"For the Faithful Living of These Days"
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
November 15, 2001
As delegates of the 36 member churches of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, we have gathered together in Oakland, Calif., for the first time since September 11, 2001. We have worshipped, prayed and reflected together on these events and their aftermath.
In a resolution entitled "Out of the Ashes and Tragedy of September 11, 2001," we have spoken about the issues of world peace. We have also reflected on our witness and ministry to the poor among us, the newly unemployed and the hundreds of thousands in our land whose lives, already deeply stressed by poverty, will now become even more difficult. We offer our reflections first to the more than 52 million members of our churches and then to all persons of goodwill, resolved that together we can and must draw upon our deep religious resources to address the needs of the most vulnerable among us.
We confess that the way ahead and the way to healing are not clear, but God's promise is sure, "Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39). We willingly and humbly accept, and call others to share in, a spiritual quest to discern God's will. People of faith, in humility and trust, are called to open themselves to God's leading. In the voice of the prophet Isaiah we bear God's word to us: "Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe them and turn not away from your flesh and blood?' (Isaiah 58:6-7).
In simple faith and in trust we eagerly, confidently, even joyfully take upon us now the yoke of service to our neighbors in need. Ours is a blessed opportunity to witness to the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ. Christians in our congregations, in families and in ecumenical or in interfaith groupings will need to identify the disciplines that best reflect their own spiritual longings and more powerfully embody their love and concern for those in need. In our parishes and communities many are reaching out to those in need. Enriched by our ecumenical encounters we pledge and invite others to practice:
- Daily attention to Scripture and prayer in the active search for the leading of the Holy Spirit;
- Immediate attention to the unmet needs in our communities for food, shelter, clothing, comfort, and meaningful work;
- Weekly observance of a day of fasting in which we modify our patterns of consumption and pray for all those in need, especially those who live in poverty. This will enable us to utilize savings from such modification, to make regular donations of food, money, time and talent to community pantries, food kitchens, and places of refuge and hope for all.
We ask the members of our communities and others to call upon local, state and federal agencies to "Stop the Clock" on eligibility terminations of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and unemployment insurance, food stamps and health care. In this season of national suffering, our wounds must not be self-inflicted.
As we enter the season of Advent preparing our hearts to receive the poor Child of Bethlehem, we pray anew that God will again break into human history with peace and mercy. As a community of faith we take heart in scriptural witness, shared faith and most of all in the grace of God.