January 26 - February 1, 2004  







Questions for Post-Souper Bowl Sunday


Across the nation this Sunday, over 10,000 churches will participate in the Souper Bowl of Caring to raise an estimated $4 million for food pantries. The Souper Bowl is an amazing grassroots ministry that has mushroomed in the 14 years since Pastor Brad Smith started the event at his Presbyterian congregation in Columbia, S.C. It shows what God’s people can do when they are energized and motivated.


But while it is laudable that churches have opened their hearts and wallets for the hungry, larger questions loom.


What has happened to our economic structure that more and more churches need to run food pantries? Once the domain of churches in hard-luck neighborhoods, food pantries have become a staple in urban, suburban and rural churches alike, and pantries across the land report surging need.


The growth of food pantry ministries follows trends in employment and wealth distribution that have pushed millions of once-stable families into need.


Why, in the richest country the world has ever known, are an ever-increasing number of citizens turning to churches to get their weekly groceries? These are the questions stewards of God's abundance need to ask. Here’s another: Just how is the economy doing -- not on Wall Street, but on Main Street?


Don't ask Alan Greenspan. Ask Sister Margarite Critchley, who runs St. Raphael's Food Pantry in Queens, N.Y. "When we started this food pantry seven years ago we would have a handful of people show up," she told the Flushing Times-Legder. "Last December we had 1,121 people come here for food.”


Or maybe Vincent Chase, director of Catholic Social Services in Springfield, Ohio. "We're seeing a lot of people who are in a jam and typically wouldn't ask for help," he told The Springfield News-Sun"And that's a change."


Across the country, those who work in charities are reporting the same phenomenon: Requests for assistance are skyrocketing, especially among people who never needed it before.

"People live in a $300,000 home, but they have no food in it," Richard Nogal, president of the United Way of Southwest Cook County in Illinois told The Star newspapers. "The need has absolutely nothing to do with the value of somebody's home."

Food pantries are wonderful ministries, and they serve an important need. But is anybody naïve enough to believe the answer to America’s growing hunger is church food pantries? It has to do with jobs, social policy and economics.

The myth persists that the flow of money through the world follows some natural, uncontrollable course, like a river to the sea. But it’s not true. Economics is directed by the total sum of choices made by the world’s individuals, corporations and governments. All of which are interrelated and responsive to education, awareness and persuasion.

People of faith who are citizens of the United States of America – the world’s strongest economy, largest power and most influential government – have particularly strong opportunity to shape economic policy. Especially in an election year.

However you vote, whatever political party you support, ask the tough questions and be open to the answers. For a good resource, check out Elections Matter: Vote to End Hunger, a free resource just put out by the Bread for the World Institute (www.bread.org), a faith-based coalition of hunger advocates.  

It might help shape a good post-Souper Bowl discussion.

-Rob Blezard, Editor and Webmaster (webmaster@stewardshipoflife.org)


New Resources This Week: Jan. 26 - Feb. 1


 Elections Matter: Vote to End Hunger
"As people of faith, it is our moral calling to be politically engaged. Practicing faithful citizenship is our right under the U.S. Constitution. We are serving God when we raise issues of hunger and poverty in an election year," says Bread for the World Institute, a faith-led coalition of hunger advocates that has made this resource available for free download. The guide will "show you how to become more involved as an individual and through your church, civic group, or campus. As a voter engaged in the electoral process, you have the power to ensure that hunger and poverty become key issues in election campaigns across the nation."


  The Liturgy of Abundance, the Myth of Scarcity

A must read by Walter Brueggemann, the respected Hebrew Bible scholar who brings searing Scriptural insight into American consumerism and religious life.  
"Christians have a long history of trying to squeeze Jesus out of public life and reduce him to a private little Savior. But to do this is to ignore what the Bible really says. ... When people forget that Jesus is the bread of the world, they start eating junk food -- the food of the Pharisees and of Herod, the bread of moralism and of power. Too often the church forgets the true bread and is tempted by the junk food." From The Christian Century.


  Hard Stories, Hard Choices
"Being good stewards isn't always easy or pretty.
We will struggle always to find the right answers when faced with those who demand what is not theirs. As we try to hold on to what is not ours but God's, hopefully we will all learn something." In Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.


  Giving Servants
"The issue of 'giving' is the key element in the growth and health of an individual and a congregation. Want to be truly rich? Then give! Want to be truly successful? Then serve!" An inspirational, enriching essay by Glen Holmquist. From the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.


  Are You Open to God's Blessings?
"Could it possibly be that among the clutter of every day, God is in there trying to break through to you? His blessings are all around you. Can you see them? Can you hear him?"  StewardLife from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod