“Support Main Street” was the cry as the U.S. economy stalled in March. Those with secure jobs and steady income heeded the call to target their spending and help local small businesses survive the coronavirus crash.
The church has a Main Street, too. Public-safety measures may have forced us to stay at home, but the needs of our neighbors and those served by Anabaptist-Mennonite ministries haven’t gone away. In some cases, their needs are greater.
Just as we can help baristas keep their jobs by ordering a latte even though we can’t linger in the coffeeshop, our congregations need our tithes even when we’re not passing the offering plate. If we haven’t already been giving electronically, mailing a check is easy enough.
Mennonite Central Committee could be especially hard hit as the shutdown of public events and thrift shops cuts off key sources of income. Relief sales already erased from the calendar this spring raised a total of $1.7 million in 2019. Closure of thrift shops means a $1.2 million monthly stream of funds has dried up.
It’s time to prove we’ll give without getting a quilt and a plate of verenike. Let’s estimate what we would have spent at a relief sale and give that amount to MCC anyway. Or contribute to the Kansas sale’s campaign to get 1,000 people to give $1,000 to MCC. With centennial celebrations, this was supposed to be a banner year for MCC, and it still can be.
Some of us are not able to give as usual due to job loss or other economic stress. Everence, the financial stewardship agency, is taking steps to ease the pain, including doubling the amount of Sharing Fund grant money available to congregations to assist people with serious financial needs.
Mennonite Economic Development Associates reminds us to think of and pray for its clients around the world “who are already facing the trials of poverty and who need our support more than ever,” says President Dorothy Nyambi.
In the current crisis, the church needs a revival of mutual aid. The duty to bear each other’s burdens was part of Everence’s former name, Mennonite Mutual Aid. This vital function of the body of Christ belongs at the forefront of our consciousness again. The spirit of charity, unity and sharing that undergirds the practice of mutual aid will get us through this time of hardship.