By Fr. Daniel Pinell
The current crisis is affecting more than just our health. The economic downfall is another sad consequence of this pandemic. It is estimated that the city of Ocala will experience a 26% unemployment rate in the coming months. That’s a higher percentage of unemployment than the Great Depression! This frightening news should move us into action to work towards the common good of our city.
Therefore, Fr. Jonathan has assigned me the role of “unemployment czar” for Grace Church. I have been studying webinars, books, and articles to learn how to prepare for ministry in the coming unemployment crisis. I would like to share with you some of what I have learned so far!
Our Current Situation: In the US, there is now an unemployment rate of 20% or more and up to 50 million jobs are vulnerable, which is one-third of all the positions in our country!
Job Preparedness Ministry: For example, one ministry is Jobs for Life, which helps workers build their identity in Christ and not in their jobs, and build character to keep their jobs long-term.
Dignity and Discipleship: Dignity is a major aspect of employment issues. Question: How do we restore the dignity of our workers, especially those who are unemployed? Answer: Discipleship! Key to discipleship is establishing our identity in Christ and not in what we do. In this period of instability, the Church should be compassionately challenging the role economics and our employment status play in our identity.
Pain in the Church: When unemployment goes up and people’s core identity is shaken, problems like alcoholism, depression, and suicide become more prevalent. To address these, it is important for us to answer these questions honestly: Is my congregation a place where people can hurt? Is it a place where they can express their discouragement and hurt, and be nurtured?
Spiritual Brokenness: Often, our spiritual brokenness plays out as a feeling superiority, as part of the solution, and the brokenness of the poor as the opposite: shame and worthlessness. The way we help the poor often exacerbates that shame: if we give with no regard to their contributions to us and divorced from relationships, we are telling them, unwittingly or not, that they have nothing to contribute! Upholding the dignity of the poor and unemployed, and seeing them as fellow image-bearers, should be reflected in the way we help those with less resources.
Generosity: This is a moment to give generously. Yes, simply giving money to people in chronic poverty is rarely helpful or dignifying. But we also have a lot of people who have been working for decades and have just lost their jobs. They need relief, and the ones we should be focusing now are the newly unemployed people. Therefore, we should be focusing on generosity. We do not have enough resources to help everyone, but we can partner with other organizations. I encourage you to act, be generous, and serve the common good of the city God has called us to!