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Pastor & Prophet: Let's Meet in the Middle

Today I am thinking about students and their families. I am thinking of our youth group kids. I am thinking about school superintendents, teachers, directors, school bus drivers and the like who find themselves in a complete wilderness experience. I think about poorer families who rely on school for the childcare aspect of it so the families can work that don't know what they will do if the school remains remote learning. Now, with this being said I should clarify, I personally am 100% against schools reopening for the fall where things currently stand. Cases of COVID-19 are wildly spiking and we just don't know enough about how children and youth spread the virus to safely have school as we normally would. According to NPR, the next stimulus package is aimed primarily at schools, specifically schools that are "going to have students at them this fall" which is supportive of both Devos and the President's ambitions. The prophet in me wants to scream at them for the risk for political favor by gambling with children's health (and their more vulnerable family members) as the crux. The pastor in me feels conflicted.

Again, I think of students and their families. I think of the youth group kids. I think about school staff (admins, teachers, and support staff) whose own livelihood relies on schools being open. I think of how important developmentally social interaction is for the children. I think of the poorer families who rely on childcare and I don't know what to think about schools being open anymore. Today I am grateful for the pastor's side of my heart quieting down the prophet's side of my brain. But, let's talk a little further on the poor.

One goal of our climate change series for the month of July has been to showcase that climate change affects the poor and marginalized at a disproportionately higher rate than their middle class and rich counterparts. As global temperatures and sea levels rise, as the oceans acidify and precipitation patterns get rearranged, people living in poverty are the most severely impacted. Since climate change affects everything from where a person can live to their access to health care, millions of people could be plunged further into poverty as environmental conditions worsen. But, it isn't just sea changes and temperature changes that have a direct impact on people's lives, but also how it impacts the natural balance that God intended for the world, which causes increased natural disasters that further showcase the climate apartheid. Take for example in 2017, Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, becoming the deadliest hurricane in recent US history. More than two years later, the island is still recovering from the disaster. Homes need to be repaired and rebuilt, water supplies have not been fully restored, schools and hospitals remain shuttered, and the island’s economy has been heavily disrupted. Throughout Puerto Rico, the poorest communities were hit the hardest and are the furthest away from recovery. While many wealthy people left the island or used their resources to rebuild after the disaster, poor families have had to wait months or years for assistance from an underfunded relief effort. This pattern has played out around the world in recent years — an unusually powerful storm makes landfall, causes catastrophic harm, and deepens inequalities. And it’s a pattern that will only become more common, according to experts. 

When Mckinsie and I first had to move from Lakewood to Chagrin Falls when I was appointed to this job it was really expensive. We needed a moving truck, McKinsie needed to take time off her hourly paid work to help with the moving and we needed to secure funds for a security deposit and first month down all at once. Without going into details to make this a "poor me" story we completely drained all of our accounts and maxed out one of my credit cards just to move - once. Further, we also had to leave behind our friend circle and our network for work and commerce. We found ourselves poor and lonely. Three months later we both discovered that to live in Chagrin Falls requires like 600000000 million dollars a month so we had to move out to Streetsboro which meant another moving truck, another security deposit, another first months rent, and another maxed-out credit card. Those credit cards haunted us until I was able to go full time and finally a year into a debatably liveable salary I am finally able to start paying those off. But let's consider that I am extremely privileged in the context of the world. I hold a master's degree, something that less than 1% of the world has the ability to do that and I work in a job that is extremely stable with healthy benefits to go with it and I am barely breathing from my debts. How different might this story be for someone who doesn't have the stable job that I do? How different would it be for someone who is forced to move every 3 months because the seas levels continue to rise and they can only afford to move to the next poorest place on the radar and are never able to secure a friend circle or network for business to escape their poverty? That's the unfortunate truth for over 100 million people who are projected to be displaced by 2030. The preacher in you likely doesn't care about climate change, but the pastor's heart in you breaks for the vulnerable I suspect.

So to conclude and come back to the original topic, I don't know what the answer is for this next stimulus package or for what we should do with schools this fall, but I say let's meet in the middle and at least do all we can to make life a little easier for the poorest and most vulnerable among us. To accomplish this I hope you will join me and the outreach team in our current push for Help Me Learn, a Geauga County Job and Family Services project collecting school supplies for Chagrin Falls Park community students. The donated supplies will be one less economic burden on families that are already on a tight budget. The list of needed supplies can be found in the picture below this text and can be dropped off either inside the church or in the two bins located off South Franklin or in our courtyard for safe social distancing.

Thanks for considering my ramblings this week. Let's do our work to care for Christ's creation, flora, fauna, and humankind alike.

Nick Gliha

Chagrin Falls UMC Associate Pastor of Discipleship


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