Your congregation has been on a journey of discernment. You have engaged with our faith, the Holy Spirit, and with the community both within and outside your walls, and you have learned about issues of economic justice. You have covenanted with God and with each other to be a congregation working for economic justice. And you have given some thought to what this will mean for the life of the congregation going forward. You are now ready to live out that faith-based commitment to being a congregation that seeks economic justice.
We hope the covenant you adopted will be posted in a prominent and highly visible location. Please consider adding the designation “An Economic Justice Church” to signage, church letterhead, the Sunday bulletin, and other places both as a witness to the world and to remind the congregation of the commitment it has made.
We hope, as you may also, that the covenant will become part of the ongoing life of the church. Making the commitment to be an Economic Justice Church means the congregation’s witness and work in the world will be different, going forward. To ensure that, there are some steps you can take.
Implementing the Covenant
To implement the goals that are outlined in your congregation’s covenant, consider creating an economic justice committee or task force. This could be a totally new body within the church or it could be an existing body (such as a social justice committee) that takes on this new ministry.
The committee’s first steps
The committee/task force’s first task would be to carefully read the covenant in order to clearly understand the congregation’s intentions for the covenant going forward. Then the group can construct a one- to two-year plan of implementation that include a range of activities focused on economic justice such as worship and prayer, study, and activities – both advocacy and “on-the-ground” engagement – in the local community, the nation, or world. The draft implementation plan could be shared for review and comments with the governing body and others within the church, then distributed to the congregation.
Begin at home
Don’t forget to begin at home. Churches must work to ensure their own employment guidelines are fair, equitable, and humane. If policies and practices within the church are unjust, how can the congregation engage with integrity in economic justice work in the wider community? A thorough reflection on internal practices and values should always precede external actions.
Explore the list of General Synod resolutions that address issues of economic justice.
Ways to Engage provides additional resources and suggestions for engaging in ministries of economic justice.
Keeping It Fresh
Mark the anniversary
Each year the congregation can mark the anniversary of the decision to become an Economic Justice Church by re-reading the covenant together during worship and engaging in other activities to re-commit to and celebrate the decision. At that time, events and activities related to the commitment that happened during the course of the year can be lifted up and celebrated.
Share what you are doing with the wider UCC and your community. Put stories and photos on your web page. Share them with others in your association and conference. Encourage other churches to discern their call to do economic justice. Reach out to the local media, as appropriate. Let us at Justice and Witness Ministries also know what is happen by emailing stories and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many ways to engage in ministries and sustain the work. The suggestions offered in Ways to Engage can be used as they are or adapted to fit the needs of your congregation, community, and area. You may also already have ideas for what your congregation will do as an Economic Justice Church. Be led by God and the interests and gifts of the congregation to determine the work you are called to do.
Sustaining the Struggle
At some point, the members of the committee or task force assigned to lead the work of being an Economic Justice Church may hit an emotional and spiritual wall, either individually or as a group. The issues will seem too big. It will seem like conversations need to be repeated over and over. Work may come to a standstill or the group may meet resistance in the church or elsewhere. Group members may feel anxious or maybe even embarrassed about what seems like a lack of progress. Or they may feel angry, sad, or powerless at this moment. As a group or individually, you may wonder if this is the time to quit or quietly fade away.
Anyone who has been involved with social justice work for any length of time has had an experience like this at one time or another. There’s not a way to skip this experience. It’s a normal and natural result of hard work and honest assessment.
However, there’s another side to this, too. This is usually what we’ve experience right before a significant break through. There is an invitation from the Spirit in these moments, an invitation to go deeper. The five very simple things to do offered below are profoundly important. If Jesus needed time to pray, a community of allies, and conversations with others, certainly we do, too.
1. Take some Sabbath time: Sabbath is a time to rest and to get some perspective. It’s a time to realign ourselves with God, reflect on deeply held values and beliefs, remember “who we are and whose we are,” and remember the stories that inspired us to do this work in the first place. Sabbath is a time to focus on some of those things we are most thankful for. Whether Sabbath time is taken individually or with a wider group of folks from your church or other churches, it can be a good way to renew dedication and commitment.
2. Intentionally listen: The initial plan decided on by the committee or task force may no longer be working, or it may not have been as successful as it could be or moved a number of people to that deeper place. Take some time to intentionally listen to folks within your church and community to assess where they are and hear where they think you all may be called to go.
3. Celebrate what’s working, let go of what’s not: Sometimes we get so focused on a way of doing something that we lose the “why.” One size does not fit all and situations change along the way. Make sure the members of the committee/task force are intentionally working to balance out hopes and expectations in a way that the goals you have are reasonable, doable, and effective for the “why” you’re working towards.
4. Remember that not everything can be perfect but everything can be better: Although this faith walk of ours sometimes has some large leaps in it, most of our progress will be made in small steps. Honor each step your community takes towards living into the calls for economic justice. The success of this sort of work is rarely as suddenly evident as it is gradually evident. Remember the big picture as you focus on some of the smaller details.
5. Commit to supporting each other: Part of building a community is to start being one. What kind of support and accountability might be needed to continue your work?