|Churches offer services to the jobless|
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
March 11, 2009
The rising U.S. unemployment rate is having an impact on churches, as well as the communities they serve.
But the economic crisis also is pushing many United Methodist
congregations into new areas of mission as they try to offer services –
ranging from assistance with food and housing to career counseling – to
families dealing with job loss.
According to figures released March 6 by the U.S. Department of Labor,
651,000 more jobs were lost in February as the unemployment rate surged
to 8.1 percent from 7.6 percent the month before.
Reporting those statistics, the New York Times noted that, “In key
industries – manufacturing, financial services and retail – layoffs
have accelerated so quickly in recent months as to suggest that many
companies are abandoning whole areas of business.” More than half of
the roughly 4.4 million jobs eliminated since the recession began have
disappeared in the past four months, the Times said.
The collapse of the automobile industry has particularly affected
churches in Michigan and Indiana. Major automakers reported a
continuing decline in vehicle sales in February, to their lowest level
in 28 years.
In Michigan, where the current unemployment rate of 10.6 percent is
the highest of any state, other industries have had layoffs as well,
including Whirlpool. First United Methodist Church in St. Joseph, where
Whirlpool is the community’s largest employer, has had a “frugal”
budget for some time, using targeted fundraisers for programs like
vacation Bible school. But the church’s commitment to both local and
global mission remains.
In Indiana, the downturn has affected auto workers in Kokomo and those
laid off from recreational vehicle manufacturing jobs in the Elkhart
area. Trinity United Methodist Church in Elkhart is involved with food
relief and provides assistance with employment and financial issues.
The church has sponsored “Networking Nights” to connect laid-off
workers with representatives from area educational institutions.
In Elkhart, Ind., local students and their parents receive a free meal from
members of Trinity United Methodist Church. A UMNS photo courtesy of
Trinity United Methodist Church.
In Illinois, residents of Peoria were dealing with the fact that
Caterpillar, a major employer, has been trimming its labor force. First
United Methodist Church there has brought together members and
community and social agencies to act as a clearinghouse for those
Other churches around the country have made the current economic
crisis a specific mission focus. Cokesbury United Methodist Church in
Knoxville, Tenn., has a free ministry called NETWORK that offers job
seekers in the community access to services such as resume preparation,
coaching for interview skills, networking opportunities, and crisis and
Roswell (Ga.) United Methodist Church has more than 140 volunteers
on a team of hiring and recruiting professionals who meet with job
seekers twice a month through the church’s job networking program.
Mission commitment continues
Despite the recession, church leaders from the local to national
levels have seen evidence that the denomination’s members remain
committed to mission.
Officials of the Women’s Division, United Methodist Board of Global
Ministries, were pleased that their core constituency – United
Methodist Women – more than met their pledges for 2008. By the end of
the year, the division had received $16.5 million in mission giving,
about $3,000 above the total amount pledged.
Welcoming those results, Harriett Olson, the division’s chief
executive, said it is a “critical time” for sustaining the mission
institutions and programs that assist women, children and youth. To
ensure the commitment to mission, the division has cut its 2009
operating budget by 10 percent.
In Tipp City, Ohio, Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church took its
regular Christmas miracle offering for its Sudan Project just one day
after General Motors closed its automotive plant in nearby Dayton.
Despite that economic blow, the offering raised $725,749 – part of the
nearly $4 million Ginghamsburg has raised since 2004 for its Sudan work
with the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
Despite the failing economy, Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in
Tipp City, Ohio, raised $725,749 for its Sudan work with the United
Methodist Committee on Relief.
A UMNS file photo courtesy of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church.
United Methodists were reminded that the church’s ministry is
needed more than ever during tough economic times in a February message
signed by the president of the Council of Bishops, chairman of the
Connectional Table and chairman of the table of general agency
“It is a prophetic reminder that our destiny as a worldwide
community and a global church is interwoven with complex bonds of
prosperity, security, dignity and justice,” the three leaders said. “We
reclaim anew Jesus’ teaching, ‘as you (cared for) the least of these
who are members of my family, you did it to me’ as an urgent appeal for
how we can live today.”
Jim Winkler, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Church
and Society, pointed out in “Faith in Action,” the agency’s newsletter,
that the economic crisis “is a human construct,” not a dilemma imposed
“If you have faith that God will provide abundant life, and realize
that doesn’t mean big houses and fancy cars or private jets, then you
can look forward, and won’t have to turn back,” he wrote.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
Hoosier United Methodists offer assist in downturn
United Methodists join rally against foreclosures
Unemployment rate jumps to 8.1 percent in U.S.
Church leaders speak out on economic suffering
Mission agency to cut $3.9 million from budget
Publishing House feels impact of economic downturn
Trinity United Methodist Church, Elkhart
Michigan Christian Advocate
Illinois Great Rivers Conference
U.S. Department of Labor