- What is your local community struggling with?
- How has the economic crisis affected your congregation and community?
- How have you and/or your congregation been impacted by what you have witnessed these past months in your community, and what have you done in response?
- How is your congregation standing on the side of love?
The past months, and the rise of the Occupy Movement, have been both inspiring and worrying. It was inspiring to see folks bringing attention to economic disparity and inequity. It was worrying to see the out-of-proportion response that so many municipalities and police departments gave to the Occupiers.
My local community is deeply affected by the fact that we are a State Capitol, and much of our local economy is affected by the state budget. The budget shortfalls, that are common to so many governments, hit us really hard as many people in the community have been given furloughs, deductions in pay, frozen pay, or have been laid off. When programs are slashed or cut, not only do the clients suffer, but the whole local economy suffers. Our congregation definitely is suffering as the state workers are suffering economically.
The recent Occupy activity in our town also highlighted, yet again, the homeless folks who are not adequately cared for. In the final surveys of who was left in the Occupy camp before the State Troopers enclosed it and cleared it out, many residents reported that they were homeless and appreciated the community they gained in the camp.
The congregation I serve Stands on the Side of Love in many ways, but part of our Mission is to "work to end poverty" and we have many projects to aid the homeless members of our community. We house a shelter for families with children on our property, and we are active supporters of a homeless tent city for adults that rotates among churches in our community. We also house an emergency overflow shelter in our church building several times a year (another project that rotates to different churches within the larger community). Our minister is active in working to end homelessness, and his vision and passion, along with that of others in our community, carries us forward in this work.
While the Occupy camp was active in town, we were active in supporting it, and our Minister was one of the interfaith Witnesses who first met with the State Troopers and officials and then later stood in witness to the process of clearing out the camp, thereby most-likely helping to reduce possible violence. We had one of the more peaceful shut-downs of an Occupy camp from around the country.
It's always just a step in the right direction, but we are taking steps, and more steps, and then more. We would be a hummingbird, in the words of the inspiring story by Wangari Maathai.