VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 1/11/21)—The newest cohort of American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ (ABHMS) In Support of Excellence (ISOE) financial-literacy initiative met for the first time on Jan. 7 and 8. Meeting virtually via Zoom, they will continue to do so monthly for the remainder of the year.
The program opened with worship led by Paul Vasile, executive director of Music that Makes Community, St. Louis, Mo. Vasile asked, “What do you hope to receive in this time? What, may I ask, do you hope to give?” Among the answers of participants were “encouragement,” “vulnerability,” “hope” and “companionship in this time.”
After welcoming participants to the program, Jennifer Sanborn, director of ISOE, denounced the spirits of evil that caused the mob violence at the U.S. capitol on Jan. 6. She later distinguished ISOE from other money-management programs.
“We are here centered on God. We believe Jesus has things to say concerning money. This program is unapologetically Christian,” she said, adding, “Money is the doorway in—the medium by which we allow God to speak into our lives.”
A diverse group, participants were divided into smaller groups for discussion that would allow them to identify their commonalities. When they returned to the larger group, they shared what they had learned.
“The thing that struck me the most as a commonality in our conversation was the sort of stress that comes in the decisions about raising a family on clergy income, especially when not supported by a stronger earner,” said participant Rachael Lawrence. “The salary levels are a source of stress.”
Sanborn reminded those assembled that, as the program application materials stated, the group would examine money through personal, pastoral and prophetic lenses. “The system is not designed for the health and wholeness of all of us,” she said. “That is a dimension we’re going to lift up and test with each other.”
She then led a discussion about the world’s economy vs. God’s economy. Participant Brenda Brown-Grooms noted that the world’s economy is permeated by the lie of “lack.”
Participant May May Latt pointed out that the world’s economy is about capitalism and consumerism, while God’s economy focuses on equality and considering others’ needs.
Participant Dwayne Eason noted that the Bible mentions money more than 800 times.
As the first day of the program wound down, the Rev. Rebecca Irwin-Diehl, director of ABHMS’ Center for Continuous Learning, presented “A Rhythm for Enjoying God’s Economy: Creating a Personal Rule of Life,” including “The Contemplative Art of the Examen.”
Irwin-Diehl noted that an example of a personal rule of life related to finances might be a phrase, such as, “in all things generosity,” “in all things simplicity,” “in all things abundance,” “in all things enough.”
The art of the examen, Irwin-Diehl said, refers to reviewing prayerfully the events of a day, identifying the consolations and desolations of one’s experiences, and seeking to discern how God has been present in both.
Symbolizing the healing story of 2 Kings 5, which required Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan River, Sanborn closed the first day by inviting participants to dip their hands seven times in a bowl of warm water.
The final dip, she said, was to “wash to make way for God’s economy of enough.”
American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.