Monday, March 15, 2010

church in our times - common security clubs

EnergyBulletin | The Reverend Cecilia Kingman, of Cascade Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in East Wenatchee, Washington, feels the church has a unique role to play in this moment of crisis: “All of the old stories are failing us, and we need new stories. Religion is the only institution that creates new stories, and a new theology.”

Cecilia has served several congregations in the past decade, and has observed a heightening amount of anxiety and depression in her congregations over that time. “People are overwhelmed by grief and anxiety...part of my job is to put grief work before them on a regular basis. I try to be deft about it--one upcoming service is about “how to keep moving forward in times of despair”, dealing with climate change, the economy, and so on. Rather than provide the congregation with false assurances, I’m approaching it through the story of Jonah (in the belly of the whale): we have to feel the loss and despair first. If we are clinging to trying not to feel bad, then there’s no possibility of real transformation.”

I work for the Institute for Policy Studies as an organizer, and my main project is the Common Security Club (CSC). CSCs are groups of about 20 people who come together to face the economic crisis in community. A facilitator takes them through a 5-session curriculum with three intents: learning together about the economy, fostering mutual aid and cooperation among group members, and moving into taking larger actions to create a livable economy. The Clubs create an intimate environment in which people are honest about their finances, their troubles, and their fears about the future. Slowly and cautiously, a space is formed in which people can face the reality that we are not going back to a growth economy, that our earth is truly imperiled, and that we must create the new world now.

We have found the Common Security Club a particularly effective tool for strengthening congregations in this time of economic and ecological crisis. These groups may seem unique, but really they help recreate the role that churches have always played in communities. The crisis we face is too big for us to hold alone. It’s imperative that we find communities in which to share our grief, pledge our support, and receive the aid and generosity of others.

Jim Antal is the conference Minister and President of the United Church of Christ in Massachusetts. Jim preaches in a different congregation every Sunday, and 90% of his sermons focus on climate change. Jim believes that “the unit of survival going forward is the local town--and guess what? There’s a church in every town! The circumstances of the planet require that churches embrace a new vocation--for all faiths. We must realize that “our “neighbor is all of creation, not just human beings, and we must think of unborn generations as our neighbors too. This idea has theological purchase, it grabs people, and then they can begin to change their lives, to do the things we can and should do for the earth, things which are in fact spiritual practices.”