Pastor Joy Johnson has served as the founding pastor of Higher Hope Christian Church for 8 years. The church serves North Highlands and North Natomas and has a direct service ministry in 5 apartment complexes.
How did you get involved in ACT?
I was led to Sacramento ACT 5 years ago by other clergy members who recognized the intersection of my church’s service ministry with the work of ACT. I currently serve as the President of the Board of Directors.
What issues have you worked on?
When I was introduced to ACT, the Ceasefire actions and seminars initially caught my attention. Because I am a Registered Nurse/Health Services Administrator with an emphasis in Managed Health, I was asked to help lead the work on the Low Income Health Plan which transformed into the Covered California initiative, at the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
I co-chaired the District Attorney Candidates’ forum in 2014 and worked on the get-out-the-vote campaign for Proposition 47.
What was a moment when you realized the power of organizing?
I am still realizing this. A moment that stands out for me was the passage of Proposition 47 despite serious opposition from notable groups in law enforcement and the district attorney’s office. In the end, we out-organized the opposition. We are better together.
What role does your faith play in your work with ACT?
It is hard for me to segregate my life into compartments; my faith undergirds all aspects of my life. ACT is the one organization I have been involved with that reinforces and builds upon my wholistic style of a life of faith. ACT reaffirms the centrality of my faith.
How has your congregation’s involvement with ACT impacted your congregation?
We became deeply involved in the Health Initiative and became a site for ACA new member enrollment. The health issue really caught our members because it impacts them directly and profoundly. Many of my members were themselves uninsured.
What would you say to someone who says ACT is just a political organization?
This is actually what I originally thought of ACT. I am just beginning to see that ACT in not just a political or lobbying group. We draw upon the faith traditions of all our member organization, which means that we are a multi-faith organization. We advocate for policy changes from a platform of faith.
What does it mean to be a faith-based organization? A multi-faith organization?
ACT draws deeply on the many faith traditions represented in its membership. For me this means that I can look to the Bible and see the work that ACT does right there. I believe that other faiths can look to their sacred texts and see the work of ACT. In this way we draw from the depth of everybody’s traditions.
I was involved in the collaborative clergy team to create our current Prophetic Narrative, a multi-faith covenant for our region.
To be a multi-faith organization means that all faiths can find common ground in their own tradition that allows us to seek, build and pursue the Beloved Community together for the common good of humankind.
Why do you work with ACT?
I have considered myself a change agent for my whole adult life. I always seek to make positive changes where I live, work and serve. ACT is an organization that seeks to make positive change as well. Working with ACT seems like a coming home to me: a change agent joining with a change agency.
How have you grown and been challenged personally through your work with ACT?
By getting a broader perspective of different ethnicities, generations and the faith of others, my own assumptions have been challenged. Before I was involved in ACT, it was easy for me to pull away or disengage from conversations with people whose opinions were not my own. Through working with ACT, I have been challenged to stay with the conversation and see it all the way through. This has given me the opportunity to sit with and really understand someone else’s perspective.
What is your vision of a healthy, thriving community?
A healthy, thriving community is one in which all residents are seen, heard and valued, and all residents have their needs met. In such a community, there is a sense of unity through which we all share each other’s pain and celebrate each other’s victories. Our individual experiences become a source of wisdom to the community and there is a place for everyone.
What is the role of ACT in Sacramento?
Sacramento has been cited as the most diverse city in the country. ACT has a vital role to play to ensure that consideration for this diversity is given in the formation of policies and how they are enacted. ACT should be the hub that considers the whole of the social fabric and network.
How can ACT impact racial and economic justice?
ACT has the opportunity to be the organization that examines the broader picture around the economic implications of racial injustice. We can challenge the economic system that is thriving on racial injustice as a strategy. We are beginning to develop some real traction to look more closely at and agitate around economic injustice.
By examining the system holistically, I predict that we will make some monumental discoveries and demands that will crystalize our identity and legacy.
How do you want people to reflect on ACT 10 years from now? What would you want them to say?
I would want them to say that ACT has been an organization that brought faith communities together and served the larger community very well. I would like people to be able to look back over 10 year of concrete, positive changes that ACT helped bring to the Sacramento community.