The Rev. Gayle Fisher-Stewart spent 20 years working as a police officer for the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department. She joined the department in 1972, four years after riots destroyed parts of the city following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
At the time African-Americans made of 70 percent of the people living in the nation’s capital; at the same time, the police department was overwhelmingly white. Fisher-Stewart’s decision to join the police force baffled friends and family. The department had a bad reputation, she said, and “my friends weren’t happy because some of them had had negative interactions with police here in D.C.”
But Fisher-Stewart needed money to further her education and at the time the department offered a retirement package at 20 years of service. Twenty years to the day, she retired and went to work as a law enforcement consultant, including as a community policing advisor. Some years later, the mother of one son, she enrolled at Wesley Theological Seminary.
As a deacon serving Calvary Episcopal Church, a historically black congregation on the city’s northeast side, Fisher-Stewart founded the Center for the Study of Faith and Justice at Calvary with the help of from the Episcopal Evangelism Society grant. Now as an assistant rector, she serves along the Rev. Peter Jarrett-Schell, the church’s first white rector, together they work to foster conversations and build community in their neighborhood.
The Center for the Study of Faith and Justice hosts forums about race, social justice, inequality, policing among others, creating a space for dialogue and action. Through the center, Calvary is partnering with other churches and nonprofit organizations to address issues like unemployment and support for ex-offenders re-entering society.
In the past, Fisher-Stewart spoke on gun ownership at a Bishops United Against Gun Violence (http://bishopsagainstgunviolence.org) march in Salt Lake City during the 2015 Episcopal Church General Convention. Last fall she helped facilitate a young adult pilgrimage to Ferguson, Missouri, to study racism, injustice and reconciliation.
Fisher-Stewart is in a unique position to comment about policing in America.
Source: Episcopal Digital Network | Lynette Wilson