Hosting the Poor and Marginalized
Based on Luke 14:1, 7-14 (Year C, Proper 17)
On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath, they were watching him closely. … When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
As Jesus is on his way to dine in the home of a Pharisee, he tells his disciples a parable about hospitality. Surprisingly, he recommends against inviting friends, relatives, or rich neighbors to come for lunch or dinner. These guests would likely return the invitation and the host’s gift would be “repaid.” Instead, Jesus suggests inviting people who are poor or have disabilities, someone who probably would not, at least in Jesus’ time, be able to return the invitation. The host would be blessed for performing an act of generosity that would go unreturned.
Today, there are many ways we host the marginalized and less fortunate. We serve in soup kitchens, contribute food to food banks, donate clothes to thrift stores, open our church basements to the homeless, and give money to worthy causes. Some of us are involved in constructing affordable housing and creating community gardens. God blesses these ministries and our generosity.
But the needs within our communities greatly exceed our capacity to help. As David Beckman, president of the anti-hunger organization Bread for the World, points out, the food that churches and charities provide to hungry people is only about 6% of what is provided by federal government nutrition programs. Nationwide, the nearly 3,400 shelters (some sponsored by faith organizations) serve 600,000-plus homeless people. But many continue to live in our streets, parks, and vacant areas. Even with the combined efforts of government programs and the faith community, millions of people in the United States are hungry, homeless, without health care, and without opportunities for a better life. They are also forced to rely on charity, an experience many find to be humiliating and degrading.
Many of our neighbors are struggling because they do not have jobs. Unemployment is always a problem even when the overall economy is strong. But in recent years, joblessness has skyrocketed. While in recent months the official count of the unemployed has improved, this is largely due to people dropping out of the workforce. Someone who is not actively looking for work is no longer included in the count of the unemployed. Congress must enact a large program to create jobs and put people back to work. This would also boost tax revenue and reduce reliance on safety net programs, closing most of the deficit. Unfortunately, there is little political will to do this. Read more.
But on this Labor Sunday we need to also recognize that among the people who rely on our soup kitchens, food banks, clothes closets and government programs are many who work. They have jobs but their wages are very low. Or their employer may assign them too few hours. Or they may have been impoverished by paying medical bills. Or they may have borrowed money to pay for needed car repairs and then been drawn into a downward spiral of debt, extremely high interest payments, and poverty.
We are called to do all we can to meet our neighbors’ needs during a crisis situation: to feed, to clothe, to house, to care for. But what if the crisis is not just a one-time emergency? What if the crisis is a day in, day out, permanent condition? What then is our role?
This is a question we need to ponder and to pray over, especially on Labor Sunday.
Unless a household is independently wealthy, one or more family members must work. But just having a job does not necessarily mean a family is economically self-sufficient.
Over one in every four jobs (28%) pays poverty-level wages, so low that even a full-time worker cannot support a family above poverty.
Over 8 in 10 low-wage workers do not have a single paid sick day. If they get sick and cannot work, or if they must stay home with a sick child, they are not paid. And if they are gone too long they may be laid off.
Every week, over half of all low-wage workers are cheated – by their unscrupulous employers – out of some of their wages.
Over one-quarter (27%) of low-wage workers do not have health insurance, either from their own job or through a family member and, whether insured or not, nearly two-thirds of low-wage workers say it is difficult to pay for needed health care.
Many low-wage workers have unpredictable work schedules that vary week to week and day to day. Their incomes vary also. Many are required to be continually on call, available to come in for additional hours, or risk being penalized with reduced hours or even layoff. Many are sent home during scheduled shifts if business is slow. Such scheduling makes workers’ income uncertain and variable. It also makes a second job, schooling, or scheduled child care nearly impossible.
What is the role of the church in a society where the needs extend far beyond our ability to respond? What must we do when the needs arise not just from an occasional crisis but are the day-to-day, long-term reality for millions of our neighbors? What is God calling our congregation to do when episodic interventions are not enough? More fundamental change is needed. Are we not called to rewrite the economic rules and to change the economic system so that everyone, certainly everyone who works, is able to care for themselves and their family?
We may agree that change is needed, but the specifics of what to do are not so obvious. It is difficult to know how to proceed, to discern what we are called to do.
In 2007, the UCC General Synod called for the creation of a new program to help congregations address the economic problems in our communities, the nation, and the world. The Economic Justice Covenant Program provides resources for congregations seeking 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.
Is God calling your congregation to become an Economic Justice Church? Are you called to identify and support organizations in your community that are improving the lives of workers.
Jesus was a low-wage worker. (Request buttons with this message in English and Spanish.) He was also a person of infinite value, just like low-wage workers today. Let us extend our hospitality and our caring beyond the programs that meet our neighbors’ immediate needs for food, shelter, or clothing. On this Labor Sunday, let us covenant to work with God to create a world where all workers participate in the abundance that God provides for all of us to share.
Scripture: James 2:1-10, 14-17; Mark 7:24-37 (Cycle B, Proper 18)
Have you heard of Susan Boyle? Susan Boyle is a 47-year-old woman who aspires to be a professional singer. She was a contestant on “Britian’s Got Talent,” a reality TV show similar to the U.S. program “American Idol.” But she doesn’t fit our image of a singing star: she is not attractive, or thin, or sexy in the way we seem to expect from female performers. In school she was thought to have a learning disability and suffered from bullying. Before her appearance on the TV show she had been employed in few jobs outside of caring for her aging mother.
When she came onstage, the audience and judges were, shall we say, unrestrained in their responses. Disbelief over her appearance and age quickly turned into ridicule and open hostility. It only got worse when, in answer to a question about her dreams, she said she hoped to be a famous singer. But then Boyle began to sing. Within seconds, ridicule turned to amazement and the audience was on its feet wildly cheering her performance. The power of her voice totally captivated the audience. So did her obvious courage to sing so well in front of such a hostile audience.
To say she became an overnight sensation is an understatement. Within days, the YouTube video of her performance had been watched by millions of people. I recommend taking a look at it if you haven’t already. The faces of the judges are the best part. Within seconds you see them change from sneering, eye-rolling ridicule to amazement and support. The change in the audience is similar. Boyle has enormous talent. She has tremendous courage as well. This frumpy, middle-aged, utterly un-cool woman from small-town Scotland would not be limited by others’ opinions of her. They come to admire not just her voice but also (maybe especially) her belief in herself and her courage to stand up to their hostility.
So often we make judgments about others based on unimportant, superficial characteristics. But seldom are our judgments immediately put to the test when we are given an opportunity to learn about a person on a deeper level and discover that our initial judgments are wrong.
Unfortunately, judging others is something most of us do all the time. We make assumptions about another person’s talents, abilities, and even their worth as a human being based on very little other than the way they look; the way they talk; the clothes they wear; their age, race, and ethnicity; their car, house; and other nonessentials. Our brains gather up and process these inconsequential fragments of information and then make snap decisions about the person.
Our tendency to make quick judgments that affect how we see people and how we treat them is exactly what James is referring to in the passage read this morning. Evidently this was a problem in the very early church just as it is today.
A rich person comes in and is escorted up to the front pew. We make a point to welcome them. We offer to take them downstairs to coffee hour after the service. But then a poor person comes in. Someone not dressed quite right. Or maybe a person of a different race or ethnicity, a differently-abled person, or a same-gender-loving couple. Well, they can sit in the back. They will be fine on their own, no need to fuss over them. At least it seems the early church let everyone in. According to the God Is Still Speaking bouncer ad, there are churches today that stop some folks from even coming in the front door.
Making judgments based on our prejudices is, unfortunately, easy to do. Even Jesus, our fully-human, fully-divine brother, briefly succumbed. In the passage in Mark, Jesus has gone to Tyre which could be considered a foreign country. There he is approached by someone – a woman, a Gentile, a SyroPhoenician – who wants him to heal her daughter: She is the ultimate outsider. Jesus makes a snap judgment. He refuses her request to heal her daughter. Moreover, he does so in a cruel way: “it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” Even in Jesus’ time, comparing someone to a dog was an insult. When the woman doesn’t back down, even in the face of this insult, Jesus immediately recognizes her humanity. He quickly moves past the sexism, religious bias, and dislike of foreigners that was so common in his time. Instantly, Jesus drives the demon from the woman’s child.
If Jesus could be temporarily blinded by the prejudices of his culture, then we all can be.
Obviously, people are very diverse and each has unique God-given gifts and talents. But we are called to value each person equally, to treat everyone with equal respect and dignity. Our common heritage as children of the same Creator outweighs any of our differences. Can we see God in everyone and recognize each person as a sister or brother? As Christians we seek to live out a vision of equality in our church and in all aspects of our lives together.
Today on Labor Sunday, the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, let’s take a few moments and think about workers and work places. Is each worker treated equally, with equal respect and dignity? Consider some of the conditions under which people work.
• One-quarter of all the jobs in the U.S. pay poverty-level wages, so low that a full-time worker cannot keep a family of four out of poverty.
• Some jobs are unnecessarily dangerous. In the U.S. someone dies from an occupational illness or injury every eight minutes. Often, they (and their survivors) have not received fair compensation for their losses and they may also bear large health care expenses.
• Nearly 80% of low-wage workers do not have paid sick days so they can stay home, with pay, when they are ill.
• Low-wage jobs are often dead-end jobs with no opportunities for advancement. At a poultry processing plant in Ohio, a 55-year-old man still gets just $8.10 an hour with minimal benefits after 20 years in the plant.
• Some workers see their wages stolen by their employers in what has come to be called an epidemic of wage theft. Workers are not paid for all the hours they work or they are paid below the legally required wage. The U.S. Department of Labor found that 100% of poultry processing plants do not pay workers for all the hours they work. Just 40% of nursing homes are in compliance with federal labor laws concerning wages and child labor. Wal-Mart is notorious for requiring workers to sign out, then go back to work, putting in time that they will not be paid for at all.
• In Florida over the past 10 years, seven cases of modern-day slavery have been exposed involving over 1000 workers and 12 employers. Workers are confined and if they try to leave or refuse to work they are beaten.
• All of us have purchased and worn clothing made with sweatshop labor. We have eaten fruits and vegetables harvested by farm workers who live in deep poverty.
Why does our rich society allow these abuses happen?
These problems are very complex and defy simple solutions. But let’s consider one factor that may play a role: Do we make snap judgments about low-wage workers that lead us to view them as being less worthy than other people, less deserving of a better life?
Do we think low-wage workers do not deserve a better job? They should work harder. They should have stayed in school. They should have waited longer to have kids. They should not have come to the U.S. They should learn English. The list could go on and on.
There are millions of low-wage workers, most of whom we will never know. Our snap judgments about them will never be tested against the reality of who they really are.
But as people of God, may we strive to see all people as equally valuable. Can we see that we are all created in God’s image, all fully deserving of a fair portion of the abundant resources that God provides to all of us to share? In other words, can we see that everyone needs a job that is safe, a job where each person is treated with dignity and fairness, and everyone is paid enough so they can buy the things they need for a decent life.
In Justice and Witness Ministries we have a phrase to remind us of the valuable people who work in low-wage jobs: “Jesus was a low-wage worker.” Jesus was a landless peasant. A snap judgment would put him on the lowest levels of Palestinian society. But we know the true worth of Jesus, his infinite value. Can we see that low-wage workers today are of equal worth? Can our eyes be opened to recognize them as our highly valuable sisters and brothers? Can we see how they resemble Jesus?
Everywhere Jesus traveled around Galilee he was approached by people seeking to be healed. The passages we read in John tell how he restored hearing to a man who was deaf. Jesus had and has amazing powers. If we seek his healing, we may be able to hear the cries of low-wage workers. If we seek his healing, we may be able to see everyone as a valuable person, one of our sisters and brothers in Christ. Jesus was a low-wage worker, just like millions of people in the U.S. and hundreds of millions around the world. Let us embrace these people of God and work for their liberation from poverty and oppression. They deserve no less.
To order buttons saying "Jesus was a low-wage worker" or "Jesus tambien trabajo por un salario minimo" contact JWM at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 216-736-3720.
"Let us be doers, not merely hearers" of Jesus' word
(Based on the lectionary selection: James 1:17-27 -- Year B, Proper 17)
Labor Day is the time we commemorate work and workers. In the church, we recognize that God, who loves us and cares about all aspects of our lives, is also concerned about our work lives. Our work situations can be fulfilling and empowering, or demeaning and humiliating. Our jobs determine the size of our incomes, and whether we have health insurance and a pension. Our jobs are the main determinants of whether we live in a big house or any house at all, whether we send our children to college or to bed with an empty stomach. Moreover, even at this time when the economy is considered to be "strong," one in every eleven people who want to work cannot find a job or can only find a part-time one.
If we are "doers of the word, and not merely hearers," as James urged, then we must respond to Jesus’ call to love our neighbors. We must work for justice in the workplace. We must help those who have too little. We must change employment situations that degrade workers. What might we be called to do?
We could work to ensure that all workers are paid a "living wage" adequate for the rich life that God intends for everyone. Currently, one-quarter of all jobs pay a poverty-level wage, one so low that a full-time worker cannot keep a family out of poverty.
We could urge Congress to raise the minimum wage. Pending legislation would increase it from the current level of $5.15 an hour ($10,700 a year) to $7.25, the first increase since 1997.
We could strengthen the right to form or join a union, an internationally recognized human right but one that is seriously eroded in the U.S. We could improve safety in the dangerous workplaces that threaten miners, meat packers, farm workers, and many others. We could provide health insurance to everyone including the one in every six people who currently are without it. We could improve contracting practices in New Orleans so that workers would not be left without a paycheck after weeks of work. We could ensure that everyone who wants and needs a job also has one.
God reign does not end at the door of the workplace. Our love for our neighbors must extend to their working lives also. Let us be doers, not merely hearers, of God’s word.
Workers: Made in the Image of God
Focus scripture: Jeremiah 18:1-11
Have you ever lost your job? (This is not a question that seeks a show of hands but just some internal reflection.) Have you ever been out of work, unemployed? Not just taking off a couple of weeks between employers when you already have your next job lined up. But have you ever been out of work, not knowing what your next job will be or when you will have it? I hope you have never been forced to go through such an ordeal but many people have.
Imagine that you go to work tomorrow and you are called into your boss's office. Your boss tells you that you are being laid off. You are to immediately pack up your things and you will be escorted off the premises before lunch. (It is hard to even think about this.) You are stunned, bewildered, lost, afraid. You go home and start looking for another job. The weeks go by. You spend hours every day online, going through the newspaper, and checking in with friends and former co-workers. Your savings are gone. Some bills are going unpaid. You are building up debt on your credit cards. The kids are even worrying – you can see it in their faces even though they don’t say anything. You haven’t slept well in weeks. It seems you are constantly arguing with your spouse. You are reluctant to drive anywhere because you can’t afford gas.
Let's not continue describing this scenario. It is too painful and for some of us, it may be bringing back some very real and painful memories. But it is important for all of us to remember that many of our neighbors are living through this nightmare right now. Maybe some folks here this morning are in the midst of such a situation. Our hearts ache for anyone who is unemployed.
Unemployment is one of life’s major stressors not unlike divorce or the loss of a close family member. Unemployed people suffer from depression, anxiety, anger, and hopelessness. As the length of time without a job increases, our emotional and even physical health can deteriorate. Mental health experts say the US is currently in the midst of a mental health epidemic due to our high level of unemployment.
Work plays a central role in our lives. For most of us, our only income comes from our job. If we are not working, the loss of income puts our homes, cars, health insurance, and much more at risk.
Our work, our job, often determines how others see us and even how we see ourselves. We know that we are much more than our work, but our self esteem can be tightly linked to our job.
Our work is also one important way we contribute to the common good. It is how each of us adds our bit to the collective work that needs to be done for society to flourish. It is important to recognize that “work” does not just refer to paid work. It includes all our efforts that contribute to society, this common project we are creating together. It is one way we are linked to the larger world. Many of us are engaged in multiple types of work: at home, as volunteers at church and in the community, and in the paid labor force. But because work done for pay is most prevalent and problematic, it is an important focus of this conversation.
In the passage we read this morning Jeremiah describes God as a potter. From Genesis, we also know God is a creator. In other words, God is a worker, a doer, someone who acts. We are made in God’s image and likeness so we are also workers, doers, actors. One way we live out our true vocation as people of the worker-God is by working. We work not just because we need to for economic reasons but because, by working, we are being fully human. Being a worker is intrinsic to who we are at the most fundamental level.
Seen in this light, work is not just a way to earn some money. Our work has, or should have, innate value. Our work – our vocation, no matter what we do and whether it is paid work or not -- is to be performed with care and attention, and it must be honored and treated with respect. Workers, each one of us, deserve to be treated with fairness and dignity on the job.
Work is so central to our lives that the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted in 1948) states “Everyone has the right to work and to protection against unemployment.” The right to work, to a job, is a fundamental human right.
Despite the importance of work to our economic well being, mental health, and even spiritual lives, millions of people in the US are without jobs. Unemployment is common even in good economic times and is much more prevalent during an economic downturn. Since the Great Recession of 2007-2009 the official unemployment rate has fallen. But millions of people are still jobless. Among people of color and young workers unemployment is even more common. Moreover, researchers find that when workers who are laid off during a recession eventually do return to work, they take significant cuts in pay. Even 15 to 20 years later, they still make significantly less than their peers who had not been laid off. Meanwhile those who do still have a job worry that they may lose it. We all lack economic security. The chronic problem of unemployment -- a problem that gets much worse during severe downturns but has become a chronic condition in the U.S. and around the world -- reveals a fundamental flaw in our economic system. The "market" does not provide enough jobs for everyone who wants and needs one.
Many of us have responded to the economic crisis by generously giving to food pantries, hunger centers, and other safety net organizations. These efforts have helped millions of people. They are important but they are also inadequate to address the crisis. For someone who is out of work, a free bag of groceries is great. We know it may mean the difference between having dinner and going to bed hungry. Helping our neighbors during a crisis is a wonderful act of discipleship. But it is far too little.
When people who want to work are forced to rely on charity, it is demeaning to the spirit. It is not God’s vision for this world. God provides all we need. It is up to us to arrange our economic system so that everyone can receive what they need and also contribute their gifts – their work – for the good of all.
In Jeremiah, God the Potter is shaping the “house of Israel,” not individuals. The passage speaks of God’s concern with how a nation is acting, whether the nation is doing evil. This is not to let individuals escape concern. But the systems and institutions, the collective behavior of nations and groups of people, seem to be God’s primary concern in this passage. As individuals, each of us needs to be doing what is right. But our nation is also called to act in ways that are consistent with our values.
Systems, institutions, laws, and policies have a particular need for redemption. This is the work of the church: to care for our neighbors by stocking the food pantry and by pressuring Congress and other elected officials to change the economic system so everyone has what they need including a good job.
The Psalmist writes “the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it” (Ps 24:1). God has provided abundantly for all our needs. There is much work to be done and many workers for the tasks. The gifts and efforts of every person are needed as we labor, along side God, to co-create the world God envisions for us. Let us work with each other, with policy makers, and with God to create an economic system that values all workers and their work.
July 2010; revised July 2016
Seeking OGHS Ambassadors!
Join an amazing group of people who are excited about helping others, through sharing the ministry made possible by gifts to the OGHS offering. In 2018, the suggested OGHS offering date is March 11.
As an One Great Hour of Sharing® (OGHS) Ambassador, You agree to:
- Learn about the OGHS offering.
- Promote the offering in your own congregation.
- Connect the offering to ways your church is already responding to the needs of others.
- Meet people beyond your own congregation.
- Get involved in the wider church.
- Work with UCC national staff.
Working with church leadership, we encourage OGHS Ambassadors to share information they learn about the offering during Lent, or near the time your congregation will receive the offering.
OGHS staff will provide a live 1-hour training event through Zoom Video Conference or other technology.This training will equip participants to promote OGHS in worship and among groups and individuals in their own congregation, and in neighboring congregations.
We will pair OGHS Ambassadors with congregations that suit the participants comfort level (i.e. giving UCC congregation or non-giving UCC congregation). OGHS staff will initiate contact with the other congregation(s) to arrange for an invitation for OGHS Ambassador to visit.
In addition, we will offer recognition of the work of the Ambassadors on the OGHS Facebook, Twitter Pages, and through possible news stories resulting from participation in the OGHS Ambassador initiative.
The OGHS Team is eager to assist you in planning your personal OGHS Ambassador strategy. We can provide direction to make participation a breeze, as we provide tips for promotion, connect participants to the materials, share ideas, and help participants discover "their own why" for connecting with the wider church and world.
This experience is designed to get more people involved in the mission and interpretation of OGHS.
When we share our resources, including our voice, it really does change lives!
To register send an email to email@example.com saying: Sign me up!
Partners in Service reflects an intentional partnership among the volunteer, the service site an dthe Volunteer Ministries Office (UCC National Setting). Each party covenants with the others to share of themselves and offer their particular gifts and resources to one another to serve God's people. Expectations of the parties involved ina successful placement are listed below. These expecations are based on a one-year term of service. Those provisions that do not apply are negotialbe for shorter terms are marked with an asterisk (*).
Volunteer Ministries Office
Recruits, processes applications, and assigns each candidate to an acceptable service arrangement. Processing consists of gathering references on each candidate, sorting out likely projects according to the candidate’s description of interest, and entering into an agreement with a service site.
Arranges contact between service site and candidate so that both are satisfied and can make arrangements for service.
Prepares visa requests and provides letters of support for international volunteers.
Contracts for background checks for U.S. volunteers (international volunteers must bring with them written evidence of criminal background check and immunization record).
If personal and/or service site insurance is not available, arranges for limited illness and accident insurance coverage during the service period under the Volunteer Ministries group policy.
Maintains contact with volunteer and the service site.
Arranges for an annual gathering of volunteers serving terms of 9 months or longer. Pays for lodging, food and program for this gathering.
Arranges for the termination of volunteer’s service at the end of service period or at an earlier date if circumstances demand such action.
Offers skills, talents, and a willingness to be in service with others.
Provides personal wardrobe.
Assumes cost of deductibles or medical, optical, or dental treatment not covered by or going beyond the limits of insurance coverage.
Pays for any personal trips or vacations during the service project.
Pays for their entire round-trip travel costs to and from the service site at the beginning and ending of service.
Service Site (Support varies at some agencies)
- Provides orientation, training, and supportive guidance to volunteer.
Provides supervision for the volunteer's assigned responsibilities, including creation of position description, and designation of working hours, days off and vacation in accordance with the service site's policies. *Provide international volunteers with at least a 10 day vacation beyond established holidays (during 12 month service).
Provides the volunteer with room and board during the service period.
Provides special uniforms or clothes, if these are required.
Provides for needed on-the-job transportation, including transportation to and from service site if volunteer is housed elsewhere. Prvoides mileage or gas reimbursement to volunteers for requested, service-related duties.
Pays the premium of illness and accident insurance for the period of service. (Volunteer Ministries has access to a short term limited illness and accident policy. This insurance is mandatory, unless adequate insurance coverage is provided by the agency or volunteer.)
Provides the volunteer with a monthly stipend of at least $100 per month for incidentals while in service.*
Remains aware of the volunteer’s need for social activity. (Since volunteers are not in their own communities in most cases, it is requested that available social activities be shared with them.)
The Partners in Service program helps increase the service capacity of the partner host organization and provides leadership development and the opportunity for the volunteer to use gifts and skills.
Volunteers serve in full-time placement for terms of one month to a year or more. The Partners in Service program does not discriminate against applicants on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation, or disabilities.
U.S. Young Adults, Baby Boomers, & Builders
Adults of all ages participate in on-going service and advocacy ministries with partner organizations and congregations.
Video arts Publicity
Disaster Recovery: Construction Site Coordinator
Presence Among the Vulnerable
Alumni & Church Relations
Disaster Recovery: Volunteer Coordinator
Immigration and Border Ministries
International volunteers are placed upon the recommendation of partners in the Ecumenical Diaconal Year Network (www.edyn.org), the Evangelische Kirche im Rheinland, Arbeitsstelle ZKL und Friewilligendienst (www.aktiv-zivil.de) and other recognized church partners of Global Ministries of the UCC/Disciples of Christ (www.globalministries.org).
It is to be understood by all concerned that placement is full-time, approximately 40 hours per week, for the residential and international programs. Additional part-time employment is strongly discouraged. Any exceptions should be decided by the parties concerned. Schedules often vary from week to week and may include evening and weekend hours.
Premature termination is possible, when necessary, and can be initiated with the Volunteer Ministries program by the volunteer, the service site, or both. If an unsatisfactory placement has been made, a reassignment may be pursued.
Loan Deferment In some situations, student loans may be deferred for a period of up to three years while the recipient is engaged in service. The volunteer must contact their lending agency. The UCC Volunteer Ministries Office can provide letters of documentation and support.
A Multiracial and Multicultural Church:
- affirms and lives out its faith in God as revealed through Jesus Christ;
- knows we are interconnected with people of all races, ethnicities and cultures;
- embodies and rejoices in these diversities as gifts to the human family;
- welcomes all people into the community of faith without discrimination because of color, race, ethnicity, language or culture;
- formally recognizes and utilizes the racial and cultural varieties of gifts within the context of Christian Unity;
- struggles within church and society to rid itself of the sin of racism which has prevented an authentic embrace of the races, ethnicity and cultures in our denomination;
- makes multiracial and multicultural inclusiveness a key organizing principle for church in society;
- works for justice and peace throughout the global community;
- reflects in its membership the changing demographics
- declares itself an anti-racist congregation.
THE UNITED STATES
today and tomorrow:
The United States in 2005: 71.3 Million people of color *
What about the United Church of Christ?
What You Can Do:
- Pray for the Spirit to free you to be open to God's call for the UCC to become truly a church of many races and cultures;
- Expand your knowledge through reading and the arts of the gifts that the various races and cultures have contributed to the human family;
- Build relationships with people who are of a different race or ethnic origin;
- Practice hospitality by being the first to welcome racial and ethnic newcomers to your church and community;
- Participate in a variety of racial and ethnic worship experiences;
- Become fluent in a second language;
- Engage in self-examination of your feelings and attitudes toward other races, ethnic groups and cultures so that you may be able to identify the barriers that may be inhibiting you to understand, value or affirm them;
- Discern the effect of public policy issue on persons of other cultures and races before you vote or contact your representative;
- Recognize that everyone has a cultural heritage; reflect on your own culture and be a good listener to those whose culture may be different from yours;
- Hold anti-racism and cultural proficiency workshops for your congregation.
What Your Local Church Can Do:
- Initiate small group Bible Studies exploring God's call for inclusiveness in church and society;
- Organize a group that would research and write articles for the church newsletter and develop bulletin board displays highlighting the contributions and gifts that racial and ethnic persons and cultures have given to the human family;
- Conduct community and church self-study which will discern new initiatives for mission and evangelism in partnership with people of many races and ethnic traditions;
- Sponsor racism workshops so that people will come to understand and work to alleviate the root causes of racism within church and society;
- Engage in an intentional listening process both within the congregation and in the community toward the identification of community justice issues which may be jointly addressed by church and community;
- Provide opportunities to explore the relationship of local issues with global peace and justice issues;
- Establish partnerships with churches of other racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Words of Inspiration
What Shall I Render Unto God?
In a world divided by hatred, render love
In a world smashed by fear, render faith.
In a world burdened by ethnic strife in eastern Europe,
Render kindness over cruelty.
In a world torn by the Wall of shame,
Render the refreshing spirit of Glasnots and perestroika.
In a world smeared with the pain of hunger and
homelessness, render food and shelter.
In a world tormented by the demons of sexism and
racism, render equality and liberty.
In a world cursed by apartheid,
Render the joybells of freedom.
In a world that disvalues our children,
Render protection and compassion.
In a world unsure about the future,
Render the cup of salvation;
Render the shield of faith.
Pay your own vows unto the Lord.
E. Hammond Oglesby, Ph. D.
In 1993, the 19th General Synod of the United Church of Christ issued a pronouncement, "Calling the United Church of Christ to be a Multeracial and Multicultural Church." This brochure is brought to you by covenanted ministries of the UCC to encourage discussion, dialogue and action.
The phrase appearing in numerous languages throughout this brochure, "You call us into your church...," is from the Statement of Faith of the United Church of Christ.
|Additional Worship Resources|
God's Call to End Oppression
Based on Exodus 3:1-15 and Romans 12: 9-21 (Year A, Proper 17)
The Exodus scripture is a familiar one. It tells of God’s call to Moses to deliver the Israelites from Egypt where they are oppressed and forced to labor for the pharaoh.
Moses was born the son of Israelites and grew up in Egypt in the household of the pharaoh. But after killing an Egyptian who was beating one of his fellow Israelites, Moses flees the country, ending in Midian. There he marries, fathers a child, and tends sheep for his father-in-law. Years pass. Life is good. Maybe Moses forgot, or tried to forget, his previous life in Egypt and the oppression of the Israelites.
But God had not forgotten and God won't let Moses forget either. Speaking out of the burning bush, God tells Moses, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians.” God is going to deliver them but Moses is going to do a lot of the work. And he is reluctant: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites of the Egypt?” Exactly. Who would not have said the same thing? But God replied, “I will be with you.” And so Moses went. The rest is history and also a very good illustration of God’s vision for God’s people: liberation from bondage and freedom from oppression including oppression in the workplace.
Like other people in the Hebrew Bible who are called by God for a special task (Jonah, Jeremiah), Moses was reluctant to answer yes. But he did, with the assurance of God’s help and constant presence. Today God continues to call God’s people to action, and continues to provide help and a constant presence to those who respond.
God may call us more often than we realize or want to admit. The call may, rarely, come in the life-changing, awesome moment when we see a burning bush that is not consumed. But God’s call might also (and maybe more often) come as a soft nudge, a gnawing urge, a quiet whisper that maybe, just maybe, we ought to do something about a particular problem. The quiet, more frequent, but much less dramatic calls are easy to ignore. Is it God? Do I really need to? How can I fit more into my busy life? How can I say yes? Does it help to remember that God will be with us, to see us through, that God expects us to find time for God’s priorities?
In the passage from Romans, Paul encourages us to get involved, to follow these gentle urgings. “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.” In an unjust world, in a nation with millions living in poverty, genuine love demands our involvement. Loving our neighbors means standing with people on the margins who seek a better life for themselves, the life that is God's intention for them.
In the U.S. today, 47 million people (nearly one in seven) live in poverty and over one third of us (some 106 million people) live below twice the poverty line,[i] the amount that many researchers think is a minimally adequate income level. At the same time, there are 1,591 billionaires[ii] and 7.1 million[iii] (or 8.4 million[iv] or 9.6 million[v]) millionaires, depending on whose study you read. Over one in seven people in the U.S. is receiving food stamps that provide, on average, less than $1.50 per meal, per person. The dire statistics go on and on. Some 9.5 million people are unemployed.[vi] Millions more are jobless but have given up looking for work and, therefore, are no longer counted among the unemployed.
Over one-quarter of all jobs in the U.S. (28%) pay poverty-level wages, so low that a full-time worker cannot keep a family out of poverty.[vii] In 2013, 42% percent of Hispanic workers, 36% percent of black workers, and 23% of white workers earned poverty-level wages.[viii] Read about the difficulties faced by young workers. Learn about wage theft, the common practice in which employers fail to pay workers all the wages they earn.
The federal minimum wage, $7.75/hour, has not increased in five years. Some states or cities have a higher minimum wage (check your state) and in a few places the minimum wage is nearly high enough to support people at a meager, but adequate, standard of living. But in most locations, the minimum wage needs to be raised. Corporate profits are at record levels (more). Corporate giants can well afford to raise their workers’ pay.
The United States is a wealthy country. There is no justification for poverty, oppressive work conditions, or lack of opportunity. Things do not need to be this way. Our involvement could make a difference. Do we feel a gentle urging to get involved? Are we called to support fast food workers, Wal-Mart employees, and others who are marching and striking for living wages? (See organizations in your location who invite your participation.) Are we called to stand with immigrant workers without papers who are easily abused? Can we pressure Congress to raise the minimum wage? Is our congregation called to be an Economic Justice Church? What else might God be calling us to do?
The world today is a very troubling place for anyone concerned with justice. Can we doubt that God is calling us to get involved? Let us seek to “overcome evil with good.” Let us follow Jesus and walk with those on the margins, knowing that God walks with us.
Order (email or phone:866-822-8224, ext 3720) Jesus was a low-wage worker buttons (English and Spanish) -- no charge.
Interrupted by God
Based on lectionary selection Exodus 3:1-15 and Romans 12:9-21, Year A, Proper 17
Moses is out tending the sheep of his father-in-law, minding his own business. It’s just a typical day in the hot and dry hills of Midian: sheep, sun, dust, brush and, hopefully, a little breeze. Just an ordinary day, or so it seems.
Then Moses sees a bush that is on fire and, on closer inspection, he notices that it is not being consumed by the fire. This is remarkable and Moses turns aside to find out what is happening. His attention has been captured. He stops what he had been doing, puts his own agenda on hold, and even neglects his sheep while he investigates.
It is only after he has turned aside, and looks beyond his own plans for the moment that God calls to him: “Moses, Moses.” And Moses, surely bewildered, responds out of trust and faith, “Here I am.”
God has big plans for Moses. Moses the shepherd is to become Moses the liberator of his people, Moses the law giver, Moses the prophet. But it all starts when Moses notices something that shouldn’t be happening, something out of the ordinary, and turns aside to investigate. He is paying attention and is ready to be interrupted by God. His ordinary day is turning out to be a very extraordinary one.
There is much more to come in this story: plagues, famines, drought, death, the parting of a sea, a 40-year journey through the desert, the liberation of a people. But it all begins when Moses pauses, turns aside from his ordinary business, and answers “Here I am.” It’s true: the longest journey begins with a single step, and the first step may be the most important one.
So what does God ask Moses to do? God knows the sufferings of God’s people in Egypt. God had heard their cries. God says “I have come down to deliver them.” Note that God says “I” have come down to deliver them. It could hardly be clearer. God will deliver the Israelites but Moses will be God’s instrument to bring this about. Moses’ actions will bring God’s justice to God’s people.
Does God still call people, today, in the midst of our busy lives? Are we willing to stop what we are doing, to put aside our plans? Are we ready to be interrupted by God? Or are we too preoccupied with what we want to do? Too intent on checking off the next item on our to-do list? Are we too focused on our own agenda to pause long enough to hear God’s call? Do we talk so much or listen to so much TV that we cannot hear when God calls? Have we walked or driven right past the burning bush without seeing it?
Paul’s letter to the Romans lays out some of the things that God might be calling us to do. Love genuinely. Rejoice in hope. Extend hospitality to strangers. Live in harmony with one another. Associate with the lowly. Overcome evil with good.
On this Labor Day Sunday, is it possible that God is calling us to participate, even to help lead, another journey of liberation? Is God waiting for us to notice something – right here in plain sight – that should not be happening, to pay attention, and to respond?
• To see the people held in the chains of poverty and to free them.
• To hear the cries of those who work but don’t still can’t get by and to seek justice.
• To liberate those working in unsafe or abusive environments.
• To increase the minimum wage so a job will lift workers out of poverty, not keep them there.
• To ensure that everyone can freely choose whether to join a union without being fired or suffering retaliation.
• To lobby for better enforcement of our labor laws so that workers will receive all the pay they earn.
• To stand with those who work hard all week but still don’t have sufficient income to pay for food, and rent, and medicines, and gas.
These are not good times for American workers. One-quarter of all jobs pay poverty-level wages, a wage so low that a full-time worker cannot keep a family of four out of poverty. One in every 10 people who want to work either cannot find a job or can only find part-time work when they want full time (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). One out of every eight people (and one in every six children) lives below the official poverty line, a higher share of the population than in any other industrialized country, and more than double the levels in Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland (Economic Policy Institute and U.S. Bureau of the Census). Wage theft – failing to pay wages in accordance with U.S. labor law – is epidemic. In violation of U.S. law, workers are not paid for all the hours they work, do not receive overtime pay when it is due, or are paid less than the minimum wage (see Wage Theft). There is much that should cause us to pause, to turn aside.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the 20th century prophet, had a successful and busy career as a theologian until he was interrupted by God and turned aside from this path. He was executed in 1945 after attempting to assassinate Hitler and end the Second World War. In Life Together (written in 1938) he wrote:
We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks…When we do that we pass by the visible sign of the Cross… God’s way must be done. ... [D]o not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God (p. 99).
This Labor Sunday, may God open our eyes, unstop our ears, and slow our pace. May we really see the custodians who clean the floors of our office buildings. May we hear the cries of the hog and poultry processors who slaughter and cut up our meat. May we walk the picket line with those seeking more just working conditions. May our schedules for the day be disturbed by the workers who do not receive their fair share of the resources God provides to be used by all of us. May we live our lives ready to be interrupted by God, ready to say “here I am” when God’s calls our name and asks us to be part of God’s action for liberation.