This summer, with a grant from the United Church of Christ’s Neighbors in Need offering, 24 high school students from an economically challenged Houston neighborhood learned about activism and carried out a local campaign for a $15 minimum-wage law. "It sparked something inside of me," one of the students said.Read more
As a congregation discerns whether to become an Economic Justice Church, it can be helpful to learn about some of the economic injustices that millions, even billions, of people face every day. Or, once a congregation decides to be an Economic Justice Church, it may want to explore various topics to discern the justice work it is being called to do.
This section of the Economic Justice Covenant Program is intended to give readers small amounts of important information about a number of economic justice topics. Don’t be overwhelmed. Browse through these issues and see what touches your heart, what touches the heart of the congregation. What are you being called to work on at this time?
Each topic area provides links to more resources and suggestions about ways to get involved and begin to change unjust conditions. In addition to the resources and organizations found in these links, there are probably local or state-based organizations working on these issues closer to your church. You may prefer to work close to home through these groups.
Congregational Resource: Restoring Justice and Democracy in America
What faith communities can do. A six session congregation-based educational program prepared by UCC members in the Northern California/Nevada Conference. Download.
Issues to ExplorePublic Education & Economic Justice
“Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbors work for nothing, and does not give them their wages; who says, ‘I will build myself a spacious house with large upper rooms,’ who cuts out windows for it, paneling it with cedar, and painting it with vermillion. Are you a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me?” says the Lord. Jeremiah 22:13-16
Scripture reveals that the struggle to achieve economic justice for all is an imperative of the Christian faith. The Bible contains many passages related to the poor and matters of economic justice. It makes clear God’s deep concern for the last, the lost, and the least. As illustrated in the Gospel stories where Jesus and the disciples feed thousands of people with just a few loaves of bread and fish (Matt 14:13-21; 15:32-38), God’s economy is a gift of grace that is not for sale in the marketplace. God’s economy of life provides abundantly for all God’s people.
We are called to share with our neighbors out of the abundance that God gives to the world. The poor and marginalized are special members of God’s community and we are called to put justice for “the least of these” at the center of the community of life and the mission of the church (Matt 25:40). The Bible tells us that rules devised to benefit some segments of society should not stand if they also disadvantage or harm the poor. “Hear this,” warns Amos (8:4) “you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land…” indicating that manipulating markets, cheating, and exploiting the poor are violations of the vision of God.
God’s envisions a world where all God’s children have everything they need to thrive, live lives of wholeness, and be the people they were created to be. To make God’s vision a reality, God calls the Church to action, to “loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6). Let us answer God’s call to be co-creators with God of a world of justice.
The General Synod has repeatedly spoken about the need for economic justice. Two Synod pronouncements are especially informative:
- Christian Faith: Economic Life and Justice [pdf 11.4 MB], approved by General Synod XVII in 1989, saw the struggle to achieve economic justice for all as an imperative of the Christian faith and made a commitment to a guaranteed national minimum income level, universal health care, full employment, affordable housing, and quality education for all.
- A Faithful Response: Calling for a More Just and Humane Direction for Economic Globalization, approved by General Synod XXIV in 2003, describes the impact of the past 25 years of “neo-liberal” economic globalization and calls for fundamental changes in the rules and institutions that shape the process of globalization.
Important resolutions include:
- Affirming Democratic Principles in an Emerging Global Economy (GS XXI, 1999) calls us to support unions, and advocate for just, democratic, participatory, and inclusive economic policies.
- For the Common Good (GS XXV, 2005) calls for fair taxes, public institutions and services, full employment, living wages, adequate income for each person, affordable housing, public transportation.
A listing of all General Synod resolutions and pronouncements that address economic issues since 1999 and selected ones before that date.
The Rev. Felicia Walker-Wilson of New York City and the Rev. James H. Hamett of Carlsbad, Calif., at the UBC/MRS-EJ meeting. UBC photo by Carmen Muhammed
Exciting, inspirational, invitational, and instructional, and interactive! That's how 110 ministers and seminarians described the gathering of United Black Christians in Birmingham, Ala., from July 11-15. The UBC meeting was held alongside the first Pastors Conference of Ministers for Racial, Social, and Economic Justice (MRS-EJ). The theme of that conference was "A Healthy Clergy for a Healthy Church." During this event, the second largest gathering of ministers in its history, the ministers led workshops and gathered with UBC for joint "Theological Reflections and Biblical Interpretation" and late night worship.
The setting of this year's MRS-EJ convocation in Birmingham "helped contextualize the event," says the Rev. Art Cribbs of San Diego. He points out that Birmingham, often referred to as "Bombingham, Alabama," remains "a stark reminder of the long, murderous contention against civil rights for black people in America." He also was moved by the statistics on Africans living with AIDS/HIV, especially with the presence of an international guest from Ghana. "It tore the depths of our souls as we realized that more than 25 million men and women in Africa will die in the coming years," he says.
The multi-cultural/multi-racial, intergenerational community of faith was graced with the presence of the Collegium and blessed with new and veteran voices, with the Late Night Worship topping the agenda for newness. It was designed to give the gathered community of faith (1) exposure to women and seminarians; (2) an alternative means of fellowship, (3) closure in community with God, (4) identifiably talented preachers, and (5) support and encouragement for new voices.
The preachers and their subjects were Rose Wright Scott, "Raise the Roof, Jesus is in the House;" the Rev. Robert Eddy, "In Everything Give Thanks;" the Rev. Francina Parrett, "To Be Determined;" and seminarian Raymond Reid, "Down but not Out."
At the UBC's Women's Luncheon, facilitated by the Rev. Felicia Walker Wilson, persons honored for their contributions in church and society were Bernice Powell Jackson, the Rev. Yvonne Delk, Edith Guffey, and the late Marilyn Adams Moore and Mary McLeod Bethune.
During the minister's business meeting, in the African tradition, the Rev. Paul Sadler was lifted up as the man of the year and the Rev. Felicia Walker-Wilson was officially crowned and named "The Reverend Queen Mother" of the Ministers for Racial, Social, and Economic Justice.
"God's Spirit was present in a powerful way in Birmingham, beachhead of the civil rights movement, when UBC gathered for worship, Bible Study, and to hear key note presentations," says Karna M. Burkeen.
For the Rev. James E. Fouther, Jr., the highlight of the MRS-EJ Pastor's Conference was the focus of the president, officers, and convention leaders on worship. "I deeply appreciated the strong connections between the lay members of the UBC, MRS-EJ, and the youth attending the Harambee event," he says.
For Yoruba Siddiq, the MRS-EJ Biennial Convocation 2000 was "an exciting, spiritual, educational, and cultural experience." As a parish nurse and a seminarian, I was inspired and energized, body, mind, and spirit, to continue my work as an advocate for a healthy Black Church and Community."
Dory Lingo of Florida was elected the UBC's12th president. Other elected officers are Charlene L. Higginbotham of Ohio, Vice-President; Ashley Ekham of North Carolina, Second Vice- President/Youth; Arleathia Crocker of Virginia, Secretary; and Charles Brown of Ohio, Treasurer. There are 278 predominantly black churches in the UCC with more than 71,000 members.
The Rev. Pamela June Anderson of Columbus, Ohio, is Vice President of UCC Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice.
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he asks them to donate money to poor Christians in Jerusalem. He writes, “I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written, ‘the one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little’” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15).
Paul instructs the Corinthians on the importance of a “fair balance,” where no one has either too much or too little. May we have ears to truly hear Paul’s message today at a time when, in the United States and around the world, there are a few, extremely wealthy people, far too many poor, and many in the middle who are struggling to avoid sliding into poverty. As Paul said, a fair balance is needed. One person’s abundance is for another person’s need. There is plenty for all if we share. The Church is called to work for a world where there is a “fair balance” between abundance for a few and the needs of many.
As UCC advocates, we understand our responsibility to care for the poor and vulnerable. Our General Synod has spoken repeatedly on issues of economic justice, reaffirming time and again our commitment to raising and keeping people out of poverty.
Inequality -- It doesn't have to be this way
Growing inequality is not the inevitable consequence of globalization, technological change, an aging population, or anything else. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle is disappearing as a direct result of policy decisions made by policymakers in Washington, DC, and state legislatures. Read more in this Thanksgiving-themed commentary.
Learn about Economic Inequality
A Fair Balance: Reducing Inequality in the U.S. and around the World
The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and those in the middle struggle to stay there. Rising inequality is bad for all of us. A Fair Balance: Reducing Inequality in the U.S. and around the World, a new resource from JWM, explains what is happening, describes how inequality harms all of us, and outlines how to reverse this trend. A study guide facilitates group discussion and reflection.
Two short videos give excellent overviews of wealth inequality in the U.S. and globally.
Wealth Inequality in America (6 minutes, 24 seconds)
Global Wealth Inequality - What you never knew you never knew (3 minutes, 51 seconds)
Child Poverty and Inequality Resources on inequality and children from JWM.
How Inequality Hollows Out the Soul by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. "One of the well-known costs of inequality is that people withdraw from community life and are less likely to feel that they can trust others. This is partly a reflection of the way status anxiety makes us all more worried about how we are valued by others. Now that we can compare robust data for different countries, we can see not only what we knew intuitively — that inequality is divisive and socially corrosive — but that it also damages the individual psyche."
|Articles on Inequality
from the news media
In a recent article, Pulitzer-prize winning reporter David Cay Johnston powerfully illustrates our nation’s inequality. Using analyses of IRS data made by two highly-regarded economists, he first notes that in 2011, average income among the bottom 90% of taxpayers was up just $59 compared with 1966. He represents that 45-year rise of $59 as a line just one inch long. Johnston then uses this measure -- one inch representing $59 -- to compare the gains of the bottom 90% and higher-income groups.
The gains of the top 10% of taxpayers, whose incomes rose by 84% over the 45 years (up $116,071 to $254,864), is a line 163 feet long. (By illustration, this is longer than the width of a typical 8-lane freeway with an inside median.) The difference between 163 feet and one inch is quite extreme but it gets worse. The gain in average income among the top 1% (up $628,817 over the period) is line 884 feet long. The top 1% of the top 1%, whose 2011 income averaged $23.7 million (up by $18.4 million compared with 1966) would require a line nearly five miles long. All these amounts are before-tax dollars, adjusted for inflation. Over the 45 years, the average amount of tax paid by the highest-income households has also declined.
The American Dream of moving up the economic ladder through education and hard work is largely a myth. And those who are at the top reap huge rewards, not primarily due to their talent, but to the ways in which our current political process helps the rich at the expense of everyone else. We need political reform and greater equality in opportunities for education for all. More.
Inequality is bad for our national economy. In addition to moral and ethical concerns about inequality, experts now think it is also bad for the economy. Evidence is building that inequality slows economic growth and causes less stable economic expansions, that is, we can expect slower growth of the economic pie and more recessions and economic crises like the one we are still trying to recover from. Experts even suggest that narrowing the inequality gap may be more economically beneficial than other factors – like boosting trade and foreign investment – that feature prominently on the political agenda. More.
Charts Illustrating the Growth in Inequality
Growing Inequality in Income, Wealth, and Life Expectancy [pdf 552 KB], charts compiled by Edith Rasell, JWM's Minister for Economic
A Prayer for Economic Justice
Grant us, Lord God, a vision of your world as your love would have it:
a world where the weak are protected, and none go hungry or poor;
a world where the riches of creation are shared, and everyone can enjoy them;
a world where different races and cultures live in harmony and mutual respect;
a world where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love.
Give us the inspiration and courage to build it, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
As Christians we sing the hymns of justice, equality, and unity; we pray for the well being of all God’s children; and we continue our activities to feed the hungry and house the homeless. But all the while we watch the gap between rich and poor in our own nation and in the world become ever wider, with many millions left in poverty...The United Church of Christ and its predecessor church bodies, along with many Christians around the world, have received Christ’s summons to call our churches and our societies toward the blessed vision of God’s Realm, including justice in our economic life.
From the General Synod resolution, An Economic Justice Covenant
In 2009, General Synod XXVII approved a resolution that established the Economic Justice Covenant Program. (A brief excerpt from that resolution is located in the box to the right.) The resolution encouraged all congregrations and other settings of the UCC to become Economic Justice Churches (or Economic Justice Seminaries, Associations, Conferences, etc): to study economic injustices, pray and discern God's will for their economic justice ministry, draft and adopt an Economic Justice Covenant, and engage in actions to promote economic justice.
This is the program called for in the General Synod resolution. It is designed primarily for a local church but is easily adaptable for the needs of other settings. It includes nine sections, including this introduction.
Engaging Our Faith includes resources for corporate worship and Bible study.
Engaging the Issues offers information about numerous economic injustices.
Engaging the Community provides materials that encourage congregations to engage in experiential learning.
Engaging the Spirit offers resources for personal spiritual exploration.
Writing and Approving the Covenant guides the congregation or other setting as it writes an Economic Justice Covenant to express its commitment and lay out a general plan of action.
Living Out the Covenant suggests ways to implement the covenant.
Ways to Engage provides resources and options for getting involved in working for economic justice.
Program overview/Flyer [pdf 1.0 MB]
Please inform the UCC's Minister for Economic Justice, Edith Rasell, when a congregation (or other setting of the UCC) approves a covenant and becomes an Economic Justice Church.
Print Version:The complete Economic Justice Covenant Program is only available online through this home page or in hard copy upon request from Justice and Witness Ministries. Contact JWM by email; call toll-free at 1-866-822-8224, ext. 3700; or write to JWM, 700 Prospect Ave. East, Cleveland, OH 44115-1100. A booklet, available electronically [1.0 MB] and in hard copy from JWM, provides an overview of the Program only and does not contain many resources that are available online.
Economic Justice Task Force: The resolution that established the Economic Justice Covenant Program called for a task force to create a Program that would support and assist all settings of the UCC to become Economic Justice Settings. The task force worked for nearly a year to plan, write, and oversee the development of this program. We welcome feedback that can be sent to Edith Rasell. Members of the task force are:
Diana Burdett, Rhode Island Conference
Hiawatha Demby, Southern Conference
Rev. Michael Denton, Pacific Northwest Conference
Rev. Stan Duncan, Massachusetts Conference
Mittie Davis Jones, Ohio Conference
Gail Kinney, New Hampshire Conference
Rev. Lynne Smouse Lopez, Central Pacific Conference
Carmen Flores Rance, Illinois Conference
Rev. Guillermo Marquez Sterling, Florida Conference
Edith Rasell, Minister for Economic Justice, Justice and Witness Ministries, staffed the task force.
The Task Force thanks United Church of Chapel Hill, UCC, in North Carolina for their leadership and path-breaking work to become an Economic Justice Church, and for bringing a resolution to the Southern Conference calling on the UCC to establish the Economic Justice Covenant Program. The Southern Conference approved the resolution and brought it to General Synod XXVII (2009) which also approved it, establishing this program.
Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Habakkuk 2:2b - 3
How to go about writing and approving the covenant will depend on each congregation. Some congregations are more formal and procedural while others are more informal. The following process is a suggested method. Either use it as is or adopt it to incorporate what will best work with a particular congregation’s culture and style of operation.
Here is a overview of the process. Details of each step are below.
This phase could take some months and should not be rushed. Members will engage in worship, prayer, and Bible study on these topics. They will embark on new experiences and friendships that cross lines of class and race. They will explore personal choices and lifestyles that impact economic justice.
In a materialist culture where the economy is dependent on consumption, this journey will take many members of the congregation into unfamiliar territory. Some may need time to reflect, consider, and live into new ways of seeing and living. Some will want to explore new thoughts and feelings within a supportive group environment. The idea of working to change economic structures may be threatening to some. Fears, doubts, and questions must be addressed before the congregation can make a decision about its future.
Once the issue of economic justice is addressed through worship, learning, and discernment, the planning committee can request your church governing body to approve the writing of an economic justice covenant.
Simultaneously, the committee must provide opportunity for the congregation to explore what becoming an Economic Justice Church might mean. What will be different if the decision is made to be an Economic Justice Church? What will the congregation commit to do if this decision is made?
The focus of conversation may already have started to shift from “Should we become an Economic Justice Church?” to “What would it be like if we were an Economic Justice Church?” Ultimately, before making a decision, the congregation must consider this question: “What will it mean to be an Economic Justice Church in this place, at this time?”
These steps can help to facilitate these conversations:
- Host a series of conversations about this topic before or after worship with everyone invited to attend at least once.
- Ask existing groups – the women’s and men’s groups, committees, youth and young adult groups – to add this conversation to the agenda for their gatherings.
- Make sure that the suggestions that result from these conversations are recorded. They can be incorporated into the Covenant.
The planning committee can write the covenant itself, or select a writing committee. The covenant can be a revision of one that already exists or entirely new. In either case, base it on your congregation’s insights and concerns. Include the ideas that have surfaced in the conversations about what this will mean for the future work of the church.
The covenant could be short or long, detailed or more general. You might want to write a covenant that is timeless, as applicable in five or ten years as it is today. If so, the covenant might express the congregation’s commitment to write and approve a more specific statement, a “work plan,” each year or two about how the covenant will be implemented over that time period.
Other elements that might be included in the covenant:
- A key scripture passage or passages that the congregation found meaningful during the discernment period and a short commentary on the passage
- An acknowledgment that the church is called to do justice, particularly economic justice, in a world of abundance where so many are poor
- Stories, facts, and information that make the case for taking action on economic injustices
- The brief history of the congregation’s prior and ongoing involvement with issues of economic injustice and previous actions and stances taken by the congregation
- A description of the congregation’s “call” to get involved in this issue in a new or deeper way
- Policies for dealing with the salary and benefits paid to the church’s employees, and the way contractors are hired and treated
- A statement of the congregation’s commitment to be an Economic Justice Church.
- Statements defining what this will mean going forward – how will the life of the church and the lives of members be different as a result of this decision
Finally, once all the essential elements of your covenant are included, short and simple is probably better than longer and more complicated.
You can view covenants of congregations that have become Economic Justice Churches.
Take the first draft to key people, ministries, and committees in your church for review. Once their comments are incorporated, a second draft can be widely circulated for input from members of the congregation and all church committees and bodies.
Once a first draft is written, provide copies for review to key people (pastor, moderator); ministries; and committees, including the congregation’s social justice committee; and consistory or governing body.
Prepare a second draft that incorporates their feedback. This draft can be widely circulated for input from members of the congregation and all church committees and bodies. Go to the meetings of the youth and young adult groups to get their input. Visit the junior and senior high Sunday school classes. Go to meetings of the women’s and men’s groups to get their feedback. Visit with the missions committee, trustees, and deacons. Share it with other special groups and committees.
Incorporate comments received into a final draft.
At this point, the draft covenant is near its final form. In some congregations you might want to seek approval from the church governing body one last time and obtain its consent to move toward a decision on whether to become an Economic Justice Church. Select a tentative date when the congregation will make its decision.
Widely disseminate the written version of the draft covenant. It can be printed in the Sunday bulletin on a number of Sundays, and in a monthly newsletter. Copies can be available in the fellowship hall and narthex.
Then engage the congregation in conversation about it. This could happen in you-all-come gatherings before and after worship or during the evening. Seek out places to share the covenant and the plans for what it will mean for the congregation and its work in the world.
At this point, hopefully, the content and form of the covenant should be set and changed only for reasons of grammar or editing improvements. But if substantive changes are needed, another draft can be created and again shared for feedback.
Alert the congregation to the date when the decision will be made to become an Economic Justice Church. This decision could be taken by voting, consensus, or whatever decision-making method the congregation typically uses. On the Sunday selected for the decision making, gather in a congregational meeting. Collectively read the covenant. Then a motion can be made to adopt the covenant and the decision made.
Plan to post the covenant in a prominent and highly visible location. Also add 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.
The planning committee has two more things to do as its last official acts. First, be sure that a group is elected or appointed to begin implementing the actions called for in the covenant. See Living Out the Covenant. Second, share with Justice and Witness Ministries the news that your congregation is an Economic Justice Church and send a copy of your covenant to JWM by e-mail or calling (toll-free) 1-866-822-8224, ext. 3700. Your church’s covenant will be posted here.
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?
The resources in this section are intended for use in Sunday worship or for group Bible study. Traditional faith practices, including corporate worship and group study and reflection, are necessary for any congregation considering a new commitment or re-commitment to economic justice. The resources here facilitate individual and congregational moments of discernment and learning, and provide a solid biblical, theological, and liturgical foundation from which social action and public witness may emerge.
These tools can assist people of faith to gain an increased awareness of the scripture’s treatment of economic justice issues and provide resources for worship and sermon preparation on issues of economic justice and action.
The resources on this page include:
These four Bible studies can be used in lay- or clergy-led adult education groups, a Lenten study series, or other occasions. Each study includes a reflection on the text and discussion questions.
Don’t Worry Matthew 6:25-33
We are invited to wrestle with questions of scarcity and abundance in a society where many live with fear and worry.
Lazarus and the Rich Man Luke 16:19-31
Each of us has characteristics of Lazarus and the rich man.
Jesus and the Rich Young Man Mark 10:17-22
We examine Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man who asks what he must do to inherit eternal life and explore the challenge of living faithfully with wealth.
At the Foot of the Cross John 19:25-27
At the foot of Jesus’ cross, we stand in a community of equals bearing witness to the suffering world.
These sermon preparation aids are designed for ministers seeking to preach on economic justice. They offer helpful contextual commentary and questions for further reflection. These scriptures could be used for a sermon series or individually, or could be used in a clergy-led Bible study.
Each Sermon Seed includes a discussion of a key biblical text, raises issues of justice and advocacy, provides questions or discussion ideas, and concludes with a prayer. Depending on the size and inclination of your group, you might also add a brief liturgical moment at the beginning, perhaps with additional readings, litanies, and hymns. Be creative. The important thing is to wrestle with the Bible in a productive, creative way.
This is intended to help the congregation in its study and worship during the early stages of becoming an economic justice church. While these are intended for group study, they can be used also for personal study and reflection. These four lessons will, hopefully, whet the congregation’s appetite for further exploration of biblical economic themes. There are additional adult and youth Bible studies listed in the resources. As an aid to Lectionary preaching (or Christian education programs that follow the Lectionary) whenever the text is included in the common lectionary this is indicated.
The Sabbath and Jubilee Traditions Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15
Liberation and Empowerment Isaiah 61:1-11
The (Previously) Dishonest (Fund) Manager Luke 16:1-8a
Scriptures on Justice and Advocacy
This lengthy listing of Bible passages illuminates a number of economic justice issues, including caring for the poor, defending the rights of others, engaging in stewardship of creation, and eliminating hunger and poverty.
Prayers for Justice and Peace
These prayers center on issues like global economic justice, workers, and persons oppressed by globalization and poverty.
Hymns with Justice Themes
These hymns from the New Century Hymnal relate to economic justice. Some are in Spanish.
Light a Candle for Children Prayer Vigil is an annual fall advocacy and prayer project of the Family and Children's Ministries partnership of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). This year's vigil begins on September 14th, five weeks before the National Observance of Children's Sabbath weekend on October 17-19 sponsored by the Washington DC based Children's Defense Fund (CDF).
This year’s theme is “Precious in God’s Sight: Answering the Call to Cherish and Protect Every Child.” The 2014 Children’s Sabbath focuses on how we can ensure every child a strong start in life by investing in early childhood development. Needless to say, these are rough times for children and there are numerous other issues relating to children’s health and safety which need our prayer and advocacy. A free worship, faith formation and advocacy resource packet for Christian faith community can be downloaded at: http://www.childrensdefense.org/programs-campaigns/faith-based-action/childrens-sabbaths/. Thousands of congregations from multiple faith communities unite during Children’s Sabbath weekend to simultaneously witness for children through prayer, education, and worship.
As usual, this year’s Light a Candle for Children Prayer Vigil booklet written by UCC and Disciples faith leaders and edited by Disciples pastor Rev. Tim Graves will be available for download at: http://lightacandle.blogspot.com/ or available on Facebook at: “Light a Candle for Children Prayer Vigil”. Light aCandle daily meditations can also be received by email or the RSS feed. Also available is a brochure with tips for implementing the Light a Candle Vigil in your congregation.
It is important to note that our Family and Children's Ministries Light A Candle for Children vigil and advocacy program and the Children's Sabbath Celebration is a part of a growing children's advocacy movement that seeks to unite communities and religious congregations of all faiths across the nation in shared concern for children and a common commitment to improving their lives and working for justice on their behalf.
If you are interested in becoming involved our ongoing United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) children's advocacy efforts please contact one of our three Ministers for Family and Children's Ministries including myself, Rev. Dr. Kate Epperly (email@example.com), Rev. Olivia Stewart Robertson (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Rev. Dr. Olivia Bryan Updegrove (email@example.com).
You are encouraged to use and adapt the Family and Children's Ministries' Light a Candle for Children Vigil and Children’s Sabbath Celebration resources in whatever ways you feel are most appropriate for your congregation. Remember, a congregation does not need to have children among its active members to be engaged in children's ministry!
Below are reflections from prior years. Explore other worship and liturgical resources to accompany these texts.
Lectionary based reflections and sermon seeds
Searching our Hearts and our Cultural Values (2016 reflection) Year C, Proper 18: Philemon 1:1-22
Workers: Made in the Image of God Year C, Proper 18: Jeremiah 18:1-11
Seeing Clearly Year B, Proper 18: Isaiah 35:4-7a; James 2:1-10,14-17 and Mark 7:24-37
God's Call to End Oppression Year A, Proper 17: Exodus 3:1-15 and Romans 12:9-21
Interrupted by God Year A, Proper 17: Exodus 3:1-15 and Romans 12:9-21
"Let Us Be Doers, Not Merely Hearers" of Jesus' Word Year B, Proper 17: James 1:17-27
Seeing Truly Year B, Proper 18: James 2:1-10, 14-17; and Mark 7:24-37
Hosting the Poor and Marginalized Year C, Proper 17: Luke 14:1, 7-14
Non-lectionary based reflections and sermon seeds
A Fair Balance, based on 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, 13-15, descibes Paul's collection for the poor in Jerusalem as a window into discussing inequality today.
The Landowner and His Workers is based on Matthew 20: 1-16, the vineyard owner and his laborers
Jesus Was a Low-Wage Worker takes Luke 6:20 as its text: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God."
Acts of Kindness and Working for Justice is based on Micah 6:8: "God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
That They All May Be One - Solidarity Forever draws on Isaiah's vision of a new heaven and new earth (65:17-23) and John 17:21: "that they may all be one."