Here is the testimony for the second resolution I testified on a few days ago:
“I want to begin my testimony in favor of this resolution with a question. Have you ever thought about how much it costs to wash your laundry? If you have your own washer and dryer, given energy and water costs, it’s around a dollar per load. But in a Laundromat, the cost per load is a little over three dollars. Three times as much money. If you were already struggling to pay rent or put food on the table, imagine how far those two dollars could go.
Laundry Love was an initiative started after a conversation with a homeless man in Ventura, California named T-Bone (or Eric). When asked how someone could work alongside to help him, T-Bone responded: “If I had clean clothes I think people would treat me like a human being.” As the explanation of this resolution points out, the Baptismal Covenant asks us to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being. Participating in this ministry made me that fulfilling this doesn’t always mean big, grand gestures. Sometimes, and maybe often, it’s something simple as providing clean clothes.
Moreover, through the neutral space of a Laundromat, every guest and stranger becomes a friend, no matter their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, education, ability, wealth or religion. I am not in service to the Other during Laundry Love. I am in kinship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. And I encourage this committee to pass this resolution so that all congregation in the Episcopal Church will recognize the powerful, transformative experience of relationship-based social justice. Thank you.”
I feel like I needed a lot more reflection on this testimony and the other resolutions that were on the agenda for this committee that day. My numerous tweets from this night are indicative of that.
For one thing, the committee was Congregational Vitality. Someone on the committee asked if his committee was really the best place for this resolution. Mainly because he was associating congregational vitality with butts in pews, and relationship-based ministries often don’t lead to that. And that’s the biggest problem I found with the things that were being discussed in the committee that night. Vitality is not only butts in pews, or money. It is relationships that we have with people both inside AND outside of the Church. And if we are talking about “inside” and “outside” the Church, here’s something else: church can no longer be service on Sunday anymore.
My Bishop testified on another resolution in the same place that night, which would chance the way TEC counts congregations. And in that conversation, it seemed to me that the only “service” that was mentioned as a way to count a congregation was a worship service. But as the same resolution noted, there are FIVE Marks of Mission. Worship, yes. But also relationships, justice, peace, love…and I don’t think all of those mean a church service, no matter what day of the week it’s on. What about Laundry Love? Or Seeds of Hope?
I’ve been getting an MBA in Nonprofit Management for a year now, and I still have a year left. But it seems to me that TEC is struggling with the same thing that most nonprofits are struggling with: measuring our reach and impact, and what exactly that measurement should be. In the past, I think the measurement has been the number of unique visitors to a church, and the money they give. But like so many other things in the church, it can’t be that anymore. We need to think creatively about how to measure our vitality, and our reach, and whether or not we are doing the good work Jesus encouraged us to do.
Anyone have any ideas?