Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sustainability, Sacrifice, Privilege: Where The Rubber Meets the Road

This is another kind of "Beyond the Story" reflection growing out of issues raised in the UU World cover story on us at http://www.uuworld.org/.

Let me begin with a quote from Right Here, Right Now by Alan Hirsch and Lance Ford about the disconnect between the ideal of missional life and communities, even after someone takes the red pill, and their current life. They say for most "the idea of missional discipleship seems like a far-off dream because they work most of the time, come home exhausted, spend what little spare time they have with family and kids, and don't seem to have any time for anything else.

"Now I don't mean to diminish the sacredness of work and family," they continue. "but if work is too demanding for us to involve ourselves in being authentic disciples in realms other than work, is is the dominance of our work that should be questioned and not the viability of our discipleship. Work like this is more of an enslaving thing than it is a means of living. We can all live with a lot less. Work four days a week instead of five, if only to find more space for God in your life, let alone serve others. Much real life, relationships, and spiritual meaning can be added by simplifying our lives in order to engage more fully in Life."

As I was quoted in the UU World cover article on our missional community here, I am privileged to be aided in both this work and in life by being married, by being in a two income family (when many of my neighbors are in families with little to no income), with one of our incomes coming from a VA doc salary. Being aware and acknowledging these blessings, these privileges, I hope helps all others, and I mean all of our neighbors, to recognize their own blessings and privilege--it will be different from mine, but theirs is comparative real as well. The joy is to work not out of any sense of shame or deprivation or constantly judging who has what and who hasn't, but to look at how to use our blessings and privileges in service. For in doing so, we also all can live sacrificially as well.

We live where we do so that in large measure we can spend more of our joint incomes in ways that reflect our values of community with others especially the poor, rather than putting those same resources into our own real estate property values or other things, and so that we can have some resources to more easily spend on things that we do enjoy personally, such as travel, gifts, eating out, which would otherwise also be sacrificed to be able to live in other places. It is hard to use the word sacrifice when talking for example about how we moved with our teenage daughter from a new suburban home of $150,000 into an abandoned home and property for $28,000 when we love where we live, how we have been able to work on fixing it up, even though tens of thousands of dollars of repair and fixing it up turns into zero gain in property value because of the "comparables" around us :), and as we feel so blessed by our surroundings. We could live anywhere, and choose to live here. But then I remember that sacrifice means making sacred and it seems more apt.

On my part putting together a "cobbled ministry" of part-time paid work has been both a difficult choice when I think of income "lost" over the years but it has also been a blessing by being able to focus more time on the unpaid part time ministry. The choices have been easier for me, I believe, than for others in other circumstances, but as Bonnie was quoted in the article, if we made do personally with even much less in order to engage in this missional community life we would, and it all makes me marvel and worry about how so many of our leaders in more traditional churches work 40 to 80 hours a week and then still put in/are asked to do so many hours through the church and other groups. If they can do that (though with Hirsch and Ford, I have to challenge its sustainability and wisdom) then we as missional leaders can look for ways to reorient and make space in our lives for the missional callings we are feeling. Besides, going bi or tri vocational, especially in non-churchy work, becomes a benefit in missional church, not a liability. It puts us, whether we would seek it or not, in spheres with others perhaps not so like us, and allows us to make some of the first steps in bridging the "cultural distance" so important in missional church. I will post later about the ways Hirsch and Ford discuss cultural distance.

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