During a press conference Sunday, at which it was announced that the Southern New England Conference had abolished $26.2 million in medical debt for families in need, United Church of Christ Associate General Minister the Rev. Traci Blackmon made a point of thanking the SNEUCC. (Watch the video of Rev. Blackmon here.)
"Southern New England Conference you have been our largest contributor to this effort to date, and we are extremely grateful for the generosity of your churches, for the compassionate hearts of your members and for your tenacity to continue your pledge to make a difference in this way in spite of the way that COVID has impacted our churches and our communities," she said.
Blackmon pointed out that not only did the SNEUCC effort wipe out all the debt that was available on the secondary market in the New England region, but it helped first responders and medical workers in need all over the country.
"'It is unconscionable that the people that we celebrate as being heroes during this COVID crisis are also people who are struggling with medical debt," she said. "We talk about those that are the doctors and the nurses, and even some of them are on the list. For the most part, though, this list of heroes are those who are by bedsides, and who are driving busses, and who are working in grocery stores and who are continuing to pick up our trash, and who are continuing to clean our hospitals, and to serve food to our elderly and our sick. Those people, those heroes, whose work is considered essential, their bodies have not been treated as essential. And as they served us in this moment, they still were burdened with medical debt. Because of your contribution, Southern New England, 12,177 of those families can go to bed tonight knowing that their medical debt has been abolished. Because of your contributions, they are reminded that not only the work of their hands, but the health and the wealth and the stability of their families, matters to us."
"We are here – yes, because charity is necessary – but we are also here because justice must come," she said. "This act by Southern New England, in the midst of a pandemic, reminds us that the God we serve is more than able to provide sufficiently for all of our needs. The choice is ours – what shall we do with what has been provided? Will we care for one another? Will we turn our ears and listen to the pain of those around us? I am proud and grateful that Southern New England Conference has said yes. You represent what it means to be the United Church of Christ, you represent what it means to work toward a just world for all."
"Thank you. Thank every church, and every member, and every Conference leader, thank you to your Associations, for what you have done to make a difference in our country through your contributions."