All Church Read – Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Written by Connie Larkman
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Matthew Desmond, winner of numerous awards for his book which chronicles the lives of several families in the poorest neighborhoods in Milwaukee, will be the keynote speaker at the the United Church of Christ General Synod 32 in June. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, a New York Times Bestseller, will also be the subject of the denomination’s 2019 All Church Read.

Evicted, based on years of embedded fieldwork and data, points to eviction as a root cause of poverty. Desmond’s keynote address will take place in the same city as his book, on Saturday, June 22 at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee. UCC congregations throughout the country are encouraged to organize book discussion groups around Evicted in ways and at times that best suit them and participate in the All Church Read. Everyone is invited to register to attend General Synod to hear Matthew Desmond’s keynote or tune in to the live stream and listen to his address as a group or on your own.

“It’s a deep honor that Evicted was chosen for the UCC All Church Read,” Desmond said. “Without stable shelter, everything else falls apart.”

His book introduces readers to eight families struggling to make ends meet. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on shelter, and all have fallen behind.

The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. While they are fond of some of their tenants, as Tarver puts it, “Love don’t pay the bills.” She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas.

“The UCC has led on issues of homelessness and hunger,” said Desmond, “and now I think we’re at a time when we ask ourselves what we can about families that are facing exorbitantly high rents and evictions.”

Desmond, the Maurice P. During Professor of Sociology at Princeton University, focuses his teaching and research on poverty in America, city life, housing insecurity, public policy, racial inequality and ethnography. In 2018, he received the Stowe Prize for Writing to Advance Social Justice, awarded by the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center to authors whose work shines a light on critical social issues.

“Welcoming Matthew Desmond to Synod will provide us a meaningful opportunity to engage with his work on poverty in America,” said the Rev. John Dorhauer, UCC General Minister and President. “Let’s join together as a denomination in an All Church Read of Evicted. The Rev. Velda Love, UCC minster for Racial Justice will host a group discussion of the book both online and in-person on May 16 at 1:00 p.m.”*

Last year, Desmond’s Eviction Lab at Princeton University published the first-ever dataset of millions of evictions in America, going back to 2000. He and his team launched the Eviction Lab in 2017. They collect national data on eviction to help answer fundamental questions about residential instability, forced moves and poverty in America. Desmond and his team believe that stable, affordable housing can be an effective platform to promote economic mobility, health and community vitality. They hope their findings will inform programs to prevent eviction and family homelessness, raise awareness of the centrality of housing insecurity in the lives of low-income families and deepen our understanding of the fundamental drivers of poverty in America.

Using the Faith-based Reading Group Guide [available here as a PDF], UCC churches can delve into these issues through book discussion groups. The guide prompts readers to consider questions like this, “Faith-based organizations have traditionally had a special responsibility to help the poor. For some people, the less fortunate can offer a unique opportunity to demonstrate the power of their beliefs. Do you believe that your organization can provide support—whether financially, spiritually or socially—to those facing eviction in your community?”

CROP Walk 2019


Thoughts and prayers are not good enough! When it comes to human suffering action is needed. And you have a great opportunity to act in two distinct ways: You can walk and donate! The CROP Walk has raised awareness of hunger in our communities since 1969. By joining the West Fort Bend County CROP Walk you make our voice bigger and louder. The more people join the walk the harder it is to ignore hungry children in our communities. On Saturday, April 13, please come out to Harvest Park, 3001 Violet St., Needville, TX 77461 . Registration is at 8:30 a.m. and the walk begins at 9:00 a.m. It is a short, easy walk.

Besides your feet, you may also bring your wallet. Funds raised benefit Helping Hands, Needville Food Pantry and hunger projects around the world through Church World Service. Together, we can help end hunger in our community and around the world! You may donate even if you can’t make it on Saturday. Please donate online here.

Over the last 37 years St. John’s United Church of Christ has consistently been among the top fundraisers. This year let’s also be among the largest walking groups! In recent years we had extra support from Boy Scout Troop 309. This year Physical Therapy in Richmond has again pledged to bring additional walkers. Join our team and give hunger no chance!

Rev. Daniel Haas resigns as pastor of St. John’s UCC

Today, March 18th, 2019 the Church Council of St. John’s United Church of Christ received the following letter:

Dear brothers and sisters,

I hereby give 90 days’ notice of my resignation as pastor of St. John’s United Church of Christ according to our call agreement. My last day will be Sunday, June 16, 2019.

Over the past five years I have attempted to work with the people of St. John’s to turn things around for this shrinking church. I am grateful for the opportunity to build profound pastoral relationships, start new and end old ministries. Going forward it is my assessment that St. John’s needs a person with a different skill set who can challenge you in different ways. This congregation deserves another chance to chart a new path into a new future and over the past five years we have laid some groundwork for that. I am not the leader you need in this season of church life. St. John’s still has a few years of financial viability left and you should make the best use of this window of opportunity.

The South Central Conference of the United Church of Christ will assist you with the search and call process. Please rely on our siblings in the Houston Association in this time of transition. I plan to stay local and pursue ministry in specialized settings.

May God bless you on this journey.

Rev. Daniel Haas

More Than We Can Imagine – One Great Hour of Sharing 2019

IMAGINATION
It may seem a weak word when compared with all the need that we see daily in the world. We hear the word “imagination” and we may think to ourselves “fantasy.” We hear the word “imagination” and we wonder if it is truly helpful in a world where some would say, “clear-eyed realism is what is needed to face the challenges before us.”

IMAGINATION
Yet far from being a light, weak, or un-real thing, imagination is actually one of the most powerful engines for change that human beings have! Long ago, the philosopher Aristotle said that “Thinking itself begins in wonder, begins in imagination,” and he was right. Imagination, particularly when it is fueled by a vision of God’s hopes for all humankind, can keep us energized to do the good that is possible.

IMAGINATION
The theme for the 2019 One Great Hour of Sharing Special Offering is “More than we can imagine!” The theme, based on Ephesians 3:20, reminds us that we are not alone in our imagining a better world for all of God’s children. For it is God’s imagination that fuels and empowers ours! You see, God imagines a world where:

  • No one is left to face the ravages of natural disaster alone – neighbor helps neighbor, stranger helps stranger – for we are the church together
  • Even if things will never quite be the same after a disaster, God can work through all events to bring new life, new hope, and even more resilience
  • Clean and abundant water and ample sanitation facilities are available to every person;
  • Work brings security from hunger and the land is treated with respect
  • Families displaced from their homes are able to build new lives
  • Women are no longer subject to discrimination and gender-based violence
And God also imagines Christians of many traditions, coming together to help make these things ever more a reality for more and more people! For you see, our imagination of what might be is founded and grounded in what God envisions and hopes for. We can help – through our gifts of treasure and talent, prayer, and presence to make this world ever more like the way God imagine it would be!

On Sunday, March 31, 2019, please, give generously to the One Great Hour of Sharing special offering, so that your imagination might indeed be ever more joined with God’s!

An Open Letter to the United Methodist Church

The United Church of Christ, an Open and Affirming Communion of the Body of Christ, practices a belief in both a still-speaking God and an extravagant welcome. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, through the faithful renderings of our sacred texts, and standing in a long line of reformers who have come before us we proclaim with great fervor that no matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome.

We hold in prayer those whose past wounds have been reopened by the recent debates of the governing body gathered in St. Louis. The Body of Christ has, throughout its long history, not always been kind and loving to those who live outside its established norms and conformities. We confess to our own history and complicity with racism, misogyny, transphobia, and homophobia. Our hope is that we can and will continue to struggle with our closed hearts and minds as we seek to live more fully into the vision of God’s shalom for all.

We hold in prayer the entire Body of Christ around the world. It is living through a time of division and separation as it struggles to wrestle with what have become irreconcilable differences. There are countless wounded on all sides of these divisions, and as a uniting communion called to find the common ground in support of a hoped for vision of unity within diversity we suffer alongside our United Methodist kindred who today feel the deep pain of a new brokenness.

Know that we stand ready to serve all who are in need of healing and all who seek simply to know the power of the risen Christ fully articulated in the expression of a love that knows no bounds.

We understand that it is with great sadness and a good deal of grief that many will have been left to feel unwelcome in a spiritual home that gave you hope, sustenance, and nurturance. Many of us have felt the sting of that same rejection – and know full well the grief that attaches to it.

We hold the entire United Methodist Church in prayer as it seeks to heal and to express its faith in light of their understandings of scripture and the gospel.

In solidarity with all who call on Jesus, we remain humbly servants of the gospel in search of a more full articulation of love,

Faithfully,

The Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer 
General Minister and President

The Rev. Traci Blackmon
Associate General Minister of Justice and Local Church Ministries

The Rev. James Moos Associate
General Minister of Global Engagement and Operations

Andrew Lang
Executive Director Open and Affirming Coalition of United Church of Christ

Bible Study Series: Aging in a meaningful way

The United Church of Christ, in terms of age of congregants, is now the “oldest” mainline denomination in the United States and today’s older adults deserve—and expect—more than the traditional church fare of potlucks and slide shows. The curriculum “Age-Friendly Congregations”, produced by the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries, helps churches strengthen ministry to their older members while benefiting the entire congregation.

Over the next three months, the Rev. Daniel Haas will offer a series of thoughtful Bible studies. Author the Rev. Beth Long-Higgins uses chapters from Ephesians, Ruth, and Romans to introduce readers to the experience of aging in the 21st century. The intent, she says, is “to stimulate conversations in congregations about aging – both the challenges and opportunities that members face as they live longer, and the opportunities for ministry with those who are aging in the wider community.”

“Faith formation is a lifelong process,” says the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, co-editor of the resource and one of its authors. “This curriculum takes seriously the belief that persons of all ages and stages of life experience and crave spiritual, emotional and intellectual growth. Ministry to people of diverse ages requires an openness to new attitudes and insights about aging. Please join Rev. Daniel Haas during Celebration of Joy on March 3, April 7, and May 5.