By the Rev. Anne Clarke, Lifelong Christian Formation Coordinator
"Toxic Charity," by Robert Lupton, is an important book for a time when, while the need in our communities is often great, the best way to go about serving others isn't always clear. Questions posed by Lupton's book can be challenging for all of us. Despite good intentions, there are sometimes unintended consequences of dependency and conflict that arise out of one-way charity or service work.
I wrote an accompanying guide to assist individual and small groups in reading Lupton's book. I based this guide on two important aspects of engaging with our communities through service work that I believe are crucial additions to his work.
First, our congregations and our neighborhoods have histories that often involve racism and other kinds of discrimination -- histories that we're often tempted to ignore. (At times, that's with the good intention of moving beyond past harmful dynamics.) However, trying to create places that invite honest listening and reflection on these truths will better equip us to address the ways these histories continue to affect us today.Second, there is good news that can help supplement Lupton's challenges to us. The fact that we already gather each week in Christian community to worship and to learn makes us uniquely suited to invite these kinds of difficult conversations! Lupton writes about some of the impact that faith communities can have, but I would say he only scratches the surface of the kind of transformation that can happen in and beyond our churches.
Church is a place where we are called each week to examine ourselves, to confess our sins, to hear about God's grace and forgiveness and abiding presence. Church is a place where we can listen to and be in relationship with other people. Church is a place where we can learn and be of service in our communities, growing in trust with each other and our neighbors.I hope this book and discussion guide will be a helpful addition to the conversations about service that we are already having in our congregations, and that the conversation will continue beyond what's contained here. There is so much more wisdom to be gained in reflecting on these questions together.
Click here for the companion guide to "Toxic Charity."
Lenten Faith Formation Resources for 2017 are available to download and share with others. Click here for books, study guides, online resources and more to help you and your congregation observe a holy Lent.
Posted on Fri, February 24, 2017
by Paula Schaap