“Answering the call, creating resilience, feeding body, mind, and spirit, for the revolutionary work of justice.”
By November 2017, this vision moved Rev. Debra Avery to set aside 15 years of traditional parish ministry to found Justice House, meant to be a community committed to the work of dismantling racism and empowering historically marginalized people.
After joining colleagues in the streets in 2014, to protest police violence, she became aware of how difficult it was for community leaders to find a spiritual center. A year later, her daily reminder was, “Ask yourself what it means to be a chaplain in the movement.”
She realized what it means to be a committed justice worker with little time for spiritual care, and over a 3-year period of activism in the streets, in the church, and in City Hall, she realized a new kind of community was needed, one that speaks truth about the power of white supremacy, that encourages action, and that welcomes every person to join in the struggle for justice.
Aware of the resistance within faith traditions, her call to form Justice House in 2017, while serving as the Moderator of the Presbytery of San Francisco, came out of the desire to offer a safe space and time for rest and reflection, and ultimately for organizing for action.
Rooted in the fertile soil of the justice of God, Justice House takes as an example, Jesus, who didn’t just teach about care and empowerment for the “least,” he “walked the talk,” focusing on those on the outside of power, with no access to resources – those no one else wanted to be near.
Justice House works in partnership with a number of faith-based organizations and churches, including: First Presbyterian Church of Hayward; 1001 New Worshiping Communities (at the PCUSA); The Presbytery of San Francisco; ACCE; Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity; Oakland Justice Coalition; the Anti-Police Terror Project; and more.
With a B.A. in theater and Spanish from the University of Northern Iowa, an M.S. in curriculum and instruction administration from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a M.Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pa., coupled with her extensive service in Japan, Mexico, and a number of states across the country, Rev. Avery is uniquely prepared to “walk the talk.”
She has served as a pastor to four Presbyterian congregations in New York, Illinois, Arizona, and California, founded two grassroots organizations, and is fluent in Spanish. She is the pastor of Justice House, a parish associate with the First Presbyterian Church of Hayward, and lives in Oakland with her husband Peter and daughter Caleila. Daughter Taylor lives in Brooklyn.