An imaginary letter…
Guess what? I’ve just been elected to serve on the Mission Committee of our church. We are responsible for planning and monitoring all the ways our church reaches out to the community and even to the world! What an awesome challenge! I understand that some churches call such committees Outreach or Social Action.
As I think about our work, I realize that there are a couple of different ways we reach out. One is to help people in need through such programs as food banks, after school programs for kids, funding for agencies in our town which help the poor and homeless and a whole bunch of other social service projects.
The other way is through projects which seek peace and justice in God’s world. There are so many ways that our society has created social structures and patterns which are unjust or just plain unfair. Too many people are oppressed or suffer from discrimination and prejudice or are hungry and in poverty and end up living on the edges of society.
We’re pretty good at dealing with the first way of outreach. We use resources and volunteers to help people in need, which is really wonderful, but the second task of seeking peace and justice by changing the social structures and patterns which cause people to be in need in the first place is not as readily understood.
At a meeting the other day someone had a neat idea that had the potential to undue a little of the injustice in the world, and guess what? We immediately began to question the idea because it might cost too much to get it started. I bet that kind of response happens a lot.
Then I remembered hearing about the Eleanor Haney Fund, which gives grants of up to $5,000 each for social justice projects, so I went to their website. I read about Elly Haney (who died in 1999) and her commitment to seeking justice. I read about the purpose of the fund and the guidelines for applying for a grant. There were several guidelines which the fund considers necessary. For example, they give preference to projects in Maine and which are grassroots and lack access to major funding sources –AND- they give first preference to churches!
Maybe they realize that of all the institutions seeking social justice, the church is in a unique position because of the commitment to justice of the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures and the ministry of Jesus who was a champion of those marginalized in his time and who clearly stood in solidarity with the prophets.
The Haney Fund wants churches to apply with ideas and projects which seek to get at the root causes of our society’s injustices, which empower people to help themselves, which raise consciousness about injustice, which seek to create a healthy, safe and nurturing environment and which challenge the status quo by getting people to think and to act.
I know that we probably all agree that a more just society is in everyone’s best interest. I think the biblical concept is shalom, which envisions the essential well-being of all people and the creation itself…a compelling motivation for giving contemporary life to the commitments of the prophets and Jesus.
I wonder if our committee, or maybe a sub-committee, might be charged with the task of coming up with a social justice project? We could start by checking it out at their web page, haneyfund.org. Then we could study the needs out there and then prepare a letter of intent. The Advisory Board of the Fund carefully reads all letters of intent and then encourages a full application if we qualify or they make suggestions to help us qualify. Sounds like a good idea to me. I think I will bring it up at our next meeting.
Until next time,
Your loving son or daughter or child…or…