Living in New York, I am constantly reminded of the plight of the poor because they are all around me. I encounter panhandlers most days, and two men’s shelters are less than a mile from my home. I’ve seen men and women, both young and old, camped out on busy streets holding handmade signs asking for help. One night as I waited for a subway train, the doors of a train going in the opposite direction opened and revealed several homeless people riding aimlessly to escape winter’s chill.
Current budget proposals at the federal government level eliminate or reduce support of many social programs that assist the vulnerable. As women of faith, we must continue to advocate for the vulnerable and work to destroy the myths and falsehood that demonize “the other.” But for the grace of God go any of us, no matter how secure we presently feel. The work we do remains very necessary, as the articles you’re about to read attest.
In this issue we continue to explore the spiritual growth study Living As a Covenant Community. “Covenant Living With God and Community,” on pages 8 to 12, looks at the role of deaconesses and home missioners. Use the study questions at the end to contemplate what you feel called to do to put faith, hope and love into action.
Pastor and professor Henri Nouwen considered flexibility a virtue. “It means moving a little with the winds of the time while remaining solidly anchored in the ground,” he wrote. Bethlehem Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina, puts that virtue into practice, as Jessica Brodie reports in “A Solid Foundation” on pages 19 to 23.
For “Empowering Women Through Technology” on pages 27 to 34, photojournalist Nile Sprague traveled to the Dominican Republic and met young women who are gaining valuable computer training through a nonprofit organization that supports Haitian immigrants. With computers and smartphones so commonplace, it’s easy to assume that everyone is connected. But a Pew Research Center study reports people of lower income are being left behind in a digitally dependent world. Make the digital divide a meeting topic in your group.
United Methodist Women has historical roots in the Red Bird region of Kentucky. Today, the Red Bird Missionary Conference very actively serves nine counties in the region and preserves their legacy by getting youth involved in their activities. Is this something you could do as well? Read about them in “United Methodist Women in the Red Bird Missionary Conference” on pages 36 to 37.
The case of Freddie Gray, a young man who died of injuries suffered in police custody, exposed the stark racial and socioeconomic contrasts that exist in Baltimore. But “Charm City” began to erode long before his death. Decades of urban flight coupled with the loss of thousands of jobs when its steel plant closed in 2003 have contributed to the city’s high rate of poverty. “Manna House,” on pages 38 to 41, tells the story of a Baltimore institution that’s been feeding the community since the 1970s and now offers additional resources to help improve their lives. Encourage members of your unit or church to volunteer at a soup kitchen, pantry or national mission institution throughout the year.