Convention blew out of the gate for its first day as we gathered in the evening for a World Café session around the big question of income inequality. For a number of reasons, we were expecting this first session to have a turnout of around 100 people and were caught a bit off guard when somewhere around 300 people showed up on Zoom! This wonderful surge of interest created some logistical hurdles and quickly shone a light on the rough edges of our process. We were able to adapt quickly and learned quite a bit, which we will put to use to make sure our subsequent World Cafés work better.
But logistics and learning curves did not hamper the enthusiasm that people brought to our work, and there were some wonderful and profound conversations that happened in different breakout rooms as we dug into the big question:
What can ECCT and its members do to address the issue of wealth inequality?
In our first round of conversation, we asked ourselves why this question matters. After almost 20 minutes of conversation across 45 different breakout groups, we had begun expanding the scope of the question and started examining the many interconnected issues that relate to wealth inequality. In the second round of conversation, we started digging a little deeper by stepping back and asking ourselves what was being overlooked in the conversation, or what were we not seeing as we explored this question. By the third round we were ready to begin looking for connections that were starting to emerge as we talked to one another. Then in the fourth round things started to get really interesting as we asked ourselves what we might try if success were guaranteed.
Each group was asked to come up with one try-on that they would like to pursue. The full list is below, and you are encouraged to take a look. What emerged from those many try-ons were three broad categories of work that warranted further exploration. If you are interested in being involved in one or more of the following efforts, please reach out to the designated contact person so that you get the Zoom details to participate.
#1 Resource Pooling
What would be possible if we tapped into our combined resources–both individually and as church communities and put them to use to address income inequality? Ideas ranged from sponsoring high-speed housing to homeless individuals, funding education or scholarship, and offering reparations. If you are interested in exploring this work more, please email the Rev. Tracy Johnson Russell, who has volunteered to setup the initial Zoom meeting.
November 14, 2020 @ 11:30am
The Rev. Tracy Johnson Russell
#2 Direct Action
As disciples of Jesus, we are called to serve and care for those in need and for those who suffer injustice and oppression. This call to action is not just through our pocketbooks, it is through direct relationship with those we serve and direct involvement in their lives. If you are interested in exploring this work more, please email the Rev. Ron Steed, who has volunteered to setup the initial Zoom meeting.
November 11, 2020 @ 6:30pm
The Rev. Ron Steed
#3 Political Action
To address the problem of inequality requires more than charity, it requires justice. This justice is pursued by creating change within our church; by lobbying our political leaders for reform and accountability at national, state and local levels; and by educating ourselves about the realities of income and wealth inequality in our own towns and neighborhoods. If you are interested in exploring this work more, please email the Rev. Tuesday Rupp, who has volunteered to setup the initial Zoom meeting.
November 19, 2020 @ 6:30pm
The Rev. Tuesday Rupp
The Full List of Try-ons
What will you be inspired to try yourself?
- Getting out of church and bringing church into the community to accompany community in their needs, to walk with.
- What if we tried traveling church moving to a different parishioner’s house each day or week?
- Using our huge old parish buildings to help transform our neighborhoods and society.
- Build relationships with our legislative delegations to Washington DC and Hartford.
- Changing our concept of “success” – demographics and numbers and wealth aren’t the center. God is! Share resources between wealthy and not-so-wealthy parishes.
- Try to dialogue openly in uncomfortable conversation to talk about these issues of income and wealth inequality.
- Mentorship and/or providing education to those who are not able to access it.
- Bring alive the gospel in our ministries so that the root causes of poverty are addressed. We do good and wonderful work by providing food and clothing. Along with that work, we need to work to address the causes of poverty. We can continue to give, and include that “AND” of addressing root cause issues.
- Try on “putting feet on our imaginings” or finding new ways to connect virtually.
- Attend other houses of worship – during co-vid make a connection of some kind until able to attend in person.
- Need for increased communication within the Church about the issue of wealth inequality. We need to be more aware of the political advocacy of the church.
- Make a stance in the 2021 Convention in favor of school-funding reform–to support and partner with those who are lobbying for or working for this. Education is central to opportunity. Organize this movement through the parishes–get the people in the pews to make calls, to vote, to advocate, to sign petitions.
- Tap into the wealth of Fairfield County, using this together with other donations: could every parish (or teams of parishes) fund six month’s of “rapid rehousing” for a homeless person? ($2k security deposit + 6 x $1000 rent), working though your local shelter. Maybe a team of parishes (not all ECCT) could do this together. Practically, a parish could master-lease a shared housing situation, furnish the place, sublease it to homeless people or people leaving prison.
- Invite parishioners and clergy to review their local municipalities Comprehensive Plans, Study Your Neighborhood, and US Census map of Average Median Incomes per household, so that they may see the needs of the community and then support or create a ministry/mission to address those needs.
- Educate people on the difference between charity and justice.
- Develop house church models/ curriculum, house church lay pastor training and challenge churches to start house church small groups that do the following: care for one another in one another can homes and neighborhoods, Worship God, study the Bible, pray and serve together in a some mission outreach, and join the larger church for worship and accountability.
- Provide insurance to every employee of the ECCT regardless of how many hours they work.
- Region food programs. After school programs.
- We want to leverage the CT Church as a whole and regionally to address wealth inequality. We envisions providing personal finance classes – similar to Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University. Secondly, provide Job Search support for those seeking a job or those who can help job seekers.
- What if we were about bridge building and convened various gatherings with the intention of inviting decision makers to consider the holy use of money and incorporating such values into their dealings, lobbying, legislating, etc.
- Listening sessions with community leaders and those in need to develop relationships, and assess and address needs.
- Each church take a portion of their endowment and create a credit union for members of the community that would have a hard time getting a loan from regular institutions.
- Church as a welcoming center that creates a space for hearts to connect by getting the church to remove itself from within the capitalistic model and becoming a place where our vulnerability can be real.
- Try on more healing prayer in our expanded neighborhood, build on other successful models.