Economic Justice



Faith Works Bulletin for November, 2014

If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.  –Australian Aboriginal Activists’ Group

Black Friday Action Planned

Faith UCC, with Council’s approval and under the leadership of Faith Works, is organizing a Black Friday action at the Walmart Supercenter at 919 Highway 1 West. Members and friends of Faith UCC have been encouraged to sign a letter to the store manager asking that Walmart workers be treated with dignity and respect when they ask to be paid a living wage. The Black Friday action will include an attempt to deliver this letter to the store manager. Faith Works has invited collaboration from other interfaith, labor and community organizations. A planning meeting will be held at Faith on Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. 

Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa (CWJ) Update:

CWJ is Two! CWJ’s celebrated its second birthday with an open house on Sat. Nov. 8. 

Wage-Theft Action:

 On November 18 CWJ workers and allies took action by joining workers from the RockTenn factory to demand a stop to wage theft and fair treatment. The action included a press conference, at which CWJ announced their most recent victory, where Kossiwa, a former Outback Steakhouse worker, finally received her over $2,200 in wages from the Outback!  Senator Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City spoke at the news conference, calling wage theft "Iowa's No. 1 crime," resulting in $600 million each year that is stolen from workers. Here are links to a Press Citizen article about the event: http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/local/2014/11/18/center-file-complaint-ic-employer/19222135/
And to a KCRG news broadcast: http://www.kcrg.com/subject/news/business/organization-to-file-wage-theft-complaint-against-iowa-city-factory-20141118
CWJ Needs Funding!
In 2014 Faith UCC paid its annual affiliate dues of $250 plus an additional $50 donation to CWJ. Nevertheless, CWJ needs financial help. 

Please consider becoming an individual donor on a one-time or sustaining basis. A gift of $5 per month would help provide a dependable income for CWJ. See CWJ’s website: http://www.cwjiowa.org/donate/.

Donate unwanted household objects to CWJ’s accounts at either Kidworks at the corner of South Gilbert and Stevens Drive, Iowa City (CWJ Kidworks Account # 3451) or Houseworks at 111 Stevens Drive, Iowa City (CWJ Houseworks Account #03390).

Donate lightly used CLOTHING to Second Act, 538 Olympic Court, Iowa City. Tell them you are donating for the Center for Worker Justice.

Since Faith UCC is an Ally of CWJ, please do check out CWJ’s website for current developments: 

Forty People Attended the Soup Supper Reading on October 30!

This was probably our highest attendance yet, after many years of soup supper readings! Congratulations and thanks to Chuck Hauck for organizing the event and inviting Chuck Miller to be our featured reader, and thanks to all who helped make the evening a culturally diverse success!.

HACAP’s Greg Goodell’s Spoke on November 9, 2014:

Greg Goodell, Director of the HACAP Food Reservoir, spoke with us about systemic issues surrounding hunger or food insecurity.Mike Neville moderated the discussion during Adult Education hour.Greg thanked Faith UCC for participating in HACAP’s food backpack program and for partnering with Headstart, a HACAP agency, and stressed that where hunger is concerned, “Anything helps,” including an awareness of hunger by Faith UCC.
HACAP Food Reservoir is a member of Feeding America, a nationwide organization that networks local food pantries : http://www.feedingamerica.org/

Feeding America recently completed “Hunger in America 2014,” the largest hunger research project ever done: http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/our-research/the-hunger-study/key-findings.html 
The study shows that One in Seven Americans turns to the Feeding America network of 200 food banks and 58,00 feeding programs for food assistance. Greg said that 62% of these feeding programs are faith-based, a testimony to the power of faith-based organizing. 
In 2014 Feeding America’s networks are assisting 45.5 million people in the U.S. including 12 million children and 7 million seniors. Feeding America’s website “Map the Meal Gap” http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/our-research/map-the-meal-gap/ demonstrates graphically where these people live.
Greg defined food insecurity as “not knowing where your next meal is coming from,” and pointed out that food insecurity coexists with wealth all over the U.S. 
Fifty percent of food pantry clients nationally are working poor.
The Hawkeye Area Community Action Program (HACAP) includes not only the Food Reservoir but also social services for veterans, children, the homeless, and a program to teach energy conservation. HACAP serves a seven-county area.
Forty % of HACAP clients are veterans, the highest percentage ever. Greg said, “We do a great job of creating veterans. We need to do a better job of serving them.”
The HACAP Family Stability Initiative is a new name for the children and families involved in the food backpack program. Families are asked what other bundled services they would like to use. Goodell stressed that clients need love, guidance and education to adapt to more healthy lifestyles, including education about nutrition, energy conservation, and money management.
Mike asked who are the donors to HACAP’S  Food Reservoir.
Goodell replied that donors include corporations, groups and individuals. Ninety-five percent of the Food Reservoir is donor-driven, not Federal dollars. Small groups comprise more of the donor-base than corporations do. Food drives help, and money donations help. HACAP  can leverage a donation of $1 into $12.
As for solutions to food insecurity, Goodell suggested:
Food drives
Financial donations
Investing in a backpack program such as HACAP’S, but then supplementing and augmenting it with donated food, such as fresh fruit (apples and oranges).
Some corporations donate food. HACAP has a good relationship with General Mills, Quaker Oats and Ralston Purina. Corporations do receive a tax benefit.
In addition to donations, 3 % of HACAP’s Food Reservoir budget is used to purchase food.
Mike asked what consideration is given to nutrition. 
Goodell said HACAP’s food backpack program has an annual budget of $300,000 and spends $25,000 every three weeks. They strive to get nutritious food for the best price.
They also partner with the School Lunch Program, trying to provide each backpack child with 1,000 – 1,200 calories each weekend.
Because families don’t always know how to provide nutritious meals, dietitians will visit homes, go through kitchen cupboards and give nutrition advice.
The recent trend in HACAP backpack foods has been towards kid-friendly packaging of foods that require no preparation, since families may not have the means to prepare food.There are 65 schools in HACAP’s food backpack program. The Iowa City Free Lunch Program is a partner agency, as is the Crisis Center, which takes 12 pallets of food from the Food Reservoir each Monday. The Food Reservoir has about 97 partner agencies.

Mike asked what brings people to HACAP for help.
Goodell’s answer: the working poor.
Bob Loffer commented that this is another example of a livable wage being a critical systemic solution to poverty.
Mike asked, What more can Faith UCC do?
Goodell answered: Use your building. Offer a nutrition class to backpack families. Offer to read to Headstart children and teach them to read. Volunteers will of course need to pass background checks.
People thanked Greg Goodell for his passionate commitment to his work.
Bob closed the discussion by reflecting that he himself has learned a lot about economic justice issues in the past two years.
Apparently we all have!

-Ann Zerkel for Faith Works

Summary of Faith Works Meeting on Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 7 pm

Next Meeting: Thursday, Dec. 11. Marilyn offered to give opening words or prayer.
Center for Worker Justice update:
CWJ needs funding. We can help by becoming individual donors on a one-time or sustaining basis. See CWJ’s website: http://www.cwjiowa.org/donate/.
We can also donate  our unwanted household objects to CWJ’s accounts at either Kidworks (CWJ Kidworks Account # 3451) or Houseworks (CWJ Houseworks Account #03390) or donating lightly used CLOTHING to Second Act, 538 Olympic Court, Iowa City. Tell them you are donating for the Center for Worker Justice.
Plans for Nov. 23 Follow-up Discussion of Greg Goodell’s Presentation
Mike offered to lead the conversation. Ann will take notes and write a summary.
Discussion Questions, Issues:
Definition of food insecurity
Note interesting statistics. Example: 50% of food pantry clients are working poor.
We’re already doing some of the things Greg recommended. 
Let’s talk about supplementing our food backpacks.
For Christmas break we’re donating 40 jars of peanut  butter plus boxes of macaroni and cheese to the backpacks.
Mike: Whatever we do (every ministry we undertake), it all comes back to helping bring food into people’s lives. As Goodell said, “Anything helps.”
We agreed not to pursue the issue of HACAP’s food donors at this time.

Future possibilities:

Invite Alison Demery, ICUSD dietitian, to speak at Faith about nutrition issues among food insecure families.

Saturday Ethnic dinners, prepared and served at Faith UCC by and for Mark Twain families and Faith UCC volunteers, who would be learning to prepare ethnic dishes from Mark Twain families. Perhaps also invite CWJ families to participate.

Coalition with First Baptist, Iowa City Mennonite and other small churches to offer nutrition classes.

Discussion of Mary Bontrager Follow-up Session on Oct. 26:

We agreed that we are not interested in inviting an elected member of the Iowa City School Board to speak with us at this time. 

Ann will ask CWJ whether they are working to bring about a minimum wage, and if so, ask to work with them.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County will discuss affordable housing at their meeting on Wednesday, November 19 at 4 pm in the Johnson County Building.
Marilyn called our attention to the Project Now – Housing First! Initiative, a pilot project born of the Johnson County Local Homeless Coordinating Board (LHCB). The pilot project focuses on chronically homeless persons who use a lot of services at great expense with few positive results. The project will provide permanent housing and one-on-one case management to “frequent users” with the most complex needs. The Project Now – Housing First! Initiative has been “successfully implemented in other municipalities across the country,” according to Nancy Bird, guest opinion writer for the Press Citizen, “and is winning national recognition as a ‘best practice.’ “ Bird recommends that we can support the local Housing First! Initiative by:
Visiting the Corporation of Supportive Housing (CSH) website and getting informed: http://www.csh.org/
Explaining the model to others.
Advocating for it with our public officials.
Visiting ‘johnsoncountyLHCB” on Facebook.

Marilyn will contact Mark Twain Elementary School to inquire about our visiting or participating in English Conversation Night.

Ann Zerkel for Faith Works
(Marilyn Calkins, David Gebhard, Chuck Hauck, Bob Loffer, Julianne Pirtle, Ann Zerkel)




Faith Works Bulletin for October, 2014

If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.  –Australian Aboriginal Activists’ Group


Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa (CWJ) Update:

As part of a panel at the recent Economic Justice League Conference in Cleveland, Ann Zerkel spoke briefly about Faith UCC’s relationship with CWJ, emphasizing how both groups have begun to benefit and learn from this partnership. Ann was followed by Kim Bobo, founder and Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ), a national organization that helps smaller worker justice centers network together. Our CWJ is an affiliate of IWJ.
Marilyn Calkins attended the October CWJ Allies Meeting on October 3 and told the Allies and Worker Members that Ann was representing them to the UCC in Cleveland. They were pleased at this opportunity to have their concerns and accomplishments heard by our wider church.
Meanwhile, CWJ has organized a FREE Citizenship Clinic for green-card holders, in collaboration with UFCW, Teamsters Local 238, IC Compassion and the University of Iowa.

CWJ’s Second Birthday Potluck Celebration, Sat. Nov. 8, 2-6 pm:
Childrens’ games, great stories and a chance to meet delightful members and allies! Come celebrate two years of working together for a better world with CWJ.

Next Allies Meeting: Friday, December 5 from Noon–1 pm at CWJ, 940 S Gilbert Ct.
Since Faith UCC is an Ally of CWJ, please do check out CWJ’s website for current developments: http://www.cwjiowa.org/home/




Economic Justice League formed in Cleveland!
As chairperson of Faith Works I was honored to represent Faith, one of five Covenanted Economic Justice Congregations in the UCC, at an Economic Justice planning session at Church House in Cleveland on October 9-12. Thirty diverse participants, clergy and lay, worshipped, laughed, prayed and discerned strategies for extending the vision of Economic Justice beyond our own congregations. I’ll be sharing ideas from the planning session and from the ongoing efforts of the group in the months ahead. For now, here are the vision, mission and call statements of the group, now calling itself the Economic Justice League:

Our Vision 
We envision a just, sustainable and resilient economy dedicated to the common good and to building the beloved community where the work of every person is valued and all share equitably in the abundance of God’s creation.
Our Mission   

To strengthen the movement for economic justice by proclaiming our vision, partnering with allies, and furthering the work of our churches and communities.

Our Call

On October 9-12, 2014, 30 people gathered in the Church House, Cleveland, OH for the Economic Justice Leadership Event. We came representing multiple settings of the UCC -- including lay leaders, clergy, conference representatives, young adults, seminarians, historically underrepresented groups and others – to worship, learn, plan and discern a response to the suffering faced by so many in a world that we know is so blessed by God’s abundance. From this time together, we issue the following Call to join us in this ministry for economic justice. 
We are grieved by the economic hardships and systemic injustices that harm so many of our sisters and brothers in the U.S. and around the world and deny them the fullness of life that is God’s intention for all people.
We hear the call to work for a just economic system that provides the opportunity for everyone to thrive and live with security and dignity.
We envision a just, sustainable and resilient economy dedicated to the common good and to building the beloved community where the work of every person is valued and all share equitably in the abundance of God’s creation.
We commit ourselves to strengthening the movement for economic justice by proclaiming our vision, partnering with allies, and furthering the work of our churches and communities.
 Here is a link to the UCC News story about the conference:
http://www.ucc.org/news/economic-justice-leadership-10142014.html?utm_source=kyp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=kyp102114
Ann Zerkel for Faith Works


Greg Goodell of HACAP Food Reservoir leading Adult Ed discussion on Nov. 9:
Don’t miss this chance to learn about the food we distribute to Mark Twain: where it comes from; who pays for it; how specific foods are chosen; nutrition issues and any questions you’ve been wondering about! We’ll also talk about the systemic issues that affect food insecurity in our area.


FOLLOW-UP Discussion of issues raised by Mary Bontrager on Sept. 21:
(For your reference, Chuck Hauck’s summary of Mary Bontrager’s remarks appears in the September Faith Works Bulletin: http://faithchurchiowacity.blogspot.com/p/economic-justice.html )
Chuck Hauck led a lively, enthusiastic discussion of issues raised by Mark Twain Elementary School Principal Mary Bontrager on September 21. Pastor Bob Loffer raised the problem of making school district boundaries better represent the Iowa City community, especially considering that 87% of Mark Twain School students qualify for free or assisted lunch, the highest percentage in the city. Uncertainty and some anxiety were expressed about how the population and well-being of  Mark Twain Elementary may change when a new elementary school is built south of town near the soccer fields. Likewise, the building of a new high school on North Dubuque Street near North Liberty may impact school enrollments.
Pursuing the issue of inequity, Bob asked why low-income families settle in the same area of the city. A number of participants called out in unison: HOUSING!
From there the discussion began to focus on interrelated issues of affordable housing, jobs, a minimum wage and a living wage, wage-theft, and education – including English Language Learner (ELL) classes such as the one offered by Church of the Nazarene.
Marilyn Calkins pointed out that Economic Development groups are discouraged from bringing jobs to Iowa City when the workers whose skill-level they seek are workers who can’t find affordable housing.
Together the group suggested that Faith UCC, perhaps under the guidance of Faith Works, take the following actions:
Invite a member of the Iowa City School Board to speak to us about equity issues at another Adult Education session. First, determine how school board members are elected and then select and invite the right person. Presumably, this step will lead to our attendance at future School Board meetings, making our voices heard.
Identify coalitions already working to bring about a Minimum Wage, whether in Iowa City or in the State of Iowa, and consider joining them.
Contact the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County to learn about local economic development issues.
Identify coalitions already working to bring more affordable housing to Johnson County, and consider joining them.
Inquire about visiting or participating in the English Conversation night at Mark Twain..
The discussion turned again to Mark Twain Elementary, specifically to ways we might show support for the approximately 70 faculty and staff members who are working with 408 children this year compared to 211 last year. Hand sanitizers have been requested and already provided by Gordon and Deb Borgstahl.
It was suggested that we begin making regular deliveries (Monthly?) of homemade cookies and/or cupcakes for the staff lounge, and consider making individual Christmas bags of treats accompanied by a personal note for each faculty and staff member.
Ann Zerkel for Faith Works

Summary of Faith Works Meeting on Thursday, October 9, 2014 at 7 pm
Mary Bontrager Visit--  We reviewed the September visit of Mary Bontrager, Principal at Mark Twain Elementary,  who spoke about the systemic issues faced by students and their families.   We agreed that it was a very stimulating and informative presentation.  

October 26th Adult Ed session:   We discussed plans for this session, during which we will follow up to talk about some of the points Mary made, and discuss potential action steps we can take as a congregation.   To prepare for this, Mike suggested we send to the membership the summary of Mary’s visit, asking what elements of the presentation stood out, in particular, and inviting folks to come to the session to discuss further.  We agreed to do so, and Chuck will follow up on this. 
Chuck agreed to lead the discussion on October 26th.   We will need a notetaker—possibly Ann or Bob?
We discussed some of the following issues, in particular, that arose from Mary’s talk:
1.      Food insecurity—how prevalent is it and what additional steps can be taken?
2.     Language issues—Mary mentioned they are getting children from families in Africa in addition to those from Spanish-speaking countries.   What are the language issues?   Marilyn will follow up to determine how they are using interpreters and what the needs are.
3.     Nutrition—we discussed the fact that free food isn’t always the most nutritious food. Julianne noted that cheap food can be unhealthy.  Are there things that can be done to supplement with more nutritious food?   Should we invite a school nutritionist to talk about related issues?
4.     Housing—what issues are there related to affordable housing in our community and how are the families affected by such issue?  What can we do about these issues?  Marilyn noted this is an ongoing problem and that developers should be given an incentive to build affordable housing.   Also, it should be interspersed throughout the community.
5.     Employment—what are the issues related to jobs that pay a living wage in the community?  What can we do to help?

Nov. 9th HACAP Visit:   Greg Goodell from HACAP will be visiting during Adult Ed on Nov. 9th.  Mike will follow up to confirm and provide a summary of the issues in which we are interested. We are interested in what their purview is, in particular, as well as whom they serve.

Economic Justice Leadership Event (EJLE):   All were pleased at the honor Ann received in being invited to the EJLE event in Cleveland.  We agreed to ask Ann if she would speak about the event at an Adult Ed session.  Chuck will follow up.

Oct. 30th Reading/Soup Supper:    Flyers have been distributed—in church boxes, and Chuck gave a number of them to Chuck Miller to distribute.   Chuck will follow up with Debbie to get the electronic copy sent to members of the committee.   We will post in the relevant locations.  We discussed food items to bring, as follows (list may not be all-inclusive):  Mike: soup, juice; Julianne: soup, cheese; Marilyn: soup, bread; Ann/David: soup, bread;  Chuck: cheese, juice/milk.
Chuck Hauck for Faith Works
Members: Marilyn Calkins, David Gebhard, Chuck Hauck, Bob Loffer, Mike Neville, Julianne Pirtle and Ann Zerkel



Faith Works Bulletin for September, 2014

If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.  –Australian Aboriginal Activists’ Group

Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa (CWJ) Update:

On September 11, 2014, worker members of CWJ led a public forum on wage theft at the Iowa City Public Library. The workers, most of them English Language Learners, stepped to the microphone to tell their personal experiences of wage theft, which is rampant in Iowa, especially among immigrants. CWJ ally volunteers have helped members to recover more than $2000 in lost wages in 2014 alone.

Next CWJ Allies Meeting on Friday, October 3 from Noon–1 pm at CWJ, 940 S Gilbert Ct.

We are a welcoming, diverse group of worker members and allies from church, university and labor backgrounds. Please consider joining us for a stimulating, funny, productive meeting!

ECONOMIC JUSTICE Rally Day with Mary Bontrager, Sept. 21, 2014:

Mary Bontrager, Principal of Mark Twain Elementary School, presented  an Adult Education session at Faith UCC on Sunday, September 21st.   Bontrager was very complimentary of Faith’s efforts on behalf of the school.   “Thanks so much for all you do for our school—from the school supplies distribution, to the food packs, and the other things you do for us, we are just incredibly grateful to this church,” she said.   “You really ‘walk the walk’.”

Bontrager reported that enrollment at Twain is overflowing with 408 children this year (compared with 211 last year).   Newly constructed classrooms have helped with the overflow.   120 of the 408 students are ELL Learners (where English is the second language).    A high percentage are reduced-or-free lunch qualified students.
The overall enrollment is expected to drop next year when some students will be reassigned to a new elementary school south of town near the soccer fields.   Bontrager noted that Twain will then be reduced to about 200 students. 

Food insecurity affects a significant number of students at Twain.  Consequently, the school serves free breakfast to all of its students that want it, Bontrager said.   Additionally, students are provided with fresh fruit as a daily snack, and bread and a food backpack every Friday.

“High poverty students can come in on edge and stressed if they don’t have food on the weekends,” she said.  “Getting food to them helps them over the weekend and they come in better prepared on Mondays.”    Additionally, the school also provides books and magazines to families, who may not have sufficient reading resources at home. 

Bontrager noted recent increased numbers of African refugees from Sudan, Congo and Zambia, as well as a growing number of Hispanic students.  They are coming here because they have heard that Iowa City is a safe place to raise their families and has a good school system. 

Challenges faced at Twain include a high turnover of students.   Bontrager noted that in this last year’s graduating class of 36 students, just nine students had started at Twain.   Other challenges include meeting the government standards for test assessment.  The school seems to be doing well in this regard, but the high number of ELL Learners makes this a challenge.   Staff turnover at Twain is not an issue, with a very committed staff, she said.  

Bontrager confirmed that jobs, affordable housing and English language skills are all systemic issues faced by many of the families of Twain students.   She noted that 99% of parents want something better for their children, but many of them work at very low wage jobs and the families live from paycheck to paycheck.

She was appreciative of all of the many things Faith is currently doing the school and is open to additional ways the church might support the school.   More systemically, efforts to encourage access of these families to good jobs, as well as access to  low income housing spread throughout the community (rather than in one location) were mentioned as highly desirable. 

Chuck Hauck for Faith Works

Sunday, October 26: Follow-up Adult Education Conversation about Issues Raised By Mary Bontrager

Summary of Faith Works Meeting on Thursday, September 4, 2014 at 7 pm

Announcements:

CWJ Public Forum on Wage Theft, 6 pm Thurs Sept 11, IC Public Library Room A
CWJ Allies Meeting on Friday, October 3 at noon – 1 at CWJ, 940 S. Gilbert Court

Rally Day, Final Preparations:
Review questions for Mary Bontrager (from August meeting):
Theme question: What are some of the systemic issues that affect students and families at Mark Twain Elementary School?

Specific Questions:
Has Mary seen changes in the demographics of Mark Twain students?
What are the demographic factors at work? Where are students’ families coming from, and why? Why is there an influx of people moving to Iowa City?
What else has changed since Mary last visited Faith?
What can be done by a small group like Faith UCC to influence those big systemic issues of hunger and homelessness?

October Faith Works meeting on October 9:

Chuck Hauck offered to prepare an agenda and chair this meeting.
The follow-up Adult Ed. Conversation about the issues raised by Mary Bontrager will be held on October 26.

Ann will be in Cleveland for the Economic Justice Leadership Event (EJLE) on Oct. 9-12, and will e-mail a report sometime during the following week.

November Adult Ed. Speaker and Date
:
Bob has invited Greg Goodell of the HACAP Food Reservoir to speak on Nov. 9.

November Adult Ed. Conversation about Greg Goodell’s Issues:  Nov. 23.

No Faith Works Adult Ed. Sundays in December.

Soup Supper and Open Mic Reading with Featured Reader Chuck Miller on Oct. 30:

The event will begin at 5:30 with a free soup supper provided by Faith Works.
The open-mic reading will begin at about 5:45, followed by Chuck Miller’s reading of new poems and poems from his most recent book,  Parsecs to Go. Chuck will bring a variety of his books to sell at modest prices.
A basket will be available for a free-will offering for the IC Free Lunch Program.

Ann Zerkel for Faith Works
Members: Marilyn Calkins, David Gebhard, Chuck Hauck, Bob Loffer, Mike Neville, Julianne Pirtle and Ann Zerkel




Faith Works Bulletin for August, 2014

If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.  –Australian Aboriginal Activists’ Group


RALLY for ECONOMIC JUSTICE ON SEPTEMBER 14!

After worship on Sunday, September 14, Mary Bontrager, Principal of Mark Twain School, will share her insights into the systemic issues behind the programs that are in place for our student partners. We hope to ask Mary questions about the changing demographics in Iowa City and especially at Mark Twain. We’d like to know how student and family needs have changed since Mary’s last visit. We also want to ask what actions we, a small congregation, can take to influence the systemic issues she has mentioned, especially poverty and homelessness.
With this rallying event we begin the next phase of discernment in our Economic Justice Covenant: Living it! Faith Works plans to take an adult education time during October to discuss what we’ve heard on Rally Day, and what actions we may wish to take.
Plan now to participate in this important start to Faith’s new life as a Covenanted Economic Justice Congregation. MARK YOUR CALENDARS !

UCC Economic Justice Leadership Event in Cleveland, Oct. 9-12

As a representative of Faith UCC, Ann Zerkel has accepted an invitation to attend an Economic Justice Leadership Event, hosted by UCC Justice and Peace Ministries, at Church House in Cleveland in October. The purpose of this event is for thirty participants “from throughout the life of the UCC to strategize about and identify ways to lead the UCC, in all its settings, into enhanced ministries of economic justice. This will be a project of the whole church in accordance with numerous General Synod  resolutions and pronouncements including For the Common Good; Christian Faith, Personal Stewardship and Economic Sharing; Resolution Affirming Democratic Principles in an Emerging Global Economy; and A Faithful Response: Calling for a More Just, Humane Direction for Economic Globalization” (from the Statement of Purpose).
To begin forming cooperative relationships with the Iowa Conference and the Eastern Iowa Association as well as Faith UCC, Ann is expected to raise a $200 registration fee from among these groups. Ann wants to assure the congregation of Faith UCC that she is eager for their ideas, wisdom and advice during the 14 months of her responsibilities, until 2016.


Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa (CWJ) Update

WEBSITE UP! Check out CWJ at http://www.cwjiowa.org/home/

300 Doors in 3 Weeks:

At the August CWJ Allies meeting four young labor leaders told of their experiences spreading the word about Wage Theft among lower-income Johnson County neighborhoods. During 3 weeks in July the four men, three “on loan” from labor unions in other states and one a CWJ intern, knocked on 300 doors to educate workers about their rights, ask them to share their work experience, and to join CWJ as we fight for fair pay. The door-knockers obtained more than 270 signatures witnessing to the experience of wage theft. Their stories were invigorating and sobering. Perhaps the most stirring moment of the meeting occurred when an older labor leader and CWJ Ally praised the men and thanked them, as members of a younger generation of labor leaders, for stepping up at a time when labor leaders are not widely respected.

Victory for Two Young Wage-Theft Victims

(from a recent CWJ e-mail):
Two workers at a temporary agency in an Iowa City factory came to the office of the Center for Worker Justice for help. They were each owed hundreds of dollars in unpaid wages for their hard work on an assembly line, but their manager wasn’t paying them.
Working with CWJ staff and volunteers, the workers reviewed the facts of their case and agreed to send a delegation of allies from churches, unions and community groups to speak with the manager.

It worked. The workers recovered nearly $1000 in wages they were owed, and the employer learned that its workers are no longer alone. CWJ united workers and community allies to stand up for the dignity and basic rights of all workers. “When I asked for the pay I was owed, my boss said, ‘Immigrants like you don’t have the right to a paycheck. Forget about your check.’ But I had worked hard for my wages, so I joined with the Center for Worker Justice and recovered my pay. Don’t be afraid. We have rights and groups like CWJ can help us.” – Factory Worker, Iowa City

Summary of Faith Works Meeting on Thursday, August 7, 2014 at 7 pm

All members present.
David and Ann plan to be away on Rally Day, Sept. 14, and from about Sept. 5 – Oct. 20. They will miss the October Faith Works meeting. We agreed to reschedule the September Faith Works meeting for Sept. 4 so everyone can attend.

UCC Economic Justice Leadership Event (EJLE)

Ann has been invited to be one of 30 national participants in an Economic Justice Leadership Event (EJLE) planned by the Justice and Peace Ministry and Economic Justice Minister Edie Rasell at UCC’s Church House in Cleveland on October 9-12, 2014. She has accepted this opportunity to involve Faith UCC further in Economic Justice opportunities and learning. Her responsibilities for networking and outreach continue until 2016. To establish a relationship with the Iowa Conference and Eastern Iowa Association, as well as with Faith UCC in this new role, she must raise $200 from among these three Iowa settings to defray trip expenses. Congratulations to Faith UCC and to Faith Works for Ann’s inclusion in this exciting new ministry!

Living Our Economic Justice Covenant

As was decided last month, this year we will focus on our partnerships with Mark Twain School, with HACAP and Headstart, and with the Center for Worker Justice. We’ve realized the wisdom of listening to guest speakers to help determine our direction by educating us. We plan to follow a pattern of presenting a speaker one month, then discussing what we have heard the following month.
Rally Day, September 14

On Rally Day Bob Loffer has offered to moderate the discussion with Mary Bontrager, Principal of Mark Twain School, and the congregation. Chuck Hauck has offered to serve as recorder.
Bob has asked Mary to talk about systemic issues of hunger and homelessness that affect Mark Twain students.
Specific questions we hope to raise:
Has Mary seen changes in the demographics of Mark Twain students?
What are the demographic factors at work? Where are students’ families coming from, and why? Why is there an influx of people moving to Iowa City?
What else has changed since Mary last visited Faith?
What can be done by a small group like Faith UCC to influence those big systemic issues of hunger and homelessness?

After worship on a Sunday in October we will discuss the issues Mary Bontrager has raised for us and the actions we may wish to take.
In November we will invite either Christie Regan of Headstart or Greg Goodell of the HACAP Food Reservoir.
Marilyn Calkins suggests that at some future time we consider offering the UCC program “One Read,” a book study of illiteracy and poverty using the book Hot Dogs and Hamburgers by Rob Shindler, perhaps during the Spring of 2015.
Ann Zerkel for Faith Works
Members: Marilyn Calkins, David Gebhard, Chuck Hauck, Bob Loffer, Mike Neville, Julianne Pirtle and Ann Zerkel

Faith Works Bulletin for July, 2014

If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.  –Australian Aboriginal Activists’ Group

RALLY for ECONOMIC JUSTICE ON SEPTEMBER 14!

As we begin to live together the vision of our Economic Justice Covenant, let’s gather for Rally Day after worship on Sunday, September 14 to celebrate our shared decision to make this Covenant and to talk together about how to proceed.

Faith Works suggests that we focus first on our ministry to our friends and neighbors at Mark Twain School, including our food packs from HACAP, and try to identify some systemic causes of need among Twain families and some specific action we as a congregation might take to reduce that level of need.

Mary Bontrager, Principal of Mark Twain School, will once again be present, this time to share her insights into the systemic issues behind the programs that are in place for our student partners.

PLEASE JOIN US!


Chuck Hauck and Ann Zerkel for Faith Works  












is
An Economic Justice Congregation!

Faith Works Bulletin for June, 2014

If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.  –Australian Aboriginal Activists’ Group

Economic Justice Covenant Adopted Unanimously on June 1, 2014

Faith UCC Economic Justice Covenant
Jesus proclaimed his ministry in the temple by reading from Isaiah: “The Spirit of God is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of God’s favor.” Luke 4: 18-19. The 2009 United Church of Christ Economic Justice Covenant reminds us that “The Holy Scriptures, from the Pentateuch through the Prophets, and from Jesus to St. Paul impress upon the people of God’s Covenant that they are responsible to God for the well being of the last and the least in the human community.

Christians are called to do. To be a Christian is to be a part of creation that necessitates the extension of God's embrace. Embracing is doing: it is the acceptance of and the extension of the ongoing resurrection; it is the acceptance of the ongoing crucifixion. In enacting an Economic Justice Covenant, we are following Faith United Church of Christ’s Statement of Purpose by acknowledging  “God’s presence in the human affairs of today, as God has been involved throughout history...We, as Christians, accept this calling to carry out the vision of Jesus Christ for our age.”

Although God has provided the world with abundance, poverty and want persist. In the past, Faith United Church of Christ has striven to build a more inclusive world in its Open and Affirming Covenant, and has addressed economic inequality in its work toward equitable consumption practices and in the many acts of mercy it pursues. 

Therefore, in keeping with Jesus’ proclamation of his ministry, the constant summoning of the scriptures and Faith United Church of Christ’s own history, we, the congregation of Faith United Church of Christ of Iowa City do hereby enter into covenant with each other and with the world at large, to strive toward a more equitable distribution of God’s abundance in the world.

Therefore, be it resolved by the congregation of Faith United Church of Christ that we will:

  • 1.     Create an ongoing program to discern the means of redressing the inequitable distribution of God’s abundance in our congregation, our community, our nation, and our world.
  • 2.     Act upon the revelations found in that discernment on a personal, congregational, local, national and global scale.
  • 3.     Pledge to continue our current acts of mercy, regularly evaluating their role in altering the current distribution of abundance and altering our actions to fit the altering needs.
  • 4.     Maintain this covenant as a living document by attaching an ongoing list of our evolving acts of mercy accompanied by an explanation of the needs that make those acts of mercy necessary so that all may share in God’s abundance
  • . Further, we the congregation charge the Council of Faith United Church of Christ to regularly update this list, or to empower a designated body of its choosing to do so, in a manner it deems appropriate, making those changes known to the congregation in a timely and well- documented fashion. 


Faith’s Church Council Approves Faith Works Proposal
At its June 25 meeting, the Council approved a proposal from Faith Works requesting that the Council designate Faith Works as the committee to begin implementing the actions called for in Faith UCC’s Economic Justice Covenant. Faith Works proposes to develop a program of continuing education and action on issues of economic injustice, stressing the reasons WHY each issue of economic injustice exists and trying to find an action the congregation can get behind to address these systemic causes of inequality.   

Faith Works will introduce this program of continuing education and action on September 14, 2014, as a Rally Day event. On that day Faith Works will lead a Congregational Conversation on Faith’s existing social ministries, stressing the need (systemic cause) for each ministry and discussing any actions we might take to change or relieve those needs.

The term “Faith Works” refers to past members of the committee (Marilyn Calkins, David Gebhard, Chuck Hauck, Bob Loffer, Mike Neville, Julianne Pirtle, Ann Zerkel) and any new member or friend of the Faith UCC Congregation who wishes to join them. The committee meets at the church on the second Thursday of each month from 7-8:30 pm.



Faith Works Bulletin for May, 2014
If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.  –Australian Aboriginal Activists’ Group


Congregational Conversation and Meeting to Approve Covenant for Economic Justice
this Sunday, June 1 after Worship!
Faith Works has written a third and final revision of a draft of an Economic Justice Covenant. This draft was presented to the Faith Church Council in April, and appears on the Faith Church Website as part of the April Faith Works Bulletin: http://faithchurchiowacity.blogspot.com/p/economic-justice.html
It was also included in the May newsletter and in the Council’s announcement of a Congregational Meeting this Sunday, June 1, to vote on whether to approve the Covenant and become a Covenanted Economic Justice Congregation.
Please be present to participate in this exciting decision, or send the Viewpoint Communication Form that was included in your announcement of the Congregational Meeting. In the words of many of you who participated in past Congregational Conversations, this Covenant  will energize us and help us to focus our ministry even further. It will gradually alter our consciousness about economic justice issues and make us more deliberate in our choices. It is a way to say to the wider community: “this is who we are.” If we agree to become a Covenanted Economic Justice Congregation, we will be the fourth UCC congregation in the United States to do so.
Faith UCC Economic Justice Covenant: THIRD Draft
Jesus proclaimed his ministry in the temple by reading from Isaiah: “The Spirit of God is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of God’s favor.” Luke 4: 18-19. The 2009 United Church of Christ Economic Justice Covenant reminds us that “The Holy Scriptures, from the Pentateuch through the Prophets, and from Jesus to St. Paul impress upon the people of God’s Covenant that they are responsible to God for the well being of the last and the least in the human community.
Christians are called to do. To be a Christian is to be a part of creation that necessitates the extension of God's embrace. Embracing is doing: it is the acceptance of and the extension of the ongoing resurrection; it is the acceptance of the ongoing crucifixion. In enacting an Economic Justice Covenant, we are following Faith United Church of Christ’s Statement of Purpose by acknowledging  “God’s presence in the human affairs of today, as God has been involved throughout history...We, as Christians, accept this calling to carry out the vision of Jesus Christ for our age.”
Although God has provided the world with abundance, poverty and want persist. In the past, Faith United Church of Christ has striven to build a more inclusive world in its Open and Affirming Covenant, and has addressed economic inequality in its work toward equitable consumption practices and in the many acts of mercy it pursues. Therefore, in keeping with Jesus’ proclamation of his ministry, the constant summoning of the scriptures and Faith United Church of Christ’s own history, we, the congregation of Faith United Church of Christ of Iowa City do hereby enter into covenant with each other and with the world at large, to strive toward a more equitable distribution of God’s abundance in the world.
Therefore, be it resolved by the congregation of Faith United Church of Christ that we will:
1.     Create an ongoing program to discern the means of redressing the inequitable distribution of God’s abundance in our congregation, our community, our nation, and our world.
2.     Act upon the revelations found in that discernment on a personal, congregational, local, national and global scale.
3.     Pledge to continue our current acts of mercy, regularly evaluating their role in altering the current distribution of abundance and altering our actions to fit the altering needs.
4.     Maintain this covenant as a living document by attaching an ongoing list of our evolving acts of mercy accompanied by an explanation of the needs that make those acts of mercy necessary so that all may share in God’s abundance. Further, we the congregation charge the Council of Faith United Church of Christ to regularly update this list, or to empower a designated body of its choosing to do so, in a manner it deems appropriate, making those changes known to the congregation in a timely and well documented fashion. 

Center for Worker Justice Update
On May 14, CWJ members and allies led a demonstration at the Outback Steakhouse in Cedar Rapids to protest the fact that a CWJ member is owed more than $2000 in back wages for her work cleaning the Coralville Outback Steakhouse, which is now closed. The Gazette published an insightful article explaining this case and the nature of wage-theft, how it works and why “contractors” like the group hired by Outback get away with it: http://thegazette.com/subject/news/addressing-wage-theft-misclassification-20140525
Here is an economic justice issue being thrown in our laps. Faith UCC is an Ally/Affiliate of CWJ. Please take 5 minutes to check out the article and educate yourself about wage-theft.


Ann Zerkel for Faith Works: Marilyn Calkins, David Gebhard, Chuck Hauck, Bob Loffer, Michael Neville, Julianne Pirtle and Ann Zerkel




Faith Works Bulletin for April, 2014

If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,

then let us work together.  –Australian Aboriginal Activists’ Group


Faith Works Report to the Council of Faith UCC, April 23, 2014:

Summaries of the Two Congregational Conversations
regarding the First Draft of an Economic Justice Covenant,
March 30 and April 6, 2014
and a Request for a Congregation Meeting on June 1, 2014
To Approve the Third Draft
and Become a Covenanted Economic Justice Congregation

We are called into community as ones who stand for life!
We are called into lives of hope. The voice we hear is the
voice of our longing; the cry of our hearts. It is the voice
of a God whose name is Love, a God whose will is justice.
-Pastor Bob Loffer, Call to Worship, November 3, 2013
-         
Encouraged by positive responses made during the two Congregational Conversations  to the substance of the first draft of Faith UCC’s Economic Justice Covenant, the Faith Works writing team reconsidered the language that had been described as problematic in those Conversations and revised it, producing a second draft.

At the April 10 Faith Works meeting we again discussed those issues of language, revised the second draft, and produced our third and final draft of the Economic Justice Covenant, which we are sending as a separate document.

We request that the Council call a Congregational Meeting after worship on June 1, 2014, to approve the Economic Justice Covenant . Immediately before the meeting, we propose to hold a Congregational Conversation during which Faith Works will explain any revisions to the Covenant.

Respectfully submitted by Faith Works:
Marilyn Calkins, David Gebhard, Chuck Hauck, Bob Loffer, Mike Neville, Jullianne Pirtle and Ann Zerkel

Congregational Conversation
March 30, 2014
               Ann Zerkel called us together at 10:50 a.m. and offered a short prayer.  She then referred us to the Social Ministries of Faith UCC as a reminder of the ministry we perform and why we do what we do and how we are held accountable.
            The first draft of the Covenant of Economic Justice for Faith United Church of Christ, Iowa City, IA was then read by the group present.  Following the reading of the first draft Ann asked the group: ”What do you see, what disturbs you, what does it say to you?”
            Responses were:
·        It is general in nature, yet has some clear focus for ministry. 
·        Individuals will all read it differently (which is good).
·        Will make us more conscious of how we think about economic issues.
·        May help individuals and groups raise some economic issues for the congregation.
·        Be more deliberate in our education events regarding economic justice issues.

Point 3 ‘acts of mercy’ is a subtle suggestion as to why we must continue to do ‘acts of mercy’ and how we can help make systemic changes so that those ‘acts’ will no longer be necessary.  There were also some questions and clarifications regarding point 4 regarding the process of ‘empowering and charging’ the Council.
There were several editorial suggestions for changes:
·        Spell out United Church of Christ in all cases, including following “Faith”.
·        Remove the “a” before Christian in the second sentence of the second paragraph.
·        Ann also has noted several other typographical changes that should be made in the final document.

Question: “If you were presented this document a second time as it is essentially in this form, are you ready to vote it up or down?”  Reply was “YES!”
The meeting closed with thanking those in attendance.  Six members of Faith Works and four members of the congregation were in attendance.
Respectfully Submitted,
Bob Loffer, note taker

Congregational Conversation
April 6, 2014

Ann called us together at 11:15 a.m.  We began by sharing the Aboriginal verse.
            Ann referred us to the social ministry list.  She reminded us that the list allows us to be aware of the ministry in which we are engaged and that we take that ministry seriously.  Ann then asked that those present read out loud, in rotation, the first draft of the covenant.  When the reading in rotation was finished Ann asked:   “What do you think?  What do you see?  What makes sense to you?  What don’t you understand?”
            Replies to the questions were:
∙                                   Is it a formalized program?
∙                                   It is a way to say to the wider community ‘this is who we are’.
∙                                   Asks us to look at systemic issues
           
            Further discussion responded by pointing out that while the program may not be “formalized” it would be ‘ongoing’, it would be ‘intentional’ and that it would be study and discussion around the many issues of economic justice.
            Lengthy discussion on the last sentence in the covenant:
“Further, we the congregation empower and charge the Council of Faith United Church of Christ to regularly update this list and its explanations in a manner it deems appropriate, making those changes known to the congregation in a timely and well documented fashion.”
            The concerns expressed were that the Council not be held responsible, but rather the whole congregation.  Perhaps the committee or task force should be assembled to report to the Council and bring to the Council’s attention the issues of economic justice.  Perhaps the sentence that introduces the last four points of the covenant should be repeated as the first sentence of the fourth point.
            The suggestion was made that this issue was raised last week and perhaps Faith Works should look at the wording and alter it to more accurately reflect the meaning.  Ann assured the group that they would do so.
            Suggestion for the covenant to close with these words “We ask God’s blessing that our plans may coincide with God’s will and our efforts may have a positive impact.”
            Ann asked if the group felt a second version of the covenant would enable people to be prepared to vote on adoption.  The feeling was echoed around the room that the substance of the covenant is accepted, but some work was needed on some of the wording.
Respectfully submitted,
Bob Loffer, note taker.

Faith UCC Economic Justice Covenant: THIRD Draft

Jesus proclaimed his ministry in the temple by reading from Isaiah: “The Spirit of God is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of God’s favor.” Luke 4: 18-19. The 2009 United Church of Christ Economic Justice Covenant reminds us that “The Holy Scriptures, from the Pentateuch through the Prophets, and from Jesus to St. Paul impress upon the people of God’s Covenant that they are responsible to God for the well being of the last and the least in the human community.

Christians are called to do. To be a Christian is to be a part of creation that necessitates the extension of God's embrace. Embracing is doing: it is the acceptance of and the extension of the ongoing resurrection; it is the acceptance of the ongoing crucifixion. In enacting an Economic Justice Covenant, we are following Faith United Church of Christ’s Statement of Purpose by acknowledging  “God’s presence in the human affairs of today, as God has been involved throughout history...We, as Christians, accept this calling to carry out the vision of Jesus Christ for our age.”

Although God has provided the world with abundance, poverty and want persist. In the past, Faith United Church of Christ has striven to build a more inclusive world in its Open and Affirming Covenant, and has addressed economic inequality in its work toward equitable consumption practices and in the many acts of mercy it pursues. Therefore, in keeping with Jesus’ proclamation of his ministry, the constant summoning of the scriptures and Faith United Church of Christ’s own history, we, the congregation of Faith United Church of Christ of Iowa City do hereby enter into covenant with each other and with the world at large, to strive toward a more equitable distribution of God’s abundance in the world.

Therefore, be it resolved by the congregation of Faith United Church of Christ that we will:

1.     Create an ongoing program to discern the means of redressing the inequitable distribution of God’s abundance in our congregation, our community, our nation, and our world.
2.     Act upon the revelations found in that discernment on a personal, congregational, local, national and global scale.
3.     Pledge to continue our current acts of mercy, regularly evaluating their role in altering the current distribution of abundance and altering our actions to fit the altering needs.
4.     Maintain this covenant as a living document by attaching an ongoing list of our evolving acts of mercy accompanied by an explanation of the needs that make those acts of mercy necessary so that all may share in God’s abundance. Further, we the congregation charge the Council of Faith United Church of Christ to regularly update this list, or to empower a designated body of its choosing to do so, in a manner it deems appropriate, making those changes known to the congregation in a timely and well documented fashion. 


Summary of Faith Works Meeting on Thursday, April 10, 2014

News Release for April:
Covenant in Revision; Congregational Vote Pending

CWJ Update:
Community ID Pledge Drive Training Sessions on April 18, 10:30-12 and May 7, 5:30-7 pm.
Safe Jobs Save Lives: Iowa City Workers Memorial Day tribute to workers who have died on the job during the past year: Sun. April 27, 2 pm, Ped Mall.
Wage Theft Demonstration Pending in Cedar Rapids.
Faith UCC’s Annual Affiliate / Ally Dues ($250) plus $50 donation paid in March.

Reports on Congregational Conversations:

Send to Council and as congregational e-mail and U.S.P.S.

Discussion of Covenant Revisions in light of Congregational Conversations:

We reviewed a Second Draft of the Covenant, prepared by our writing team, and made further revisions. We approved this Third and Final Draft of the Economic Justice Covenant and agreed to ask Council to recommend this draft by calling a Congregational Meeting on Sunday, June 1, 2014 in order to approve the Covenant.

We also agreed to ask Council for a Congregational Conversation immediately before the Congregational Meeting, to allow Faith Works to explain the revisions.


(Motion from Annual Meeting says we will hold a Congregational Conversation and write a 3rd Draft, then hold a Congregational Meeting to Approve the Covenant. At both Congregational Conversations this question was raised; consensus was that substance of Covenant is acceptable while clarifying revision of language in Resolution 4 is needed. )




Faith Works Bulletin
  March, 2014

If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.

  –Australian Aboriginal Activists’ Group




Faith UCC Economic Justice Covenant, First Draft:

Jesus proclaimed his ministry in the temple by reading from Isaiah: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4: 18-19. The 2009 UCC Economic Justice Covenant reminds us that “The Holy Scriptures, from the Pentateuch through the Prophets, and from Jesus to St. Paul impress upon the people of God’s Covenant that they are responsible to God for the well being of the last and the least in the human community.

Christians are called to do. To be a Christian is to be a part of creation that necessitates the extension of God's embrace. Embracing is doing…it is the acceptance of and the extension of the ongoing resurrection--it is the acceptance of the ongoing crucifixion. In enacting an Economic Justice Covenant, we are following Faith’s Statement of Purpose by acknowledging  “…God’s presence in the human affairs of today, as God has been involved throughout history...We, as Christians, accept this calling to carry out the vision of Jesus Christ for our age.”

While God has provided the world with abundance, poverty and want persist. In the past, Faith has striven through its Open and Affirming Covenant, to build a more inclusive world, and has addressed economic inequality in its work toward equitable consumption practices and in the many acts of mercy it persues. Therefore, in keeping with Jesus’ proclamation of his ministry, the constant summoning of the scriptures and Faith’s own history, we, the congregation of Faith United Church of Christ of Iowa City do hereby enter into covenant with each other and with the world at large, to strive toward a more equitable distribution of God’s abundance in the world.

Therefore, be it resolved by the congregation of Faith United Church of Christ that we will:

1.     Create an ongoing program to discern the means of redressing the inequitable distribution of God’s abundance in our congregation, our community, our nation, and our world.

2.     Act upon the revelations found in that discernment on a personal, congregational, local, national and global scale.

3.     Pledge to continue our current acts of mercy, regularly evaluating their role in altering the current distribution of abundance and altering our actions to fit the altering needs.

4.     Maintain this covenant as a living document by attaching an ongoing list of our evolving acts of mercy accompanied by an explanation of the needs that make those acts of mercy necessary so that all may share in God’s abundance.

 Further, we the congregation empower and charge the Council of Faith United Church of Christ to regularly update this list and its explanations in a manner it deems appropriate, making those changes known to the congregation in a timely and well documented fashion.

Congregational Conversations on 1st Draft of Covenant

Congregational Conversations to discuss the first draft of the Economic Justice Covenant will be held after worship on March 30 and April 6. The purpose of these conversations is to hear reactions to the Covenant draft and possible suggestions for revision from members and friends of Faith UCC. A follow-up summary of these conversations will be publicized in preparation for the writing of a second draft.

Please participate in this important discernment process. Your opinions are wanted!

Identify Me! Community ID Pledge Campaign

At the invitation of Faith Works, three leaders from the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa (CWJ) led a discussion on the Community ID Pledge Program that CWJ has been instrumental in promoting during the past year. Misty Rebik, Executive Director of CWJ, was joined by Sergio A-wan Irund and Bradarie Djeugang, both low-wage worker members of CWJ.
The Pledge Program invites all citizens of Johnson County to sign a pledge that they will apply for a Community ID when these become available. The ID may cost $5-10. Pledge forms, available in the church kitchen under the Economic Justice bulletin board, asks for your name, address, e-mail and phone. This information is strictly for the use of CWJ and will remain in their office. A member of Faith Works will collect the signed pledges and deliver them to CWJ.
Why a Community ID? Consider the many uses of your own ID, probably your drivers’ license; then consider the members of our community who have no drivers’ license or any other form of ID, among them anyone who doesn’t drive, victims of domestic abuse or of natural disasters, and undocumented immigrants. These people can’t obtain check-cashing privileges and are driven to buy the expensive services of payday-lenders; they often have difficulty gaining access to pharmacies and healthcare facilities; they can’t apply for library cards; if stopped by police they can’t identify themselves; and for that same reason they are reluctant to report crimes.

A government-approved Johnson County ID card would contain your photo, name and address, date of birth and a card number – nothing more. The card would be available to all residents of Johnson County and would be recognized by local law inforcement, public agencies and businesses.
A Johnson County Community ID is NOT a drivers’ license, and will not be recognized for any purpose outside Johnson County.
A Community ID would improve the overall well-being of our community. Experience in other communities shows that people tend to hold each other accountable for the way they use the ID. Community pride leads to a kind of self-policing. Dignity and a sense of inclusiveness come with owning a Community ID. Communities that already have ID’s (New Haven, CT; San Francisco, Oakland and Richmond, CA; and Mercer County, NJ) have experienced a drop in crime rates due to an increase in the reporting of crime.
Most important: for a Community ID to fulfill its purpose, the majority of Johnson County citizens need to obtain and use one. On your next visit to Faith, please sign a pledge to apply for yours when they become available.
This CWJ presentation at Faith was covered by Aly Brown for the Press Citizen. See her article and a short video of the presentation at:
http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20140310/NEWS01/303100022/Group-touts-benefits-community-ID-program?gcheck=1&nclick_check=1
Summary of Faith Works Meeting on Thursday, February 13, 2014

News Release for March:
Congregational Conversations about 1st Covenant Draft after worship on March 30 and April 6.

Covenant Discussion:
Everyone was pleased with the scope, content and tone of the 1st draft, except for a few revisions in chronology in resolutions 1 and 2, and a slight rewording in resolution 4.

Dissemination of First Draft:
The Covenant Draft is being sent as a congregational e-mail with print copies mailed to those who don’t receive e-mail.

Ann will include a copy of the Covenant in the March Faith Works Bulletin, which appears in the newsletter and which Bob posts on Faith’s Economic Justice webpage

Planning for Small Groups on Sunday, March 30 and Sunday, April 6

We will lead the conversations together; Bob has volunteered to serve as recorder.
By way of introduction we’ll provide copies of the same Social Ministries list used at our Small Group discussions in Oct/Nov, and suggest that an Economic Justice Covenant begins to hold us accountable for our efforts.

Follow-up to Congregational Conversations:
Ann will write a summary from Bob’s notes and send it as a report to Council as well as a congregational e-mail.

Committee Discussions:
In accordance with our Motion at Annual Meeting, we will contact standing committees (Worship, Social Ministries, Membership and Property) and ask them to discuss the impact of the covenant on their operations, and to submit any suggestions or revisions to us in writing by April 6.


Looking Ahead:

Once we have examined the results of the Congregational Conversations, we will write a second draft and send it out for the Congregation’s consideration. 



Faith Works Bulletin for February, 2014


If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.  –Australian Aboriginal Activists’ Group


Identify Me! Community Identification Card Campaign

After worship on March 9, leaders from the Center for Worker Justice will explain and discuss the new Community Identification Card program and pledge campaign. All Johnson County residents are encouraged to sign a pledge to apply for an ID when they become available. From a CWJ flyer: “A broad coalition of people and groups are joining together to promote the ‘Identify Me!’ Community Identification Card Campaign’s goal of creating a government-issued form of identification that will benefit many people in our community: immigrants, seniors, people without drivers’ licenses and more. Once passed, Johnson County will join many other municipalities and counties committed to increasing access for all of its residents.”
On February 20, 2014 the Press Citizen published a letter from Charlie Eastham declaring the CRC’s support for this Community ID: http://www.press-citizen.com/article/20140221/OPINION05/302210011/Community-IDs-would-benefit-many

“Behind the Swoosh” 

After worship on Sunday, February 16, 2014, 16 members and friends of Faith UCC viewed and discussed “Behind the Swoosh,” a short documentary film made by Jim Keady, formerly a soccer coach at St. John’s University and a theology student. When St. John’s signed a contract with Nike requiring all athletes to wear Nike apparel, Keady researched Nike’s labor practices and was appalled by the injustices he found among Nike factory workers in Indonesia. When Keady protested St. John’s partnership with Nike and refused to wear Nike apparel, he lost his job and went to Indonesia to experience conditions of workers in a Nike factory. He and a friend worked for a few months, living in a small cement-floor room with no furniture, receiving wages they could not survive on. Back in the U.S. Keady and friend Leslie visited Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon and confronted the CEO in a public restaurant after being refused appointments with several of his aides. Asked for an opportunity to discuss conditions at the factory in Indonesia, the CEO replied, “Do you understand NO? You just got a NO.”
Postscript: The film ends there, but an internet search reveals that Keady founded a small non-profit organization, Educating for Justice, to continue his efforts to confront Nike. He wrote a blog which stops in 2011. You can view the 20 minute film on you-tube:

Comments:

The courage of Jim and Leslie is impressive. They could have simply visited the Indonesian factory, but instead they chose to step right into the lives of the workers by becoming workers themselves.
How ominous that Nike, aware of Jim and Leslie’s potential for stirring up the workers, posted orders that the workers could not speak to them or would lose their jobs.
What can we do?  Suggested Alternatives:
Since the University of Iowa Athletic Department also requires that athletes wear Nike apparel, we could start a letter campaign to the University – or to our state legislators protesting the University’s Nike contract. We might ask them: “Do you support sweatshops?
Phone calls and e-mails are more effective than snail-mail.
We can find out whether Students Against Sweatshops are still active, and contact them to offer our support.
We can search the web for sweat-free purchases.
Sweatfree Communities has a reliable buyers’ guide for clothing: http://www.sweatfree.org/shoppingguide
We can shop in thrift shops as a way of not handing our dollars directly to corporations that rely on sweatshop labor. BETTER: After making a purchase of a name-brand product in a thrift shop, send an e-mail or phone the manufacturer and say that you would have purchased the product in a retail store if you knew that the product was produced under fair trade, sweatfree conditions.
Corporate indifference to workplace injustice is a daunting problem.
Shopping for “green” products has become popular, even trendy, among many shoppers who can afford them and want to regard themselves as “ecologically aware.” If shopping for “clean” (sweatfree) products also becomes popular, what a difference that shift in consumer consciousness and habits could make!
Whatever you do, don’t start feeling guilty. Just do what you can for now and think of that as a starting point. Let your awareness grow.
We’re called to care about the issue and try to do something, to protest.
Don’t you just love the Pope for declaring that capitalism can be sinful!

Summary of Faith Works Meeting on Thursday, February 13, 2014

Adult Education:

February 13:
“Behind the Swoosh” ? (21 min. Online at Sweatshop Free Shopping website: http://sweatfreeshop.com/sweatshop-videos/behind-the-swoosh/ ).
March 9: 
Invite leaders from the Center for Worker Justice (CWJ) to explain and discuss the new Community ID pledge campaign. All Johnson County residents are encouraged to sign  a pledge to apply for an ID when they become available. From a CWJ flyer:
“A broad coalition of people and groups are joining together to promote the ‘Identify Me!’ Community Identification Card Campaign’s goal of creating a government-issued form of identification that will benefit many people in our community: immigrants, seniors, people without drivers’ licenses and more. Once passed, Johnson County will join many other municipalities and counties committed to increasing access for all of its residents.”
FOLLOW UP: CWJ has accepted our invitation to talk with us on Sunday, March 9 after worship.
News Release for February:

On March 9 leaders from the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa will speak with the congregation about a new proposal for a Johnson County Community ID program.

Discussion of Covenant Ideas:

Scriptures: Bob has prepared a copy of several passages that relate to economic justice. Chuck urged that these scripture passages be made available to the congregation, within the covenant or in some other form.
UCC Covenants: The 2009 Synod passed a resolution, now called a UCC Economic Justice Covenant. Grounded in scripture, this covenant states the problem: the gap between rich and poor is widening worldwide. This is both a local and global issue. Individual UCC church covenants from Raleigh, NC and Knoxville, TN  provide guidance. Specifically, the Knoxville congregation administered an “interest survey” to help limit the focus of their projects. Chuck Hauck recommends that we follow this strategy.
Faith UCC Covenants and Local Issues: David recommends that the covenant set down a general direction for our efforts and leave a space for specific issues that can evolve as they arise. Mike urges that we recognize what we are already doing, as reactions to existing need, not as systemic solutions to the problems that cause the need.

Next Steps:

David offered to write a first draft of a covenant to be edited by Chuck and Mike. 

Faith Works Bulletin for January, 2014

If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.  –Australian Aboriginal Activists’ Group



Economic Justice Covenant-writing Process Begins!
At Faith UCC’s Annual Meeting on January 19, the congregation approved a motion to begin the process of writing an Economic Justice Covenant. According to the process, Faith Works will write an initial draft for discussion and revisions through committees and small-group meetings. These results will be incorporated by Faith Works into a second draft for discussion and further revision at a congregational conversation. Finally a third draft will be presented by Faith Works for approval at a Congregational Meeting.  Check out the Economic Justice Covenant Program page on the National UCC web site.  Click the link herehttp://www.ucc.org/justice/ejcp/ then go about half way down on the page and click the link for "follow churches in discernment" for more information.
As always, Faith Works invites new members. We meet at the church at 7-8:30 pm on the second Thursday of each month. Current members are Marilyn Calkins, David Gebhard, Chuck Hauck, Bob Loffer, Mike Neville, Julianne Pirtle and Ann Zerkel


Jon Trouten on Scarcity of Affordable Housing, Jan. 12, 2014
Jon Trouten, a longtime member of Faith UCC, is a case manager for Johnson County Mental Health and Disability Services (MHDS). He is also the author of “Jon’s Blog.”

Faith Works regards affordable housing as a critical economic justice issue. We invited Jon to speak with the congregation because of his expertise in helping disabled clients, especially those with low incomes, in their frustrating search for affordable housing in Johnson County.

The big issue that concerns Jon is that many people in our community are struggling to find a place to live due to their limited incomes and to background checks. At Johnson County MHDS most clients receive Social Security SSI or SSDI assistance and qualify for Medicaid waivers. Clients usually become linked to a supervising agency. Clients suffer from various mental illnesses, behavioral problems and mild to severe developmental disabilities. Some experience bouts of depression or other forms of withdrawal and stop going to jobs. Some live with their families, who may be struggling without any other supports.

All these people have difficulty finding and keeping housing – particularly those who lack SSI or SSDI benefits and those who are unable to work due to their disability.

The scarcity of affordable housing is compounded by recent developments. The Iowa City Housing Authority froze the waiting list for Section 8 affordable housing for two years so individuals were unable, until recently, to apply for Section 8. Meanwhile, Dolphin Lake Point Enclave lost their Section 8 status due to non-compliance with maintenance standards. Also, the J & M Motor Lodge in Coralville, which rented many extended-stay units, was closed because it was not zoned for apartment rental.

Asked what Faith UCC can do to help, Jon said we can advocate for public busing from Iowa City/Coralville to nearby towns like Tiffin, where rents may be somewhat lower than in Iowa City and Coralville. Improved long-distance bus routes would offer individuals opportunities for additional rental options.  Likewise, the new Iowa Health and Wellness Plan should ease the housing crunch in Johnson County, because low-income persons will be able to receive medical care throughout Iowa and will not feel such a need to live near the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City and Broadlawns in Des Moines.
Others commented that we can also advocate for an Iowa City minimum wage and for extended bus routes, through the City Councils of Iowa City and Coralville. We can join the Zoning Committee, one of the most powerful bodies in Iowa City, or at least attend their meetings and speak up. For information gathering we can go to both the City Councils and the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, then wait for a window of opportunity to open and exert political pressure.

A comment was made that discrimination against persons with Section 8 housing vouchers, like discrimination against persons using food stamps, is a problem of perception. Changing public perception is a necessary first step towards economic justice.
In answer to a question, Jon explained the rapidly changing nature of mental health care in Iowa. The current plan, driven by the Governor and the legislature and managed by Magellan of Iowa Insurance, is to phase out case-management services for the mentally ill and replace them in April with “integrated health homes” (IHH). As of this date, it is unclear who will be the IHH provider in Johnson County: UIHC or the Mid-Eastern Iowa Community Mental Health Center. The current county-based system will be replaced by a “region-based” system in July; each region will encompass at least three counties. The new system is intended to cut costs by consolidating services.

Jon’s department at MHDS will maintain some chronically mentally ill clients and all of their clients with intellectual disabilities. However, housing again becomes an issue: since MHDS has been helping to pay clients’ rent, rent payment will be impacted when MHDS is no longer tied in with those clients transferred to the IHH programs.

Pastor Bob Loffer suggested that we need to hear from Jon Trouten again next fall, to learn how the shift to “integrated health homes” is going.

Summary of Faith Works Meeting on January 9, 2014

Adult Education:

January 12: Jon Trouten will discuss the scarcity of affordable housing options.

February 16: “Behind the Swoosh”

After attending the City Council work session before the regular Council Meeting on January 7, Marilyn Calkins expressed the need for Faith UCC to keep the issue of affordable housing in front of the Iowa City Council.

Economic Justice Covenant:

In hopes that the congregation will approve our motion to begin the process of writing an Economic Justice Covenant, we continued a discussion begun at our December meeting and through e-mails, about the possible scope and content of the covenant.

While we have previously agreed that the covenant should be a statement of the reasons why we, as a faith community, are concerned with economic justice, Chuck Hauck voiced concern that the covenant should also mention specific issues of focus, to clarify our purpose. Bob agreed but cautioned that we should keep statements of purpose general enough so that the document remains a living document.

We agreed that the new covenant should include and reaffirm our existing Open and Affirming Covenant, which states that its content should be revisited each year.
Bob suggested that the new covenant should also include our Just Peace Covenant, and language from the Covenant for Ethical Consuming (never completed).

David suggested a plan for the February 13 Faith Works meeting:
We will divide into sub-committees to study and bring information regarding the following three areas:
Scriptures that focus on economic justice: Bob
UCC denominational covenants / Synod resolutions: Chuck, Julianne, Marilyn
Faith UCC covenants, Center for Worker Justice concerns, and City Council issues: David, Ann, Mike (in absentia)

Bob’s concluding thought: “Justice” is a verb, not a noun.




Faith Works Bulletin for December, 2013
If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.  –Australian Aboriginal Activists’ Group

Jon Trouten on the Scarcity of Affordable Housing on January 12, 2014
Continuing our exploration of the housing crisis, after worship on Sunday, January 12, Faith member Jon Trouten of Mental Health and Disability Services (MHDS) will talk with us about the scarcity of affordable housing options in the Iowa City area. Come learn with us!

Motion to be Presented by Faith Works at Annual Meeting, January 19, 2014

At our Annual Meeting in January 2013, the congregation of Faith UCC approved a motion to continue and deepen our study of economic justice for one year, to help us discern whether or not we want to become a covenanted Economic Justice Congregation.  Bob Loffer’s notes from the four group discussions show a preponderance of positive feedback.  Among the many enthusiastic comments are:
The covenant process will make us a stronger community.
As a congregation we will be enriched and changed.
The process of caring about economic justice will give us more vitality; rather than drain us, it will inspire us.
A covenant is a natural and important next step.
In light of the congregation’s apparent eagerness to continue, Faith Works believes that this year of study has prepared us to begin writing a Covenant for Economic Justice during 2014, and we move to do so according to the following process:
Faith Works will write a first draft of a covenant, to be presented to the congregation for their examination, discussion and suggestions.
The congregation will be asked to discuss the covenant draft and make suggestions for its revision through another series of small-group meetings.  In addition, all committees will be encouraged to discuss the covenant draft at their regular meetings, considering the covenant’s impact on their specific ministries.  All committees should submit suggestions for revision in writing to Faith Works.
Faith Works will distill the results of the small-group and committee suggestions for revision and submit a report to Council.
Faith Works will then write a second draft of the covenant, incorporating suggestions from the congregation.
Upon completion of a second draft, Faith Works will host a congregational conversation and receive suggestions for further revisions.
Upon completion of a final draft, Faith Works will request that Council call a Congregational Meeting to approve the Covenant.

Respectfully submitted by Faith Works:

Marilyn Calkins, David Gebhard, Chuck Hauck, Bob Loffer, Mike Neville, Julianne Pirtle and Ann Zerkel


Summary of Faith Works Meeting on Dec. 12, 2013
Adult Education:

On January 12 Jon Trouten will lead a discussion on the scarcity of affordable housing in the Iowa City area.
On the 3rd Sunday in February (Feb. 16) we agreed to show the film
“Behind the Swoosh” (21 min. Online at Sweatshop Free Shopping website: http://sweatfreeshop.com/sweatshop-videos/behind-the-swoosh/ ).

Motion for Annual Meeting:

Mike will present our motion to begin the covenant-writing process to Council on Dec. 19, to be included in the Annual Meeting Agenda and copies sent to the congregation two weeks before Annual Meeting on January 19, along with the letter announcing the Annual Meeting.
Writing the First Draft of a Covenant:

Hoping that our motion passes, we have agreed to compile a set of principles and issues we wish to include in the covenant.We agreed to:

Each examine the 3 existing covenants first. They can be found at http://www.ucc.org/justice/ejcp/covenants/ . However, the full covenant of the Raleigh UCC church can only be found on their website: http://cuccinfo.org/docs/Economic%20Justice%20Covenant.pdf .

Send our suggested principles and issues to David, who will compile them before our January 9 meeting.

Members and friends of Faith UCC are also invited to send suggested principles and issues to David by January 3.

An enthusiastic discussion developed, sparked largely by Julianne’s insistence that we should know our own UCC history, since UCC churches at least from 1950 onwards have been built on a desire for economic justice. Both David and Chuck asked that the covenant begin with a prologue acknowledging our faith-based foundation, and Chuck added that Julianne’s point about our historical connections should be part of that prologue. Marilyn added that we need to include the historical origins of our UCC denominational offerings such as OCWM and One Great Hour of Sharing.

Mike urged that we not discount the work we’ve already done, such as our draft of a Covenant for Ethical Consuming (and our existing Faith UCC covenants?)

In response to Ann’s request for a list of our “favorite issues” to include in the covenant, Bob mentioned equity pay; affordable housing, which includes affordable transportation;  all accessibility issues, from physical mobility to computer access and skills; and childcare.

Marilyn suggested that we include a list of the agencies that offer help in Johnson County. Ann added that the Crisis Center has such a list.

David suggested that we might define a process by which we, as an economic justice congregation, could go about dealing with problem situations.

Mike concluded the discussion by suggesting that the covenant (which in the past he has already reminded us is a process, not a goal), is not intended to solve a bunch of problems, but rather is an umbrella for thinking about them.


Faith Works Bulletin for November, 2013

If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.  –Australian Aboriginal Activists’ Group

November’s Bulletin includes four items: an announcement of a January Faith Works Adult Education event, a summary of Charlie Eastham’s discussion of affordable housing, a Report to the Council on the Small-Group Discussions of Economic Justice, and a summary of the November Faith Works meeting. Please keep scrolling down for all the latest news!
Jon Trouten on the Scarcity of Affordable Housing on January 12, 2014
Continuing our exploration of the housing crisis, after worship on Sunday, January 12, Faith member Jon Trouten of Mental Health and Disability Services (MHDS) will talk with us about the scarcity of affordable housing options in the Iowa City area. Come learn with us!

Charlie Eastham on Affordable Housing, November 10, 2013

Faith Works invited Charlie Eastham of the Iowa City Housing Fellowship to speak with the congregation about affordable housing in Iowa City.
Eastham began with a simple, functional definition of affordable housing:
It is housing that is available to whoever lives there and costs the occupants less than 30% of their income.

In the past 20 years the Iowa City Housing Fellowship, a non-profit organization, has built 160 housing units to rent affordably, especially for families with children. The Housing Fellowship owns 147 units as of 2012 (single family, duplex, condos and townhomes). The Fellowship’s goal is to provide affordable housing for children and employed adults with incomes under $20,000 per year.

Low wages are the source of the current housing crisis. While the Housing Fellowship provides more affordable housing than anyone else in Iowa City, other providers include Habitat for Humanity, ISIS (a small nonprofit), and a few good private developers, such as Bob Burns, who understand how to build affordable housing.

The Housing Fellowship assembles funding from other sources. The greatest threats to this process are property taxes and “debt service”( interest on loans). Iowa City needs to support non-profit developers and builders of affordable housing.

However, Iowa City’s current housing location model is hostile to adding low-income land parcels. Instead, a goal of the City Council is to develop more housing for people earning $40,000 and up.

How can a congregation concerned with economic justice help support the development of affordable housing? Eastham suggests that faith communities urge the Iowa City Council to adopt a minimum wage, and to stop making non-profit developer/builders pay back their “home funds” to the City. “Home funds” are a city resource from the State.

Eastham further suggests that individuals from faith communities like Faith UCC strengthen their ties to the City Council by attending Council meetings (first and third Tuesdays, 7 pm at the Civic Center: http://www.icgov.org/?id=2178 ), speaking up and e-mailing Council members.

Faith Works Report to the Council of Faith UCC, November 21, 2013:
A Summary of the Four Small-Group Discussions of Economic Justice,
October and November, 2013

We are called into community as ones who stand for life! 
We are called into lives of hope. The voice we hear is the 
voice of our longing; the cry of our hearts. It is the voice
of a God whose name is Love, a God whose will is justice.
- Pastor Bob Loffer, Call to Worship, November 3, 2013



Results of Small Group Discussions

Concern was voiced in all four groups about the possibility of becoming overwhelmed by the process of becoming an economic justice congregation. Nevertheless, the dominant tone of each group was support and enthusiasm for continuing towards the writing of an economic justice covenant, with the conviction that this process will energize us and help us to better understand the need for our current ministries. Faith Works has summarized the comments of the four groups and sent a report to the Council for discussion at its November 21 meeting.

To explore the current wishes and concerns of the congregation regarding an Economic Justice Covenant, Faith Works hosted a series of four small-group discussions during October and November, 2013. Approximately 30 members participated. Pastor Bob Loffer served as recorder for all sessions; Mike Neville and Marilyn Calkins facilitated discussion.

While concern was expressed by some individuals in every group that the process of covenanting for economic justice seems daunting and may lead us to overextend ourselves, each group also expressed enthusiasm for the process and a clear will to proceed. This report attempts to reflect opinions stated by a significant number of participants as well as unique statements that seem to complement majority attitudes, in hopes of giving a reasonably balanced impression of the conversations. 

Each session included a discussion of a scripture passage, Mark 10:17-22. The general response was that the passage is a call to share what we have with others. When asked what the passage says about economic justice, participants responded that God’s abundance must be shared. Sharing can be hard, but it is necessary and we should all do it.

The following questions were asked by the facilitators at all sessions:

“Are we satisfied to continue our various social ministries (and possibly expand them) or are we feeling called, in addition, to study the causes of economic inequality and begin asking what it might take to change them?”

“What do YOU think it might mean to be an Economic Justice congregation?”

What implications might being an Economic Justice congregation have for how we, as a faith community, purchase items, spend our finances, etc. 

What does it mean for us as faithful individuals to want to be part of an Economic Justice congregation? 

How might we best live out a covenant to be an economic justice faith community? Should our focus be local, national or global?

What is your worst fear/concern about being a covenanted congregation?
What is your best hope/dream about being a covenanted congregation?

Individual Responses:

Responses are organized here according to type, with some deliberate overlap where category lines blur:

Value Statements: 

God’s abundance must be shared.
Attempting to change the economic system is important work.
It is time to examine the causes of economic injustice, but I can’t make sense of it alone.
We don’t need or want to give up any part of our current ministry.
We do need to examine how fairly we compensate our own church employees: are we paying them a “living” wage?
The covenant process will make us a stronger community.
As a congregation we will be enriched and changed.
The process of caring about economic justice will give us more vitality; rather than drain us, it will inspire us.
In living out an economic justice covenant, we will become responsible for raising issues that affect us locally, nationally and globally.

Assumptions:

Covenanting as an economic justice congregation  would give us a sense of focus and guide our ministry as efficiently as possible by helping us define why we do our ministry.
A covenant is a natural and important next step.
A covenant makes a statement to our wider community that we, as a faith community, have a commitment to the issues of economic equality.
A covenant will lead us to examine how we use what we use, and where we purchase it.
Covenanting for economic justice is a shift in our orientation towards the world; we will experience a gradual shift in our activities and attitudes.
Covenanting for economic justice will change EVERYTHING we think about and do.

Statements of Direction:

We will have to be very public about what we do and why.
We will become responsible for raising issues that affect us locally, nationally and globally – and for sharing information with the wider community.
A covenant may open a door for others to join us in our quest for economic justice.
Grass-roots politics is one strategy for change.
It follows that we will place more emphasis on environmental issues, which have economic repercussions.
In light of climate change as well as an unstable economy, we need to develop a strong community to support everyone’s future struggles.
We need to learn to talk about how we spend our money, the choices we make.
We need to become aware of where we purchase the things we buy.
We need more information on corporations, governments, etc. about their practices to determine whether we should purchase from them or support them.
I don’t want to just learn and think about economic justice; I want us to get behind a project and do something.
We should examine our personal and church investment practices and educate ourselves about socially responsible investing.
We should begin with a focus on our own community.
We should examine how we compensate our church employees; are we paying a “living” wage? 

Specific Suggestions:

We could try “field trips” to the ministries we support, to see what some real needs are.
Examples: Shelter House, DVIP, Free Lunch, etc.

We should consider how we are available to the surrounding community. 

We might consider reviving the weekly neighborhood spaghetti dinners.

We should examine how we compensate our own church employees. Are we paying a “living” wage?

Questions:

If we become too focused on economic justice issues, will we lose some of our current unity? 
Would a covenant lead us into partisan politics? 
How might our economic justice covenant affect our involvement with the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa (CWJ)?

Conclusion and Recommendations:

At our Annual Meeting in January, 2013, the congregation of Faith UCC approved a motion to continue and deepen our study of economic justice for one year, to help us discern whether or not we want to become a covenanted Economic Justice Congregation. Bob Loffer’s notes from the four group discussions show a preponderance of positive feedback. Among the many enthusiastic comments are:

The covenant process will make us a stronger community.
As a congregation we will be enriched and changed.
The process of caring about economic justice will give us more vitality; rather than drain us, it will inspire us.
A covenant is a natural and important next step.

In light of the congregation’s apparent eagerness to continue, Faith Works believes that this year of study has prepared us to begin the process of writing a Covenant for Economic Justice during 2014.

We propose the following process:

Faith Works will write a first draft of a covenant, to be presented to the congregation for their examination, discussion and suggestions.

The congregation will be asked to discuss the covenant draft and make suggestions for its revision through another series of small-group meetings. In addition, all committees will be encouraged to discuss the covenant draft at their regular meetings, considering the covenant’s impact on their specific ministries. All committees should submit suggestions for revision in writing to Faith Works. 

Faith Works wlll distill the results of the small-group and committee suggestions for revision and submit a report to Council.

Faith Works will then write a second draft of the covenant, incorporating suggestions from the congregation.

Upon completion of a second draft, Faith Works will host a congregational conversation and receive suggestions for further revisions.

Upon completion of a final draft, Faith Works will request that Council call a Congregational Meeting to approve the Covenant.

Respectfully submitted by Faith Works:

Marilyn Calkins, David Gebhard, Chuck Hauck, Bob Loffer, Mike Neville, Jullianne Pirtle and Ann Zerkel



Faith Works Bulletin for October, 2013

If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.  
- Australian Aboriginal Activists’ Group

Last Chance! Final Small Group Discussion on Sunday, Nov. 3 after worship!

If you haven’t yet attended a group or signed up for one, join us! Your ideas and questions about Economic Justice, and about the possibility of Faith UCC becoming an Economic Justice Congregation, are important to the whole congregation. Please come help us wrestle with some exciting, challenging questions which may impact the future direction of Faith UCC.

Thanks to all who have participated in the first three groups, and to Marilyn Calkins and Mike Neville for facilitating the discussions.

Thanks also to Pastor Bob Loffer for serving as recorder of all four sessions. At our Nov. 14 meeting, Faith Works will discuss the results of these group meetings in preparation for sending a report to the Church Council.

Forum on Low-Income Housing on Sunday, Nov. 10 

With persistent encouragement from Marilyn Calkins, Faith Works has decided that the scarcity of low-income housing in Johnson County is a critical economic justice issue.
After worship on Sunday, November 10, Charlie Eastham of the Iowa City Housing Fellowship will lead a forum to sort out some of the complex factors involved in this ongoing problem. Please come and learn with us.

Summary of Faith Works Meeting on September 18, 2013

Forums on Low-Income Housing Issues

Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity is hosting a forum on Oct. 7 at Zion Lutheran Church at 7 pm.
Marilyn has arranged a forum at Faith on the second Sunday of November (Nov. 10).

Center for Worker Justice

The Center has been quite busy, writing letters supporting the release of Eli Reyes, holding a Fundraiser on Sept. 27, and holding a demonstration for a living wage on October 3 at the Pentacrest.

Monthly News Release

The October news release will announce the purpose of our Small Group Discussions.

The purpose of our four Small Group Discussions is to wrestle with real questions about the meaning of economic  justice for us a people of faith, both as a congregation and as individuals, in hopes of reaching a clearer understanding of what Faith UCC might look like if we decide to write an Economic Justice Covenant. 

Faith Works urges every member of the congregation to participate in one of these four groups by giving your name to any member of the committee (see below). These four discussions are an essential part of our economic justice discernment process, and the direction indicated by participants will have implications for the future of Faith UCC.. Please do join us and let us know what you are thinking as we wrestle with these challenging issues together.

Small Groups will meet for 90 minutes at the church on these dates:

Sunday, October 13, after worship
Wednesday, October 23, at 7 pm in the Sanctuary
Wednesday, October 30 at 7 pm in the Sanctuary
Sunday, November 3, after worship

In deference to the Small Group discussions, Faith Works will not hold its regular meeting in October. Our next meeting will be Thursday, November 14, 2013.

Ann Zerkel for Faith Works
Members:  Marilyn Calkins, David Gebhard, Chuck Hauck, Pastor Bob Loffer, Mike Neville, Julianne Pirtle and Ann Zerkel


If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.  
- Australian Aboriginal Activists’ Group

Summary of Faith Works Meeting on August 28, 2013

DON’T MISS IT!  Small Group Discussions:

During October and November, Faith Works will host four Small Group discussions, so that together as a congregation we can all continue to discern our attitudes towards economic justice and consider what it might mean to become an Economic Justice Congregation. We strongly urge everyone to participate in this important conversation.

All groups will meet at the church.  Meeting dates are:

Sunday, October 13 after worship
Wednesday, October 23, 7 pm 
Wednesday, October 30, 7 pm
Sunday, November 3 after worship

Sign-up sheets are available in the church kitchen during September. When you sign up, please take a copy of Social Ministries of Faith UCC, 2013, and bring it with you to your group’s meeting. This list is a reminder of Faith’s long-standing commitment to social ministries, both local and global.

UCC Synod Resolutions:

Julianne made a strong argument for the importance of reviewing Synod resolutions on the UCC website. The Economic Justice web pages include a Synod Resolution for Tax Reform:  http://www.ucc.org/news/general-synod-tax-reform.html  

We agreed that this material is important and it’s our job to bring it to the attention of the congregation.

More Synod resolutions: http://www.ucc.org/synod/resolutions/ 
  
Congregational Discussion After Viewing “The Line” on September 8, 2013

After worship on September 8, 2013, the congregation watched the Sojourners’ documentary “The Line: Poverty in America; It’s Not What You Think” in its entirety. Then Pastor Bob Loffer asked what the four personal stories in the film have in common. Carol noted that the four people in the film had all had the rug pulled out from under them; they were all doing okay until something happened outside their control and they lost their jobs. Only a deep support system in their families and/or communities could help them recover. Sherry commented that a bad economy affects everyone adversely, so while the individuals in the film were experiencing hard times, many others were also getting hurt.
Bob pointed out that hopeless feelings are devastating, yet somehow the film ends in hope. Marilyn countered that even doing all the right things, it may take years for a person who has fallen below the poverty line to get back on firm footing. To this Bob responded, “If you tell people that they are better than they think they are, they will do better than they think they can.” Bob cited Reverend Julian DeShazier, Pastor of University UCC in Chicago and a professional rapper, who says in the film that helping people to tell their own stories is important because if you can tell your story, you own your life, your identity.

Bob asked us the difference between living in poverty and being “poor.” Several people responded that while living in poverty may be an economic fact, being “poor” is a state of mind, an identity which can pull you down and keep you down. But if you don’t let your poverty define you, you may be able to rise beyond it. Also, if you believe that your economic circumstances are temporary, such as when you are a student, you are less likely to identify with being poor.

Still, more than perspective is at stake. David commented that our system of unequal or maldistribution of wealth is the problem.
In response to Bob’s asking whether we can imagine ourselves in the same conditions as the four people in the film, Julianne said that she knows she does not deserve her own level of privilege. Bob added that we are all part of and responsible for our system of maldistribution of wealth.

Chuck commented that the film does not address the many people who don’t survive poverty due to underlying problems of drugs, addiction, mental illness, etc. 

Bob asked how our faith communities can address the need for systemic change, the need to change the distribution of wealth. David said we should come to understand where we, as a congregation, fit into the distributive system, so that we can direct our attention towards building a system that shares God’s abundance with everyone. Marilyn said we have to learn to address inequalities, to speak up. It does make a difference. Bob said that for him it’s a matter of constantly being aware of the inequities of the system and of staying in contact with Congressional Representatives and City Council members, of shining a light on inequities – while also recruiting and encouraging younger people to do the same.

Bob commented that he cannot believe that the members of Faith UCC are not more aware of the inequities of our distributive system than they were one year ago. He added that perhaps this is a good time to begin talking about the Heifer Project and alternative ways to celebrate Christmas.

Carol suggested that we take a look at our church savings accounts and consider that, instead of lending our money to a bank, we might make loans to organizations that share our values, or might invest in socially responsible corporations. Julianne added that we should consider UCC national investment opportunities. Bob mentioned that author Robin Meyers, a UCC pastor, writes about the possibility of a church becoming a bank for its own members, making low-interest or interest-free loans with the full expectation that the loans will be repaid.

The conversation ended in this upbeat mood, with Bob saying it’s time that Faith UCC became purposeful about what we do with ALL our church finances.


Ann Zerkel for Faith Works, the Economic Justice Task Force of Faith UCC

Members: 
Marilyn Calkins, David Gebhard, Chuck Hauck, Rev. Bob Loffer, Michael Neville, Julianne Pirtle and Ann Zerkel




Labor Sunday Worship Service, September 1, 2013

Faith Works collaborated with lay worship leader Sherry Gordon and Carol Tyx to conduct a special Labor Sunday service in celebration of the unity and dignity of all workers, especially low-wage workers and the underemployed and unemployed of Eastern Iowa.  All participants were given an opportunity to honor the name of a worker or workers they admire.

Edie Rasell, UCC Minister for Economic Justice, has provided dynamic prayers for use in this service, while Kim Bobo at Interfaith Worker Justice also provided incentives and encouragement. The service was held Sunday, September 1, 2013.


The Line: Poverty in America – It’s Not What You Think

After worship on Sunday, September 8, Pastor Bob Loffer will show the documentary film The Line in its entirety and lead a discussion. Faith Works urges you to mark your calendars for this important congregational conversation on Economic Justice.

Small Group Discussions Planned for October/November

Also on Sunday, September 8, you’ll have an opportunity to choose a date to participate in a small group discussion of economic justice issues. Faith Works wants to know what you think it might mean for Faith UCC to be an Economic Justice congregation; how we might live out, as a faith community, what it means to be an economic justice people.
Sign-up sheets will remain in the kitchen through September.

Tentative group meeting dates are:

Sunday, October 13, after worship
Wednesday, October 23, 7 p.m. at church
Wednesday, October 30, 7 p.m. (location to be announced)
Sunday, November 3, after worship


Our third sermon talk back session on economic justice and scriptures was held on July 28, 2013.  Participants were ask what 3 things in their life were important to them.  What 3 things would they carry out of a burning building?  Why those things?  How do you treat those things on a day to day basis?

Who are the people in your life to whom you look too as role models or guides?  Why?

What kinds of values does today's market place have?  What is most important to the Market?

What are God's values?  Who does God value?  How do we decide about our own values?


Faith works will gather in late August to begin to plan the small group events designed to engage the members and friends of Faith Church in discussion about what it would mean to  be an economic justice congregation.  What for more information in the coming weeks.

The documentary film "The Line" will be shown in its entirety Sunday, September 8, 2013 following 9:30 worship.  Please join us then to view the 40 minute film and participate in discussion. 




A Faith Works Report for Mid-June 2013

If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time.
 But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.     - Aboriginal Activists’ Group

Summary of “The Line,” Segment 4 and Discussion

The congregation and Pastor Bob Loffer viewed the 4th of 4 segments of the Sojourners’ documentary “The Line” after worship on June 2, 2014.

This segment introduced us to James, who as a child in New York City was injured badly in an accident and spent nine months in a coma.  He received a substantial court settlement for the accident, but when it came time to collect the compensation money, James’ father tricked him into signing it over to him, leaving James and his mother with only $500.00.  With the assistance welfare and food stamps, James and his mother struggled to make ends meet.  James work by walking horses at the race track for 22 years.

James left New York for North Carolina, where the unemployment rate was 9.4%.  With a limited skill set, he found a place at a faith-based, non-profit restaurant called The King’s Kitchen.  He volunteered first and the restaurant---impressed by his hard work---offered him a full-time position on the table-busing staff.

James works as hard as he can and through persistent effort was able to move out of a homeless shelter, rent an apartment, and live on his own.  And yet, even through diligent work, James brings in just $11,000 to $15,000 per year.  His best efforts still leave him below the poverty line.  Try to climb the ladder sometime.  It’s not easy.

Bob Loffer asked us what we thought the role of government was in helping people like James.  Education, job training, food assistance were some of the suggestions.  Kevin suggested that the role of the government was to “protect and serve”.  Most agreed.

The next question was posed, “How do we shield ourselves from having to think about poverty?”   Answers included, “ignoring it”, “implying that people on welfare are lazy”, “not looking in the places where we might find it”, “putting blinders on”.

We talked about the limitations of nonprofit organizations and government agencies in providing enough assistance in the “right places.”  We spoke of what we might do as a church to provide a place of employment and training.
Through it all, James had a positive attitude.  Our discussion closed with some thoughts about remaining positive in our attitudes as well.

We will view the film “The Line” in its entirety following worship on Sunday, September 9, 2013 with a discussion to follow.  Please plan to join us. 

Summary of Sermon Talkback session June 9, 2013

Our discussion began with a review of the scripture text 1 Kings 17:8-16 and the story of Elijah and the widow.  The question was asked: “When was the last time you did not have enough?”  One response was based on financial need, which was met for them by someone else upon request.  Other responses were similar, “enough” seemed to come from others.

Discussion about having “enough” when we shared with others, having “enough” when really there was more than “enough”, and what we thought “enough” meant.  Our consensus was that “enough” was what we had that filled our “needs”.

We had discussion about the difference between “wants” and “needs”.  Enough is meeting needs and not necessarily meeting all our wants.  Enough is what sustains us.  It seems that there is more than enough in our world to sustain us, if we share it.  Our unwillingness to share the abundance God give us is at the root of not having “enough.”

The discussion closed with some thoughts about some things of which we do not have “enough”.  Things like, not enough education for all; not enough equal opportunity for all; not enough willingness to share.

The nest sermon talk back event will be held on June 30, 2013.  Money and morals will be our topic with the Scripture text of John 2:13-16.  Please plan to join us.






If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time.
 But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.

     - Aboriginal Activists’ Group

Faith Works Bulletin for May, 2013


 “The Line: Poverty in America; It’s Not What You Think”
The congregation and Pastor Bob Loffer viewed the 3rd of 4 segments of the Soujourners’ documentary “The Line” after worship on May 5, 2014.
In this segment we met Ronald, a Louisiana Gulf fisherman who has spent his life “shrimping, crabbing and dredging oysters.” At the outset Ronald declares,”The people of this area depend on what God gave us. God gave us a lot, but we didn’t know how to take care of it.” Louisiana’s wetlands are disappearing at a rate of 1 football field per hour. In recent years half of the oyster beds have dried up. Ronald doesn’t know what caused the depletion of shellfish: possibly overfishing, effects of Hurricane Katrina, pollution from the BP oil spill – or some combination of these. Ronald contrasts the past with the future, saying that nobody ever worried about tomorrow because there were always jobs. Now, “I don’t have any confidence in the future.” He worries about how his children will survive, and says he sees a change in the people who are still there; they are not happy. He concludes, “The whole culture is gone.”
Bob Loffer asked the congregation how poverty and environmental disasters and degradation are related, and what responsibility the film suggests that we have, as people of faith, to mitigate poverty after these events.
We talked about the fact that high-poverty areas are often the sites where environmental pollution and disasters occur, as corporations become increasingly unconcerned about the effects of their operations and simply walk away. We talked about the loss of family farms and the need for people to retool or find new skills to survive. And for those still trying to farm, such as a friend who runs a local CSA, just knowing which seeds to plant is becoming difficult.
Bob asked how the expectations of students entering college have changed in our lifetimes and mentioned the shortage of jobs in teaching and social services. As Iowa loses Medicaid waiver programs, the Department of Human Services is facing total reorganization with all services run by one agency employing low-skilled workers. We talked about having a stake in what happens to our young people, whose futures will affect our whole economy. It was mentioned that the Legislature seems to be ignoring these developments, while we fail to stand up to the Legislature because we are focused on making a daily wage.
In response, Bob asked how we can begin to help younger people shift directions. What tools do we need to help them? We need to be proactive, finding out what’s going on in the job market so that we can become advocates in our community.
We talked about how culture has changed in our lifetimes, how the days when women were unemployed and free to volunteer during the day are gone; and how our local culture, such as the Amana Colonies, has degraded itself by outsourcing products while also being overshadowed by new casinos.
Bob asked what it means for our society to have able-bodied men and women unable to find work. We added that employed people are increasingly overworked and stressed as they are asked to do the jobs of 2 or 3 people.
So if we’re aware of the problem, what can we do to aid and assist those who are trying to stay above the poverty line? We’ve got to be in the vanguard, applying pressure to the Legislature rather than just complaining, said Bob.
A recent article in the New York Review of Books discusses the moral aspects of our economy. Robin Meyers, in The Underground Church, suggests that churches could donate funds to open their own congregational banks offering interest-free loans to members of the congregation. A church in Minneapolis raised enough money to purchase an entire city block of businesses, including a school of dance, so that the congregation has become a community of members using resources that were part of the neighborhood.
As a closing note, Bob reiterated that we can’t just lament the problems of poverty; we have to learn to “think outside the box” in order to confront them.

Summary of Faith Works Meeting on May 9, 2013
Center for Worker Justice:
CWJ remains in a watchful position regarding two recent arrests of undocumented immigrant low-wage worker members of CWJ by Iowa City Police, apparently the result of Iowa Department of Transportation motor vehicle registration checks.
Encouraging is the amazingly rapid response of CWJ worker members and affiliate allies after the second arrest. On the evening of Friday, April 27, within two hours after a young mother was removed from her car in front of her two young children, separated from them and incarcerated in the Johnson County Jail, a vigil of at least 100 CWJ supporters surrounded the jail. The next morning Basilia Apolonia was released on bail; she chose to return with her children to join CWJ worker members and affiliates in a second and much larger vigil the following night.
The support and influence of the CWJ community (and clearly it IS a community) has been acknowledged by undocumented worker members as a source of security and hope as they continue to face uncertainty regarding immigration reform.
Low-Income Housing in Johnson County:
Faith Works welcomes a proposal from Marilyn Calkins to organize a congregational forum this Fall on the complex issues involved in low-income housing, so that we may all better understand this basic aspect of poverty in our community. The shortage of low-income housing in Johnson County is one more example of the need for systemic change to bring about economic justice.
Walden Place Hosts Discussion of Hunger Issues:
In response to the March Cedar Rapids Gazette article about Faith UCC’s economic justice initiative, Marilyn Calkins accepted an invitation to speak about hunger issues in Johnson County to residents of the Walden Place Retirement Community in early May.
Fall Small-Group Discussions:
As a next step in our congregational discernment process regarding the possibility of becoming a covenanted economic justice congregation, Faith Works urges everyone to attend one of four discussions for groups of 8-12 people, to be offered during late September and early October. One or more sessions will meet at the church. Sign-up sheets will be available in late August. The discussions will include a brief examination of scriptures applicable to economic justice, and time for participants to tell our own stories about our experiences of economic privilege and economic stress, and to express our uncertainty about the meaning of “justice” as well as our hopes and concerns as we discuss what we may want an economic justice congregation at Faith UCC to look like.

Faith UCC’s Presentation at CRC Meeting on May 15, 2013
As host congregation for the May meeting of the Consultation of Religious Communities, Faith UCC was invited to speak on our Economic Justice initiative.
Pastor Bob Loffer began with a brief history of Faith that stressed the role of scripture study as foundational to each of the UCC covenants Faith has embraced over the years: our Nuclear Free Zone Covenant; our 1985 decision to join the Sanctuary Movement by housing an undocumented Guatemalan family in the church building; our 1989 Just Peace Covenant and our 1992 Open and Affirming Covenant, the first in Iowa.
Marilyn Calkins then described our current social ministry projects, including our weekly preparation of HACAP weekend food packs for 36 children at Mark Twain School and our close relationship with the Head Start Program staff and children who rent space in our church building. In good weather the Head Start children accompany Marilyn’s food wagon to Mark Twain so that they too become participants in the food pack project. Marilyn raised the question of systemic economic injustice, asking why so many people, including children, don’t have enough food.
Ann Zerkel spoke about the efforts of Faith in Action, beginning in 1996, to focus on scriptures that discuss economic justice. That discussion led to a commitment to the “Clean Clothes” movement, an individual choice each of us makes to stop spending our consumer dollars on clothing made in sweatshops. The Sweatfree Communities website offers a consumer purchasing guide: http://www.sweatfree.org/shoppingguideFaith in Action’s Mike Neville drafted a Covenant for Ethical Consumption. Though never adopted, the spirit of this project led eventually to Faith in Action’s 2012 decision to study the UCC Economic Justice Covenant Program. “Faith in Action” became “Faith Works,” and the congregation approved a motion to continue and intensify our study in January, 2013.
For closure Bob distributed copies of a passage from scripture, Mark 10:17-22, the story of Jesus and the rich man who went away grieving after Jesus told him to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor and follow Jesus. Discussion questions followed the passage. Participants formed small groups; lively discussions followed. In summarizing, one participant remarked that there are lots of resources out there, but they just aren’t being distributed evenly.
Bob concluded our presentation with the observation that Shared Ministry is the force that makes Faith UCC work.
Ann Zerkel for Faith Works, the Economic Justice Task Force of Faith UCC

Members: 

Marilyn Calkins, David Gebhard, Chuck Hauck, Rev. Bob Loffer, Michael Neville, Julianne Pirtle and Ann Zerkel


Faith Works Bulletin for April, 2013

Interactive Communication
Whoever you are, we welcome your comments, suggestions and questions. Simply scroll down to the COMMENTS box at the bottom of this page.
Faith UCC’s website is linked to the UCC website’s Economic Justice Covenant homepage under “Discerning God’s Call”: http://www.ucc.org/justice/ejcp/discerning.html
We have been joined on that homepage by a second congregation in discernment, First Congregational United Church of Christ in Lake Worth, Florida.
Welcome, members and friends of First Congregational UCC!

The Line:  Poverty in America; It’s Not What You Think

There’s death in our backyard and you continue to ignore it.
STOP THE VIOLENCE!
- Graffiti from “The Line”

After worship on April 14 the congregation viewed the second segment of the documentary “The Line”: “The Violence of Poverty,” which deals with the trauma and despair of people who have lived in poverty for generations. In this segment we met Sheila, who grew up in poverty in a dangerous neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, K-town. During Sheila’s childhood her sister was shot in the head and killed while walking near the family home. Sheila says, “Our family NEVER recovered.” Yet somehow Sheila grew to become a successful woman, supervisor at a downtown Chicago bank. She says her co-workers were amazed that she came from K-town. Then when Sheila was 37, calamity struck. She fell 14 feet down a flight of stairs leading from the platform of an elevated train station, broke multiple bones and her brain lodged in her spinal column. Recovery took 15 years. She had three children between the ages of 7 months and 6 years. Her husband divorced her. She filed for disability, but benefits for herself and her children totaled only $1266 per month plus foodstamps. When her son got involved with drugs, she decided to move in with her parents, who by then had left K-town. With scholarships her children were able to attend a private school, but since they couldn’t keep up with the other kids’ spending habits, they felt alienated.

Pastor Bob Loffer led us in a discussion of the film’s implications for Iowa City. We talked about how certain neighborhoods get a reputation for being unsavory or dangerous. Low-income housing is scarce and since landlords may choose whether or not to rent to low-income tenants using Section 8 vouchers, Section 8 housing tends to be available only from certain landlords in certain neighborhoods. Landlords or managers of the most unsafe housing developments may also have inconsistent responses to troublesome residents, and may simply collect the rent without maintaining their property. People who are forced to live in Section 8 housing often hate their options.

Bob asked: How is violence connected to poverty? We talked about gang-related violence and drug use, including self-medication with street drugs by people with untreated mental health needs. The film describes the sense of nihilism that results from generations of living without hope, including any hope that education could lead to a way out. We also talked about the complicity of realtors in maintaining a “color line,” making sure that people stay “where they belong” through blockbusting and segregating tactics. The school district’s placement of children from Shelter House into Mark Twain, the school with arguably the most overburdened resources due to low-income families, was mentioned as a problem that found a partial solution when the school district decided instead to send children from Shelter House to Longfellow, a school with more resources to absorb these children.

Someone observed that WE need to become educated about poverty.

Commenting that the backpacks we supply to Mark Twain are good, but are not a systemic solution to poverty, Bob asked: What kind of outside influences might offer real systemic solutions to the problems and pockets of poverty?

We mentioned churches such as Trinity UCC in Chicago, which conducts a lively neighborhood revitalization ministry. We also mentioned the importance of spunky parents, of instilling hope in a future worth living, starting with children ages 4-5. Schools can help. A child who can handle school and survive has a chance of getting a scholarship to college or other opportunities.

Bob left us to ponder the issue of systemic solutions that might address poverty, violence and lack of education. What else might WE be doing, for example, with Headstart?

Sheila in the film rose above the conditions of her childhood neighborhood. How could she do that? 

We will view the 3rd and 4th segments of The Line after worship on May 5 and June 2. Join us for an evolving conversation. May it be as insightful as it is uncomfortable!

Summary of Faith Works Meeting on April 11, 2013

Coalition for Racial Justice and Housing
Marilyn Calkins reported that a committee within the Coalition for Racial Justice is studying the issue of housing in Iowa City. Since low-income housing is critical for families living in poverty, Faith Works will watch the results of this project with interest.

Economic Justice in Our Parsonage?
At the request of Faith Works, Marilyn inquired and learned that Keystone Property Management, who manages our parsonage rentals, does handle the Section 8 voucher process for interested renters. The parsonage is currently rented for the foreseeable future, but we may want to explore the implications of offering it as a low-income rental at some future date and invite the congregation into a conversation on this issue.

Our Immigrant Low-Wage Worker Allies
According to our approval, at the last Annual Meeting, of a budget line item for membership dues, Faith has officially joined the Center for Worker Justice (CWJ) as an organizational affiliate or ally of low-wage worker members. Recently an immigrant worker member of CWJ who owns a mobile home at Forest View Park was incarcerated and charged with identity theft for false registration of his home with the Department of Transportation. The Center for Worker Justice is studying this development and its implications for other immigrant families.  

Hospitality

With help from Debbie Plath, Faith Works will post a bulletin board near the door to the Sanctuary. A box of newsletters, pamphlets and literature relating to Economic Justice issues will be placed in the cabinet under the bulletin board. 
Getting Our Hands Dirty: Fighting State and Federal Funding Cuts
As federal and state funding cuts for social services continue to threaten our vision of Economic Justice, we urge the congregation to develop a habit of e-mailing and phoning our state and federal senators and representatives. To remain informed, try the UCC’s wonderful federal budget website maintained by our friend and mentor Edie Rasell, Minister of Economic Justice:  http://www.ucc.org/justice/federal-budget/ 
For Iowa legislators and information about pending legislation:
https://www.legis.iowa.gov/Legislators/find.aspx
For Federal legislators:
http://electedlist.com/Iowa.html

Some Priorities from Faith Works

What’s next? Here’s some of our individual and collective sense of how we’re doing and what needs to happen, or keep happening:
Bob is planning sermons that help set up economic justice issues such as “When did THE MARKET become God?” and “The American Dream is a Lie we’ve been SOLD.”
Mike wants us to be more intentional about how the films we screen at Faith and the conversations we hold about economic justice connect SPIRITUALLY.
Julianne is concerned that our legislators are not doing their job, not talking to each other, when THE COMMON GOOD is paramount.
Bob, Marilyn and Ann agree that we have to stay on top of State and Federal Budget issues and make sure our legislators KNOW our budget concerns. We have to ARM THEM, let them know that when they contemplate budget cuts, we want them to regard all persons as our brothers and sisters; what a difference that could make!
Marilyn suggests quarterly congregational meetings with the congregation to update each other on pending legislation and encourage e-mails and phone calls to congress.
Chuck appreciates our emphasis on immigrant issues and racial inequalities. He notes that only 3% of physicians in teaching hospitals in the U.S. are members of underrepresented populations or minorities, and he’s angry about inequality in our schools. 
David reminds us that true economic justice necessitates a redistribution of wealth..
Also, David wants more focus on systemic causes of poverty. He would like to know how HACAP chooses the food it purchases, which we in turn distribute to certain Mark Twain School students on weekends. WHY THIS PARTICULAR FOOD? From which corporations is it purchased, and what nutritional value does it have? We hope to investigate the answers.

Ann Zerkel for Faith Works, the Economic Justice Task Force of Faith UCC

Members: 
Marilyn Calkins, David Gebhard, Chuck Hauck, Rev. Bob Loffer, Michael Neville, Julianne Pirtle and Ann Zerkel

Faith Works welcomes additional members! We meet at Faith UCC from 7- 8:30 pm on the 2nd Thursday of each month. Please consider joining us!






If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine,
then let us work together.

-Aboriginal Activists’ Group

Faith Works Bulletin for March, 2013

Interactive Communication:
This and all forthcoming Faith Works Bulletins will appear on the website of Faith UCC under “Economic Justice”  http://faithchurchiowacity.blogspot.com/p/economic-justice.html and will be linked to the UCC website’s Economic Justice Covenant homepage under “Discerning God’s Call”:  http://www.ucc.org/justice/ejcp/discerning.html

Whoever you are, we welcome your comments, suggestions and questions. Simply scroll down to the COMMENTS box at the bottom of the Faith UCC Website.

 Gazette Article linked to UCC’s Keeping You Posted and to UCC Economic Justice Covenant homepage:
On March 19 the Gazette published an insightful article on Faith UCC’s continuing study of economic justice, written by Meredith Hines-Dochterman. Edith (Edie) Rassel, UCC Minister for Economic Justice, sent the article link to United Church News, who included it in the UCC “Keeping You Posted” (KYP) e-mail for March 19: http://act.ucc.org/site/MessageViewer/?em_id=50961.0&dlv_id=67821 (scroll down past United Church News on the right to the first item under UCC in the News). Edie also added the Gazette article link to her paragraph about Faith UCC on the Economic Justice Covenant “Discerning God’s Call” webpage. Thank you, Meredith and Edie!

The Line:  Poverty in America; It’s Not What You Think

After worship on March 10, 2013 the congregation viewed segment one of this four-segment film from Sojourners. Afterwards Pastor Bob Loffer led us in discussion.

The first segment focused on a 48-year old single father of three, a successful banker living in affluent DuPage County, Illinois – until he lost his job and his wife left him. Willing to start over, John earned a degree in teaching, then discovered that for each job there were 4,000 applicants. Now John substitute teaches whenever he can, and lives with his children in rental homes that are undergoing foreclosure proceedings. He repairs the houses to earn reduced rent. He mentions that even if he were lucky enough to be called to teach as a substitute every single school day, he could earn only $12,000 a year. He and his children do receive Medicaid. The film shows John shopping at the local food pantry, where he articulates the embarrassment and shame he feels at depending on others to feed his family. Back home in his kitchen we see him putting away food and carefully folding his reusable grocery bags. Again he articulates his frustration and bewilderment, saying something like: I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do. It’s very hard.

Bob Loffer pointed out that John fell below the poverty line for one reason only: he lost his job.  We were asked to consider how close each of us, or our children, might be to crossing the poverty line: what quirks of fate might put us there? In addition to job loss we cited catastrophic illness and depreciation in the value of our homes. We talked about John’s apparent isolation from any community support systems. Finally the idea was brought up that the State of Illinois might more wisely spend money creating more teaching jobs. That suggestion was supported:  the systemic solution demands a restructuring of resources, which demands new understanding of the systemic causes of poverty.

Join us for Segment 2 of The Line on April 14, Segment 3 on May 5, and Segment 4 on June 2. Surely our evolving discussion will encourage new insights into economic injustice and the subtle (or not-so-subtle) attitude shifts that accompany insight.

Summary of Faith Works Meeting on March 14, 2013:

Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa (CWJ):
Mike Neville moved, and David Gebhard seconded, that Faith UCC become an organizational affiliate of the newly formed Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa, and that our $250 minimum annual dues be paid from a $200 budget line item for the Center plus $50 from the Faith Works budget. During the summer of 2012 CWJ was founded by a coalition of local religious, community, labor and immigrant organizations. Faith Works members Marilyn Calkins, Julianne Pirtle and Ann Zerkel began attending monthly CWJ Advisory Committee meetings last August. As the congregation learned in a presentation given by CWJ representatives Jen Sherer and Ryan Downing in January, the mission of the Center for Worker Justice is to unite low-wage workers across race and immigration status to achieve social and economic justice through education, organizing, direct services and community alliances. CWJ coordinates projects to address injustices in areas such as: workplace conditions, including wage theft; civil rights; access to education and the need for affordable housing.  CWJ has applied for affiliation with Interfaith Worker Justice, a national network of similar worker justice centers. While the low-wage workers themselves are the actual members of CWJ, individual contributor-allies and members of organizational affiliates are eligible to serve on the Board of Directors and to attend Advisory Committee meetings. A key concept of CWJ is that low-wage workers are agents of change, not merely recipients of it. Our annual dues will contribute to renting office space and hiring one full-time organizer. CWJ was incorporated as a non-profit organization as recently as November, 2012, and is now in the process of fundraising and finding an office home. While CWJ depends on our support, Faith Works welcomes this opportunity to join a local, hands-on effort to change systemic causes of poverty.

Iowa Public Policy Project:
Marilyn Calkins is making arrangements to bring in a speaker from the Iowa Public Policy Project sometime this spring, to address government regulations for small businesses and the economic barriers these regulations can pose to small business owners. We hope to learn more about the regulations themselves, where they are coming from, and why.

Fall Small Group Discussions:
We are in process of planning small group discussions (3-4 persons per group), at least one to be held at the church and others in our homes, to examine what the scriptures say about economic justice, to tell of our own attitudes and experiences of poverty in a confidential setting, to ask why we might want Faith UCC to become a Covenanted Economic Justice Congregation, and to consider what a possible economic justice covenant for Faith UCC might look like. We are considering administering a survey following these group meetings, to help us further discern the will of the congregation.

Ann Zerkel for Faith Works, a Committee of Faith UCC

Members:
Marilyn Calkins, David Gebhard, Chuck Hauck, Rev. Bob Loffer, Michael Neville, Julianne Pirtle and Ann Zerkel

Faith Works welcomes additional members! We meet at Faith UCC from 7- 8:30 pm on the 2nd Thursday of each month. Please consider joining us!

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