You would have good reason to question my judgment. Who signs on the be a minister in an age of terrifying church decline?
And it has been terrifying. I have seen revitalization programs come and go. I've heard one attempt after another to identify the fundamental problem... including blaming Fundamentalists for advocating hateful theologies, blaming churches caught up in sex abuse scandals, inevitable in a patriarchal system, blaming Sunday morning soccer.
This last has always especially frustrated me, since Sunday morning soccer can only compete with church for time and attention because church was already failing to meet the needs of parents with children. Kids do not drive themselves to church.
In the end, all of these reasons are partially true, and all miss one of the biggest drivers of church decline, the economic realities of life for every generation after the Baby Boom.
The Federal definition of poverty is based on the cost of groceries, and does not reflect the surging cost of housing, healthcare, or childcare, if you can get them at all. Companies offer minimum wage for jobs while expecting a college degree and years of experience. As I follow the stories of working class folks on Reddit, I see one post after another about the increasingly ridiculous demands of employers who offer shift work with few or no benefits, demanding that workers be available 24/7 for a job that might pay them less than $150 a week. These same employers “demand” weeks of notice before a resignation, while workers have little or no protection against termination.
It is no wonder people people are exhausted and stay home on Sunday morning, never mind all of the religious stupidity in the news.
As you will read in Jenny's “President's Report,” the Park Church has a connection to labor activism, not only through efforts to abolish America's enslaved labor system before the Civil War, but also in the Eastman legacy, especially Crystal, the daughter of TPC pastors, who became a forceful advocate for workers in the age of industrialization, and a champion of civil liberties.
Our Housing Justice ministry is focused on one aspect of the economic evil impacting our community, an aspect where we feel we can be reasonably effective, since so much housing policy is set at the local level. There are things you can do as well. Support labor activism. You might miss a season of your favorite Netflix series, but maybe five years from now, the writers who give us those great shows will be able to pay the rent. That package may not come as soon as you would like, but maybe this time next year, those Teamsters driving UPS trucks will enjoy just compensation and a safe work environment.
As we come close to end of summer and Labor Day, let us remember that scripture is filled with directives about just compensation, loan forgiveness, and immigration, passages many so-called literalists choose to ignore. Let us remember and celebrate the real story of the holy in the world, the story of justice, kindness, and humility, the story of a God who is with those at the margins, and the rabbi who called laborers into the work of salvation.