Economic Justice


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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