Why This? Why Now?
What inspired me to develop these resources?
I have served and visited many wonderful and faithful churches that provide spiritual nurture to their members, uplifting worship and pastoral services, and foundational Christian education for all ages. Members of these churches are frequent volunteers in our schools and community. They work at the food shelves, host at the homeless shelters, drive patients to their medical appointments, and perform countless other acts of service and caring.
Some members of these churches attended hearings at the state capital to oppose budget cuts in social services. They occasionally brought in petitions addressing a current issue before the city council or invited online signatures to support a particular environmental concern. Those raising these kinds of concerns typically functioned outside the formal structures of the church, on their own or around the edges of the coffee hour so to speak.
Members of the wider congregation variously appreciated or tolerated such activities, but didn’t perceive this kind of advocacy as being integral to the life and ministry of the church. I sensed concern about discussing “political matters” at church and anxiety about causing possible conflict. And, besides, their mindset seemed to be, we already do a lot of social outreach.
I designed this study to recover congregational awareness of the church’s prophetic heritage; to awaken a concomitant commitment to practicing our Christian faith in the public square; to provide tools for reflection and action; and to deepen the community’s own faith, fellowship, and joy in the process.
In the words of one participant, “This study challenged us to look beyond corporate worship and charity to consider how we, like the prophets in the Bible, can come together to work for social justice and political reform in our communities, nation, and world.”