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Archive for Saturday, April 9, 2011

Faith Forum: How do you comfort worshipers who are trying to make sense of a job loss?

April 9, 2011

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The Rev. Peter Luckey, senior pastor, Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.:

Chances are, in this economy, you know someone who has lost their job. You may have wondered, “How can I be a good friend, what could I say that would be helpful?”

As a pastor, here is how I might respond.

First, listen. Be there. Be a presence. Emotionally, a job loss may not register on the human Richter scale at the same level as the loss of good health, or a loved one but it is a loss nonetheless. All loss involves grief. Such experiences strike at the core of our being. They evoke life’s deepest questions; not only as in the case unemployment, “How are we going to pay the bills, put food on the table?” but even more fundamentally, in a world where who we are is so tied up with what we do, we ask, “Who am I?”

Second, remind them that their self image need not be defined by this crazy world. We are loved by an incalculable love, and nothing can separate us from it.

Third, I would invite the person to see that their “job” now is to go on a search. By “search” I mean not only the incredibly hard work of locating new employment — networking, resume building and submitting applications, and risking rejection at every turn — but the even harder work of self assessment, asking, “What are my signature gifts? What is my passion? If I knew I was going to die tomorrow, what is the one thing I would regret if I never gave it a try?”

The author Frederick Buechner has a wonderful sentence that might serve as a helpful guide, “Your vocation is where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Finally, I would say, build a support system. We so often think we are all alone in our struggles, when the truth is everyone deals with loss. It is part of life.

— Send e-mail to Peter Luckey at peterluckey@sunflower.com.

The Rev. Jeff Barclay, lead pastor, Christ Community Church, 1100 Kasold Drive:

Christ Community Church believes Jesus Christ cares deeply for those who experience job loss. We also believe Jesus expects us to be His hands of caring.

Within our congregation the care of those who have experienced the loss of employment is intentional, but more organic than formal. With this approach we individualize our help while also protecting the privacy and dignity of the unemployed or under-employed.

Fortunately, only a few in our worshipping community have experienced a lengthy job loss. However, we do have those who have been unemployed for over a year. In some situations we have discreetly given money, paid utility bills and rents, or provided Christmas gifts. We also use networking, leveraging our congregant’s community connections to help those who have experienced job loss to locate “unadvertised” employment positions. CCC also provides free human resource expertise in writing or updating resumes and makes church computers available for job searches and filling out applications.

One regret of local job losses is that we have had to assure key volunteers that relocation to another community is okay. (But we miss them and they miss us.) In a couple of situations we have located free childcare and emotional/logistical support for families when job loss results in the predicament of a new position requiring working evenings or weekends.

Our impressions, in observing those who have experienced job loss, are their testimonies of not complaining. After questions and confusion have been worked through, CCC has witnessed faith-filled confidence that employment is coming. In that respect the unemployed have comforted us much more than we have comforted them.

— Send e-mail to Jeff Barclay at jeff@1inchrist.org.

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