Dear Friends in Christ,
Greetings in the name of Jesus, who came that all might have life abundant, and in the name of the Creator, whose breathtaking abundance has filled the earth with good things.
This month it was announced in the small town where I live that the mill is closing down. Everyone here—builders to bakers, teachers to preachers—works directly or indirectly for the mill or the already vanishing mines. A spirit of dread and anxiety is settling among us. It feels like a microcosm of what is happening to the economy across the country and around the world.
I have written an open letter about the economy to all Canadians. I won’t repeat those ideas here. I am now writing to you as family—brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. I am writing to you more personally because of this profound bond we share. The current economic challenge is calling us to be church in riskier ways than we are used to. I want to encourage you to trust your faith and to take those risks.
We are called to risk compassion
We follow the one who said that to serve him we need look no further than those who are hungry, thirsty, homeless, sick, lonely, or in prison. We will find Jesus among the many physically and spiritually homeless and hungry. Caring in practical ways for those wounded by this volatile economy is our first call. I am praying that we will respond with creativity, radical hospitality, and expansive generosity.
We are called to risk a new Way
We are called to proclaim in word and action God’s dream for the world. Jesus called it the “kingdom of God.” All around the earth, people are beginning to question the logic of an economic system that values the rights of shareholders above the needs of human beings. We are awakening to the insatiable consumption that is destroying God’s creation. We are God’s witnesses for an alternative vision of a world where the needs of all prevail over the greed of a few. Times of great turmoil are also times of great opportunity for transformation. This is a time for prophetic and creative leadership.
We are called to risk as the body of Christ
Most of you are in some way already engaged in the ministry of Christ in the world. As communities of faith, we embody the Spirit and love of God. Our particular context and resources will shape our responses at this time. Maybe you will gather neighbours for a meal and talk together about local needs. Or host weekly “common table” meals. Add some storytelling or music to lift one another’s spirits. Provide office, personal, and job search support for those who are looking for work.
Food banks, shelters, and global partners need your help. Demands on our Mission and Service Fund are growing. Maybe you will visit or write a note of encouragement to someone working for change.
Congregations with property or trust funds may consider how they can best serve at this time. Make space for a think tank on the environment and economy, or invest in a green enterprise. Wealthier congregations could fund work in hard hit areas. Listen, dream, and act.
I will also ask the Executive of the General Council at its March meeting to consider how we can best help congregations and community ministries like yours reach out imaginatively and compassionately to Canadians hurt by the economic crisis.
We are not alone
When I first heard the news about our mill, my heart sank. As just one person against such powerful forces, it seems overwhelming. But we are not alone. We are connected to our brothers and sisters in our local congregation. We are part of a network of United Church communities across the country. As church, we can do more for our neighbours together. We are surrounded by countless others of faith and goodwill. God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.
The peace of Christ be with us and through us,
The Right Rev. David Giuliano
The United Church of Canada