Posts Tagged ‘Poverty’

Inclusion and Division

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Many read and comment on this blog who are interested in church growth.  That is the audience for today’s post.

Fascinating to read the challenges and changes facing the Catholic Church.  And the amazing part … simply change the names and you have the same contentious “script” that many Protestant churches are moving through.  And what are the main issues embedded in that script?  It seems the seminal issues appearing again and again include the role of women, divorce, homosexuality, concern for the poor and the environment, and the role of clergy.

These are clearly heated, contentious issues argued with great vigor by those desiring a more inclusive church and those desiring a more traditional church.   Given that rawness, civil dialog comes hard and at times appears impossible.

So what is the solution? The way forward?

I would imagine there is no one solution.  I imagine this is a tension we will live with in the upcoming years, not a problem we will quickly solve.  Likewise this inescapable tension will gather more “steam” so to speak as numerous churches experience continued decline. (Only 6% of churches experienced growth last year)

My hope is that respect … even through gritted teeth! … reigns.  Both sides claim to be stewards of the Christian message.  Both center on God.  On God’s Word.

My belief is that a more inclusive model is being born.  My prayer is that it remains inclusive.  Inclusive of many of the groups noted before. And inclusive of those who see the world and the future of Church differently – traditional and progressive.  As one priest noted in regard to welcoming back divorced parishioners to communion…

Everyone is trying to find a solution, putting together concern for the institution of marriage, and compassion to people in difficulty.  We just have to find a way to put these two together. 

A beautiful statement.  A meaning underneath the words that echoes a third way.

 

 

 

Hopeful, Demanding, Dangerous and Healing

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Walter Brueggemann wrote this about church … it is something we move into that is “hopeful, and demanding, and dangerous and healing.”  And so it is.

Yet we seek church to be staid, and comfortable, and safe and pure.  And those it will not be.

Church may best serve as a source of disquiet, not a sense of righteous order brought to the disorder of the world but a source of creative disorder that humbly challenges the world with loving questions. “Why must it be like this?”  “What can we do?”

85% of the 385 most persistently poor counties in the United States are rural.  In one county, McDowell County in West Virginia, 46% of the children do not live with their biological parents.  That county ranks last and first …. lowest in the state with a median household income of $22,000.00 and ranks highest in the state for teenage obesity and teenage pregnancy.

Breaking that cycle has proven elusive for decades.  A culture of dependency, rampant drug abuse, poor schools, a lack of well paying jobs all contribute.  And kids, children, choose none of that.

Can churches answer there?  Yes.   A blessing in this congregation has been witnessing the outpouring of help for The Opportunity House in Reading.  Food, Blankets, Funds.  All done for a place an hour and half away.  All spurred by a simple fact … Reading was named the poorest city in the country 3 years ago.

With a smile I would like to offer … there might be a trip to McDowell Country West Virginia in our future!  Hopeful, Demanding, Dangerous, Healing.

 

On the bus? Off the bus? What bus?

Friday, April 13th, 2012

We all wrestle with “truths” that are numbing.  Here I am not talking of “truths” that are actually true but our illusions masquerading as reality, as “truth.”  In this culture, as it stands today, unfortunately belief in God is seen by many as anti-intellectual, as a front for political agendas, and as the domain of the narrow minded.  Those critiques are not unfortunately without some element of veracity.  A few short months ago I shuttered seeing a candidate’s bus emblazoned with the slogan, “Faith, Jobs, Freedom.”  I am all for faith.  I am all for people having jobs. I am all for freedom.  I am leary of mashing all three together under a religious umbrella for partisan purposes.  God’s concern is more than a revived American economy and that type of sloganeering places His providence into a rather small box.  When we invite Christ in, it is like saying as one author noted, “Here comes everybody.”

Reading this morning about the spread of Christianity.  Several of the original 12 disciples and Paul get together for what we would call a “strategic planning session.”  Paul agrees to focus on working on Gentiles (non-Jews).  James, Peter, and John agree to continue to work within their homeland of Israel and its Jewish citizenry.  And then the three offer Paul an important reminder.  As Paul reports, “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor.”  (Galatians 2:10)

Reminders like what James, Peter, and John offered to Paul are what puncture numbing truth.  God’s truth – “remember the poor” – cuts right to it.  Our hearts should “burn within us” when we hear what is actually true.   God’s truth likewise always evidences a physicality to it – part of its incarnational nature – mirroring “a God who can be seen, in whom is what cannot be seen.” (True Christianity, pg. 519)

These thoughts are deeply present as we launch our weekend helping the “Breathing Room Foundation.”  Take note of their mission:

Our mission is to reach out to every family within a twenty-mile radius who has a member suffering from cancer. We recognize that a cancer diagnosis affects every aspect of a family’s life; emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial. 

We strive to provide a family with whatever it is that will allow them a bit of “breathing room” from their daily struggle against cancer. It is our hope that this will allow them to concentrate all of their efforts toward regaining their physical health.

Just reading it reminds us to “remember the poor” – a definition of poverty in all its aspects – emotional, physical, spiritual and financial.  That is the kind of truth which was at one point considered Christianity’s birthright, a defining characteristic of the faith.  I humbly hold we have forgotten that birthright.  Emanuel Swedenborg, the prophetic voice of this denomination, railed against the over-intellectualization of faith and the numbing truth of “faith alone” being the sole vehicle of salvation.  Our job is to recapture the original birthright, to remember.  Can this congregation – NewChurch LIVE – play a humble and measured role in offering something of value to the poor, a “poor” which includes us?  Emotionally? Physically? Spiritually? Financially?  The answer is a celebratory “YES!”