Church members speak up
|Jennifer Mann (center) helps Katrina survivors Trenace Walker (left) and Corey Butler. |
for affordable housing
by Deborah White
Members of Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church in northern Virginia have become advocates for affordable housing with the help of Peace with Justice Sunday offerings.
As officials of Fairfax County, Va., considered funding a housing trust fund with tax dollars, they heard from formerly homeless members Mary Baker and Carol Murphy. They helped officials understand what it’s like not to be able to afford a place to live.
“A lot of our members and a lot of our friends have gotten killed on the highway because they didn’t have anywhere to go,” Baker said. “In Fairfax County, I would say it’s impossible to find affordable housing,” Murphy said.
A Peace with Justice grant helped the church train Baker, Murphy and other members how to speak up for themselves and how to interact with local government officials, said the Rev. Keary Kincannon, pastor of Rising Hope Church.
The training paid off. Last year Fairfax County officials decided to designate 1 cent of every dollar of the real estate transfer tax for the housing trust fund. It is expected to raise about $18 million a year.
Hearing from people who would benefit from housing programs made a critical difference, Kincannon said.
The Rev. Keary Kincannon
Rising Hope is a small mission church in Alexandria, Va., that serves more than 2,000 people every year with ministries including a food pantry, clothes closet, a cold-weather refuge for homeless people and spiritual programs.
“We’re developing a strong relationship with people in the community – people who don’t have very much,” Kincannon said.
The church received one of the 13 grants made in 2005 from offerings given on Peace with Justice Sunday. Half of the special offering supports Peace with Justice ministries globally through the General Board of Church and Society and half supports annual conference-related Peace with Justice ministries. It is one of six churchwide Special Sunday offerings. This year it is on June 11, although churches may observe it on another Sunday.
“There is no area of life that should be void of Christ’s love. That means we’ve got to address all of the issues in the community — the systemic problems that make people poor and that keep people poor,” Kincannon said.
—Deborah White, associate editor, Interpreter and Interpreter OnLine
Why is Peace with Justice Sunday important?
“Peace is not just the absence of war,” said Jim Winkler, general secretary of the General Board of Church and Society. “Peace must be accompanied by justice.”
The basic biblical grounding is the concept of Shalom. “God’s justice is seen in a holistic manner,” he said.
Half of the Peace with Justice Sunday offering goes to the General Board of Church and Society for grant-making and half goes to annual conferences for Peace with Justice ministries. In addition to meeting basic human needs, priorities include confronting systems that perpetuate poverty and fighting the spread of nuclear weapons.
“We have played an important and significant role in leading to the reduction of violence in the world,” Winkler said. “But we have a long way to go. That’s why it is critically important that Peace with Justice Sunday be observed in all churches.”
Order free resources to promote Peace with Justice Sunday at www.umcgiving.org or by calling (888) 346-3862.