particularly demonstrated in her work in the Missouri Conference as Coordinator of Intercultural and Urban Ministry with the successful launch of the Holy Boldness Academy, a comprehensive, grassroots urban ministry model of the United Methodist Church focused on empowering churches to transform and empower communities through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Holy boldness is being a living reminder of the powerful presence of Jesus Christ.
Without fanfare and with a spirit of humility, Jefferson has been a strong, consistent, compassionate and effective leader of racial and social justice in North St. Louis County for nine years. She continues to exemplify the teachings of Jesus Christ in her approach to racial and social justice. As senior pastor, she has led her church to become involved in promoting social justice. Some of the ways include:
Partner church with Hazelwood and Ferguson-Florissant school districts providing food, shelter, basic materials to assist families, including children and youth in need in these communities.
Partner in August 2014 with school districts to create an Emergency Action Plan in response to Ferguson unrest following killing of Michael Brown, promoting peace with justice, safe havens and meaningful community engagement and de-escalation with residents for change.
She and her congregation partners and co-laborers with North County Churches Uniting for Racial Harmony and Justice (NCCU) and Metropolitan Churches United (MCU) to improve quality of life for residents in North County area by “rolling up her sleeves with residents and actively engaging in community organizing for social justice, fairness and peace.”
Involved in cleanup of businesses after looting in Ferguson. Empowering local business owners to remain in community.Mobilized congregation to provide food, shelter and assistance to families and empowering residents of Ferguson and North County during Ferguson unrest. Providing leadership to promote racial justice, which includes leading her congregation to pray at the site of Michael Brown’s memorial in Ferguson. Working with North County area law enforcement police chiefs to improve/promote police and community relations—including changing policies and procedures that inhibit fairness and promote discrimination; also helping police chiefs develop strategies to promote diversity within North County law enforcement. As a part of the North County Chamber of Commerce, worked to help businesses stay in Ferguson/North County after Ferguson unrest.
Jefferson and her congregation at St. Andrews have been recognized for these efforts as well. Their work has been recognized by North County Churches United for Racial Justice in which she and her congregation have received the organization’s Outstanding Community Service award in social justice. Within the last year, she and her congregation recently received another award from North County Churches for their collaborative work with this organization’s initiative with area police chiefs to promote social justice, better police community relations and to develop diversity among law enforcement. These efforts continue today.
Jefferson continues to integrate Holy boldness in her leadership of St. Andrews -a multi-racial congregation--leading them to actively engage their community amid racial and social tensions that still exist in Ferguson and Florissant. This was evident in the fall of 2014 when she and her congregation adopted a Peace with Justice Covenant and Emergency Action Plan to promote work actions that “de-escalate” rather than “intensify” the unrest in Ferguson and Florissant as well as work with local area congregations and organizations to promote healing and calm.