Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) has launched “Learn, Pray, Join: Cost of Poverty,” an initiative to raise awareness about the impact of the pandemic on poverty in the United States and how Jesus calls his followers to respond. During September and October, MC USA will seek to engage people in the initiative by offering resources, prayers and ways to care for one another and to address systemic issues that lead to poverty.
“The pandemic is apocalyptic,” said Sue Park-Hur, denominational minister of Transformative Peacemaking. “It is revealing the structural issues that cause poverty and their disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable among us.”
In a recently updated report, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a nonpartisan research and policy institute, revealed that one in three children in the United States faces food or housing hardship and that one in four adults had difficulty paying their expenses in the last seven days.
According to the CBPP report, “The impacts of the pandemic and the economic fallout have been widespread, but remain particularly prevalent among Black adults, Latino adults and other people of color [reflecting] harsh, long-standing inequities — often stemming from structural racism in education, employment, housing and health care — that the current crisis has exacerbated.”
“Jesus taught us how to respond to these inequities,” said Park-Hur. “Throughout his ministry, Jesus centered and uplifted those who were poor and oppressed. As Anabaptists, we are called to follow his example,” she added.
The call to care for each other’s needs is a central theme in the Bible and in Anabaptist theology. MC USA’s “Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective,” Article 21 encourages Mennonites to be responsible stewards of money and possessions, saying, “We are to live simply, practice mutual aid within the church, uphold economic justice, and give generously and cheerfully.”
The Cost of Poverty initiative will look closely at the theology surrounding issues of poverty and focus on housing insecurity, as one of its many consequences.
“We will be wrestling with questions such as, Who are the poor among us? What causes the inequities that lead to poverty? How is poverty impacting our congregations and communities? and How can we respond?” said Park-Hur.
Through “Learn, Pray, Join: Cost of Poverty,” MC USA is providing members with:
- Opportunities to learn about the Cost of Poverty, through congregational study guides, news stories and resources. In addition, leaders from MC USA agencies, congregations, affiliated colleges and ministry partners will contribute blogs over the next several weeks, which will explore what poverty looks like in different communities, its intersectional nature, how churches are responding and how their Anabaptist faith values are compelling them to do this work.
- An invitation to pray for economic justice and for our congregations and communities coping with poverty. Congregations are invited to pray and worship together using responsive readings and hymns from MennoMedia’s new Voices Together hymnal, as recommended on the Cost of Poverty landing page.
- A call to join in mutual aid initiatives and advocacy work within MC USA and across the broader Anabaptist community. MC USA’s advocacy work includes the denomination’s Justice Fund, a mutual aid fund that provides financial assistance to MC USA congregations engaging in their communities to address poverty and dismantle racism. Links to other faith-based organizations on the Cost of Poverty landing page provide additional ways to respond.
For more information on “Learn, Pray, Join: Cost of Poverty,” visit the online resource page throughout the campaign at: https://www.mennoniteusa.org/ministry/peacebuilding/learn-pray-join/cost-of-poverty/
MC USA’s “Learn, Pray, Join” initiatives seek to create opportunities across the church to deepen understanding around a common topic and to come together in prayer and support.
“Learn, Pray, Join: Cost of Poverty” reflects the denomination’s #BeTransformed theme. #BeTransformed is Mennonite Church USA’s call for individuals and congregations to fully live into our Renewed Commitments to follow Jesus, witness to God’s peace and experience transformation. Learn more at https://www.mennoniteusa.org/betransformed/.
Mennonite Church USA is the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States with 16 conferences, approximately 530 congregations and 62,000 members. An Anabaptist Christian denomination, MC USA is part of Mennonite World Conference, a global faith family that includes churches in 58 countries. It has offices in Elkhart, Indiana, and Newton, Kansas. mennoniteUSA.org
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.” — Luke 4:20-21