Tom Reflects on Recession II Workshop

Recession II- Ready or Not! Creative Possible New Responses

Tom Sine “Prepare Now for More Pain on the Way!”
by Tom Sine

In the 11th hour the congress finally acted to keep our economy from going into default. Clearly people across this country are fed-up with our representatives unwillingness to move beyond narrow ideology and work together. I am fiscally conservative and we need to get ready for more cuts in the future. However, Jim Wallis at Sojourner Magazine asks “What would Jesus cut?” It looks like special interests and wealthy are winning out again over the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.

Followers of Christ also need to ask: “what would Jesus do in response to the impact of successive waves of cutbacks that hammer the poor and the middle class?” Do you remember the impact of Katrina on those at the margins in New Orleans? People of faith and churches were among the first responders. One of the unexpected outcomes was that a number of churches all over the country developed disaster preparedness s in partnership with local governments. Recently some of these churches were ready to respond to crippling impact of the tornados and floods. We in MSA have been expressing growing concern that we aren’t finding churches preparing to respond to those impacted by waves of economic change.

Mustard Seed Associates held our first recession preparedness session with 50 church leaders here in Seattle September 2008…just before the global economic meltdown. I doubt that anyone in the room thought a recession was possible but they still came up with some fresh ideas. For example, someone proposed congregations start a church Craigslist having member post if they have rooms available in their homes or cars in their drive ways. Some churches offered courses in everything from financial planning in hard times to how to prepare for job interviews.

On July 23 this year we offered our third economic preparedness workshop: Recession II- Ready or Not! This session was co-sponsored by the Washington Association of Churches, the Lutheran Public Policy Office and the Parish Collective. Its purpose was to encourage church leaders to create new ways to respond to the most recent wave of State cutbacks and the pain they are likely to cause.

In Washington state recent cutbacks will result:

  1. Cutting funding for housing and food for legal immigrants
  2. cutting funding for senior care
  3. Cutting funding for mental health programs
  4. Cutting funding for school meal programs for kids
  5. laying off of state workers
  6. a dramatic increase in state tuition costs

This group of church leaders came up with a broad range of creative new ways to respond to these new economic challenges. These ideas included suggesting churches help seniors impacted by state cutback in funding create time-share initiatives to not only help one another but also others impacted by these recent cutbacks. Another group responded to the cutbacks in feeding programs for school kids in the summer by suggesting that churches running day camps include teaching the students how to prepare a nutritious tasty lunch every day using seasonable fruit and vegetables. Bishop Greg Rickel wisely suggested that leaders select one issue and launch that response as a way to respond to one of the new wave of state cutbacks.

The state cutbacks are already beginning to impact thousands not only those at the margins but growing numbers in the middle class as well. As a result of the settlement in Washington DC this last week there is likely to be an even larger wave of pain that will hammer the lives both of the poor and of the middle class. Followers of Christ need to find ways in our own lives and churches to radically alter how we steward time and money to be something of God’s compassion to those that will be devastated by this wave. We need to enable people to start small businesses to provide jobs and create community gardens to help those at the margins to help themselves and their families. But people of faith of all political stripes need to rediscover the voice of the prophets to speak out for those at margins and call our leaders to speak out for the voiceless.