Information to Help Your Neighbors and Congregation Members Who Have Lost Jobs
Produced by Barbara Zelter, Program Associate and the Economic Justice Committee of the North Carolina Council of Churches (August 2003)
From the Introduction:
This booklet is an offering to you from the North Carolina Council of Churches. When the Executive Board of the Council met in the Fall of 2002 to determine priorities for the Council’s program work, a prime concern was our North Carolina economy.
We are one of the top states for job loss due to the free trade agreements initiated by the federal government over the past ten years. The earnings gap between those in stable professions and those who serve in jobs such as health aides and childcare workers, farm workers and landscapers, is widening every year. Add to this a recession and wars, tobacco’s demise, flood and hurricane destruction, and a state budget crisis, and we end up with too many individuals and families in stress and fear and pain due to economic hardship.
Scripture brings us the notion of jubilee economics. This is the Hebrew tradition found in Leviticus, where the natural human tendencies for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer were systematically and regularly repaired. Remedies like freeing slaves, letting the land lie fallow, and forgiving debt were said to be God’s plan to make sure that the economic habits of the times did not leave people in dire straits for too long.
In that spirit, the Council launched a new statewide committee this year-the Economic Justice Committee. Our goal is to honor the jubilee justice vision as it applies to actual economic conditions here where we live. This will include more education around how the economy works, and how believers can shape policies that fit our values about economics and healthy community life.
Our first gift is something very concrete and practical. We hope you will find this guidebook useful as you minister to and care for those in your congregation or neighborhood who find themselves out of work. It is designed for pastors but in fact is useful for those in community agencies and many service areas, and for individuals who have lost jobs themselves.
The chapters give explanations and contacts so unemployed workers can obtain needed information, emergency services, entitled benefits, and job retraining. There are sources for help in starting a business instead of looking for another place of employment. We describe a model support group ministry. And at the end, you will find some reflection on our biblical mandate to seek justice, and information on citizen participation on issues that affect workers’ well-being.
By informing ourselves about opportunities to change unfair trade policies, wage laws, and benefit practices, we can more powerfully live into our biblical prophetic tradition. In the spirit of hope for all those who need new jobs, and for our moving toward a sustainable and fair economy, we thank you for using this booklet.
The Economic Justice Committee, NC Council of Churches, August 2003
Barbara Zelter, Program Associate
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