Fall 2021 …
Bridging the Gap: The Poor Among Us

Sep. 13 – Dec. 13
Mon. evenings @ 7:00 pm
online via Zoom

Overview

The Ministry Integration Team is again pleased to invite you to become a compassionate bridge-builder. Although our topic—bridging the economic divide—is new, our goals remain the same:

  1. to gain knowledge about those who are unlike ourselves; and
  2. to acquire and practice skills for compassionate communication and Christ-like love through action.

These objectives begin and end with the compassionate love and understanding extended through Christ to us, his sinful and undeserving followers. They also stand squarely within the scope of Erin’s Vision Statement: Unified in Christ, we actively seek to create harmony in a diverse community through compassion, mutual respect, and love.

Topics of Study

What does the Bible say about poverty?
Who are the poor?
Going Hungry
Rural and Urban Poverty
The Homeless
Caught in the Cycle
Children in Poverty
Helping, not Harming

Past participation in BridgeBuilders is not required to enroll for the fall. ALL ARE WELCOME!

For those who belong to Erin, this is an opportunity to become bridge-builders, and to extend God’s love beyond the walls of our church. Please join us in praying for this venture, that God’s wisdom will guide our planning and infuse our gatherings!

Blessings,

Kellan Sarles and Pastor John Stuart, Curriculum Planners
Series sponsored by your Ministry Integration Team

    Registration

    *NOTE: If you have no printer or otherwise need us to mail hard copies of course materials, please complete the address information below.

    Minute with Bridge Builders Archive

    Click on each tab to see each week’s 1-page reflection and action step.

    Minutes 1-10

    #1 Civility – This is one of the great paradoxes of the gospels: If you want to be high, get low. If you want to be heard, then listen. If you want to be understood, then try understanding. We talk a lot about civility, often using the word to mean politeness. But Ron Harris, guest columnist for the Knox Sentinel, says civility is more about our attitudes and behavior than about soft words and polite phrases.

    Click to read more.

    #2 Benefits of Dialog – We have just been through, perhaps, the most highly-charged election in U.S. history. During this time and even now, many of us have steered clear of political conversations. While no one wants to argue with a friend, not talking to each other brings its own set of consequences.

    Click to read more.

    #3 Empathy – We all long for peace in these discordant times. As the verse above instructs, peace doesn’t come from political edict, but starts within each of us. We build bridges of peace through our conversations … not by avoiding difficult conversations, but by using communication skills that lead to understanding and empathy.

    Click to read more.

    #4 Corinthians advice – Conversations tend to be either debates (the need to be right) or discussions (the need to come to a decision). In dialogue-centered conversations, on the other hand, the intention is to connect, to understand and to learn from one another. Dialogue-centered conversation relies on attentive listening and thoughtful speaking.

    Click to read more.

    #5 Time, Place, Space – When we strongly disagree with someone on a personal matter, it is more difficult to practice the humility and gentleness that the Apostle Paul talks about in his letter to the Ephesians. Fearing that any conversation will “make matters worse,” we avoid addressing the issue until it reaches a head—and then it goes badly.

    A much better practice would be to plan for an important conversation, keeping in mind four wise practices: PLACE, TIME, SPACE, and RAPPORT.

    Click to read more.

    #6 Microaffirmations – When conversing in a group setting, always make it your goal to recognize and compliment the contributions of other speakers. Providing small “microaffirmations” builds good will and lets others know that you are listening attentively. A micro-affirmation can be as simple as saying, “I am interested in hearing more about Lisa’s suggestion.” “That’s a great idea!” “Thank you for speaking up about that.” Of course, all comments should be sincere.

    Click to read more.

    #7 Racism Definition – Racism is usually understood as the “prejudice” of one person against another. But racism goes beyond personal bias. When racial prejudice is shared by a majority of people, it can become “a system of advantage based primarily on race; in other words, “prejudice + power.

    Click to read more.

    #8 Systemic Racism – When we speak of systemic racism, we are talking about the practices, laws, and traditions that are an accepted part of the larger “system”—or status quo—of life in the U.S. It is the perpetuation of a double standard – assigning positive traits to the dominant racial group and negative traits to non-dominant groups. In truth, these practices are so subtle and have become so common that many white Americans are unaware of them. One example of systemic racism in schools would be relegating the study of prominent Black Americans to a single week or month of “Black History.” Another would be adopting textbooks that ignore or sugar-coat pivotal chapters in U.S. history or that feature only the literary/artistic works of white authors and artists. Only when such practices are viewed through the lens of equity do they show up as prejudicial.

    Click to read more.

    #9 Implicit Bias – While few of us would say we are racists, all people harbor biases. In most cases, people gravitate toward and assign positive associations to others who are like themselves – whether in complexion, language, ethnicity, culture, or age. Anthropologists would argue that this tendency developed from the need to seek safety in groups and guard against predators or “dangerous” strangers. While acknowledging that there are people in the world who may seek to do us harm, we must also recognize that most of our biases and pre-judgments are not based on real threat but on overt and subtle messages we received growing up.

    Click to read more.

    #10 Environmental Racism – What is environmental racism? You might ask the people poisoned by the water of Flint, MI, or the thousands of Black residents of New Orleans who lost loved ones during Hurricane Katrina, or the miners living next to smoldering slag heaps in WV and Kentucky. They would assure you that, had they been more affluent, more empowered, better educated, and/or white, their plight may have been different. Environmental racism is the placement of hazardous waste sites (slag heaps), landfills, polluting industries close to Black, Asian, Latinx, and Native American working poor communities. It can also be reluctance to move or address such environmental hazards when they primarily affect minorities.

    Click to read more.

    Minutes 11-20

    #11 Seeing Color – Most of us would disavow any racist behavior. We may even describe ourselves as “colorblind” – claiming to not even see differences. In truth, people of color do not want to be “invisible” but rather to be seen and valued for who they are. Likewise, our Black brothers and sisters do not wish to be “complimented” for how they “blend right in.” They are whole, unique persons who embody deep, rich ancestries, strengths, and world-views. Not acknowledging and respecting their difference is to not fully acknowledge them.

    Click to read more.

    #12 Colonialism – In hindsight, the history of colonial America isn’t quite as was learned in kindergarten –or high school, for that matter. The America Columbus “discovered” was already inhabited by 75 million indigenous people of many cultures and tribes. These varied native peoples had spiritual practices, knew farming and hunting. Some had written language, currency, schools, and towns. They justifiably claimed natural rights to the territories long held by their ancestors, and respected and honored the land and its bounty above all else. Sadly, European invaders, through war, disease, enslavement, and forced migration, all but wiped out these native peoples. Many of their descendants, still residing on reservations, number among the very poorest people in our nation.

    Click to read more.

    #13 Manifest Destiny – Last week’s “Minute” left you with a question: By what imperative did white explorers feel entitled to all the land east of the Mississippi? The answer is “Manifest Destiny” – a policy invented to allow imperialistic expansion in the name of necessity or benevolence –or even God. Many explorers gained great personal wealth through Manifest Destiny. For example, as a reward for returning to Spain with gold and spices, Christopher Columbus was promised 10% of the profits, governorship over newfound lands, and the title Admiral of the Seas.

    Click to read more.

    #14 Indian Removal – When we hear the word “apartheid,” we generally think of South Africa, but history shows that the U.S. engaged in many practices to separate and contain racial groups. The 1836 Indian Removal Act forced indigenous people –including the young and the elderly—to walk from the southeastern states to present-day Oklahoma. Over 3,000  Native Americans died over the course of the grueling 800+ miles. “The Trail of Tears,” as it became known, was clearly an act of apartheid. The barren land that was to become their home provided few resources to sustain their traditional lifestyle. And, sadly, these destitute reservations are still home to some of the poorest and most forgotten Americans.

    Click to read more.

    #15 Slavery – In late August, 1619, the first slaves were brought to the shores of what would become the United States of America. Twenty people, violently stolen from their families and homes in the kingdom of Ndogo in what is now Angola arrived here in chains. By 1860, the United States was home to 3.6 million enslaved human beings who were either stolen from their homes and families or born into slavery in this nation.

    Click to read more.

    #16 Constitution – Until the amendment of 1870, the U.S. Constitution ruled that states would pay taxes based upon the number of residents. Taxes were calculated upon the whole number of free persons. A slave was to be counted as 3/5ths of a person – an advantage to northern states but a disadvantage to southern states whose populations were bolstered by huge numbers of enslaved people.

    Click to read more.

    #17 Segregated Churches – In the 18th century, Black and white believers worshipped in the same churches, but Blacks were relegated to separate balconies so as not to mix. Over time, Black Christians, founded independent churches and separate denominations like the African Methodist Episcopal Church to allow them to freely practice traditions of oral music and ecstatic praise. Fast forward to 1963 when, in an interview at Western Michigan University, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke his now famous words: “We must face the fact that in America, the church is still the most segregated major institution in America. At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation. This is tragic. Nobody of honesty can overlook this.”

    Click to read more.

    #18 GI Bill – The end of WWII ushered in a decade of enormous growth for America. Returning veterans received government assistance in the form of the GI Bill –which enabled many to attend college and/get a home equity loan – two predictors of upward mobility and future wealth. Affordable houses were being built by the thousands in America’s suburbs which soon became home to the new “middle class”.

    Sadly, many Black veterans, came home to an America still mired in Jim Crow culture.

    Click to read more.

    #19 Judicial System – In the U.S., Black and Latino inmates comprise a disproportionately large part of the male prison population. As far back as 2003, almost 25% of all Black men in their thirties had served time in prison – and the rate has steadily increased! This staggering statistic points to several factors including significant variation in the ways in which people of color are detained, arrested, charged, represented and sentenced for the same crimes committed by whites. The “War on Drugs” has been especially punitive for poor Black nonviolent offenders, including teenagers, in urban areas. Did you know that poor people who can’t afford bail are put in jail – sometimes for years? The practice results in jails and prisons filled with men and women who have yet to be convicted of any crime and have no means of retaining legal representation. Equally troubling is the proliferation of for-profit, privately-operated prisons that rely on a steady stream of prison labor to increase their wealth.

    Click to read more.

    #20 Remembering History – One participant in our fall BridgeBuilders study posed this question: “I’ve learned so much about American history that was never taught in textbooks or by my teachers. Without seeming to denigrate America, how do we bring others to a new appreciation/understanding of our country’s ‘racist’ past?” At issue is the discomfort we may feel when we realize that our nation isn’t perfect, our history was not always pretty, and our ideals have not been fully realized.

    Click to read more.

    Minutes 21-30

    #21 Un-level Playing Field – Many Baby Boomers –Americans born between the end of WWII and 1964—grew up in an optimistic period of growth in the US. Employment was at an all-time high and household incomes grew. Few white
    Americans considered themselves “rich” or “privileged.” After all, they were working hard to pay for what they had, and putting away any spare dollars for their kids’ education. As a result, many of those Baby Boomer kids became the first in their families to attend college, get a white collar job, become influential in their communities, and inherit financial wealth from their parents. But not all American citizens were able to do the same.

    Click to read more.

    #22 Racism Damages – Today’s “Minute” reminds us that God purposed and created all of humanity — a beautiful variety of children, internally identical but externally varied, each a beloved son or daughter. And of his creation, God said, “It is good!”

    Click to read more.

    #23 Little Interaction – Despite the increasing racial diversity in the U.S., evidence suggests that most adults who are Euro-American or of white culture very seldom, over the course of a day or week, interact deeply with anyone other than those of the same race and socioeconomic class!

    Click to read more.