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ING’s Fall 2013
Interfaith Service Days
Sunday, November 10, 2013
Address: 57 Inlet Drive, Bay Point
Time: 8:30 am – 4:00 pm
Service: Aiding Habitat for Humanity in preparing a new home for a family in need.
Outcomes: Participants painted outside walls and trim on a recently-built Habitat for Humanity residence.
ING’s fourth Interfaith Service Day took place in Bay Point on Sunday, November 10th at a home under construction through Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity builds and repairs homes for those in need. Habitat’s vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. The project was a home for a 6-member family on a quiet residential street. The assignment for the ING volunteers that day was to paint the outside walls and trims. Some of the volunteers had worked with Habitat previously, while for others it was the first time. But everyone got to work taping windows and painting. After working hard all morning, everyone was happy to sit down for the Mediterranean style lunch catered by ING.
The volunteers, who came from diverse local houses of worship, including Temple Isaiah in Lafayette, San Ramon Valley Islamic Center and St. John’s Lutheran Church in Antioch enjoyed getting to know each other over lunch. Afterwards the volunteers divided up into small groups to discuss and respond to questions relating to the faith community’s responsibility towards those in need. The conversation was lively and the participants were deeply engaged in a topic that brings people of diverse faiths together. All expressed their appreciation for both the lunch and the opportunity to learn more about each other and to brainstorm on this critical topic.
Discussion Questions and Responses:
1. What do our faith traditions say about our responsibilities toward the poor? How does this compare with some views about responsibility toward the poor that are now current?
- Across the three faiths there was agreement that all our faith traditions emphasize helping the poor and sacrificing to help those in need. There are similar words in all three religions defining what and how much to give.
- There is also a growing divide between those who care about this issue and those who don’t which is often impacted by political divides. Some groups have the attitude that if you are poor it’s your own fault or that government should not be involved in charity work. The question is how does one reduce the divide? One way is by diversifying the type of programs; new methods have changed in the way that people support the poor – rather than hand-outs, helping through providing educational assistance to help life people out of poverty.
- A program to help people experience poverty is a simulation in which people role play a family in poverty and the challenges of making ends meet. Another program assigns participants the task of living on a very small food income for a week which forces people to come face-to-face with the challenge of making ends meet.
2. What unique resources do faith communities have to contribute to dealing with the problem of poverty?
- Faith communities possess a level of caring and kindness that is unique. Faith communities are a good platform to connect with others from diverse backgrounds, talents and capacities. Faith communities also bring a moral voice to these issues.
- Many congregations have a box for giving or programs for youth service that brings the inequalities among people to their attention at a young age.
- Faith communities have committees and people within the congregation to work on these issues. For instance, Temple Isaiah has a social justice committee as well as a food pantry and urban farming project – bringing unpicked fruit to shelters.
- Social media is also a great tool to spearhead fundraising for those in need.
3. What contribution can faith communities make toward changing the social and economic conditions that produce poverty?
- Religious communities bring together otherwise unconnected people who bring diverse skill sets and ideas that allow them to provide varied resources to address the issues of poverty.
- Recently the trend has been more towards changing people’s economic condition by providing them with tools and skills to help themselves, ie., instead of giving a person a fish to eat, teach them how to fish and a fishing pole. Many organizations now teach skills rather than just providing charity.
- It’s important to instill in young people a caring and respect for all people and to expose them to diverse socio-economic situations, ie., involve them in service to food kitchens, homeless shelters, nursing homes. Sports are also a great equalizer.