Vocation – In This Economy?

Vocation – In This Economy?

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Everybody’s got a right to live is one of the anthems the Poor People’s Campaign uses when engaging in direct action and other activities. The verses go on to proclaim that everybody’s got a right to love, to dream, to learn – to thrive.  

As Christians, we might add another right to this list: everybody has the right to live out the call God has placed on their lives.  

Our ability to pursue God’s call can be limited or aided by our wages and wealth, how much it costs to live in our city or town, the caregiving responsibilities we have and who shares those responsibilities with us. Like loving, learning, and dreaming, the ability to pursue our vocation is too often determined by our race, gender, and class because we live in a society where there is a significant racial wealth gap, where women tend to be unpaid family caregivers, and where incomes needed to afford rent far surpass minimum wages.  

These metrics don’t represent the entirety of the impacts of white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism – which drive our thinking about what it means to live a good, successful life. We tend to assume that work should be fulfilling – at least for people with college degrees. We tend to assume that people without advanced degrees are limited to “unskilled” labor and do not have the potential to engage in a meaningful vocation. 

The work – the ministry, the service, the presence – that God calls a person to might be their paid work, but it may not be. As the church, we have a responsibility to support one another in vocational discernment. We tend to be prepared for this vocational discernment when it comes to future authorized ministers: we form committees to journey with them, we bless and pray for them, we send them to seminary and other educational opportunities. But by virtue of our baptisms, all Christians are called to ministry, whether this takes the form of our paid work or not. As the church, we are called to support all in our community in discerning and living out God’s call on their lives. 

As we consider how to support the vocational discernment of all in our church communities, here are some questions for reflection: 

  • How does the congregation talk about people’s paid work? Are some professions valued more than others? Are there areas of professional work that people are expected to offer as a church volunteer?  

  • How does the congregation talk about vocation or ministry? Is this limited to people who are ordained ministers? 

  • How does the congregation lift up ministries and vocations for people whose contributions are often undervalued? Consider especially children, elders, people with disabilities – and others who are often overlooked or marginalized in our communities. 

  • How do we support members of our congregations and wider communities to live out their calls AND live in a dignified manner?  

  • If you haven’t already, review the updated clergy compensation guidelines for the Southern New England Conference. How does your pastor’s current compensation honor their ministry as well as the economic realities of your area? 

  • Consider also the compensation for other church staff, such as faith formation leaders, church administrators, and custodians. How do their wages relate to the “housing wage” for your area? What support do these staff have for their family caregiving responsibilities?   

  • What resources does your congregation have to support church members or other community members in discerning their vocation and living God’s call? Could you provide childcare? Space? Mini-grants? Could the congregation offer prayer, discernment circles, or mentoring? 

  • If there are business owners, employers, or supervisors in your congregation – how does the church support these individuals in committing to moral, dignified employment practices? 

  • Does your congregation work to support policy changes that help give everyone the right to live? The Poor People’s Campaign offers resources that are a great place to start learning about why these policy changes are necessary – as well as opportunities for action.  

If your congregation takes up any of these questions – or if you have previously – I would love to hear about it! I hope to further develop these kinds of resources and welcome hearing from your experiences. Contact me at brewer-walline@sneucc.org.

Photo by Rose Sun/Unsplash

Author

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Emma Brewer-Wallin

Emma serves as the Minister for Environmental and Economic Justice at the Southern New England Conference. She supports congregations in making God’s love real through engagement in environmental and economic justice. Contact her for: Support ...

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