You Sent Future Leaders to Camp

by FCS on

Thank you to all who sponsored members of the South Atlanta Youth Group to attend camp this year. Check out the video to witness some highlights and breakthroughs our younger neighbors experienced.

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Summer Food Security Paves the Way for Hospitality

by Pamela Stringfield on

Summer is a time of celebration, of gathering, and of rest. Or it should be. When members in a community don’t have enough to provide food for their families, it can strip dignity and the fun out of summer. For families with children, summer can be especially hard; kids are home, they’re bored, they have friends over. And as anyone who has spent time with children knows, they eat a lot! They’re growing and exploring across the languid summer days. 

We know from our relationships in the neighborhood and initiatives like Pride for Parents that caregivers want to provide for their family and friends. They want to provide abundantly. It’s part of why having our food co-op builds more than just food security, it builds dignity and community. Every person who walks into the co-op gets a heaping box of food worth hundreds of dollars. Recently, the co-op featured a wide variety of meats. The party-planning started right then! One of the ladies, Miss Ethel turned to me and said, “bring your boys, bring your husband. Come to my house this week we’re going to make a party of it.”

God must have designed us this way; to see a spread of delicious ingredients and immediately want to invite others to enjoy it with you. As I laugh with, chat with, and learn from the people at the co-op, I’m trying to figure out how to take people up on their offers. I’m relishing the way that this model jumpstarts community bonds in so many ways. Unlike some of the food pantries I experienced growing up, no one asks anyone to prove their poverty in order to qualify. No one monitors how long a person has stayed in the co-op on any given day (in fact, we’re happy for people to stay as long as they want). No person in authority stands over a prospective new member and gives clearance to come in. Instead, it’s like family. Everyone who comes works together. “Bring your gifts to bear,” the co-op calls, “participate in this with us.”

One out of eight Americans experiences food insecurity -- it’s so easy to imagine that it’s because we don’t have enough food. In the same way, it’s easy to think we have broken relationships between groups of people because of scarcity -- not enough time, not enough resources, etc. But when I survey the food co-op, the abundance is obvious. High-quality food floods the co-op members’ homes, so much that they’re eager to share. And sure enough, the US has plenty of food, but it often ends up in the trash before it makes it to a neighbors’ hands. 

It makes me think we have more than enough relational capital to weave strong communities, too. As I think about my own childhood, I can’t help but wonder what it would have done for my family system if we had a food co-op nearby. We would have walked into a community of people having different conversations, a different mindset. We would have received a warm network of elders. The co-op has recently grown to forty-five families, and most of the new ones are younger and include kids. When I think of the impact the co-op community will have on these members, I feel a huge sense of hope and awe. Truly, we have enough, if we can just funnel it to the right place. 

This realization will be my spiritual food for the summer. Will you share it with me? 

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Happy Labor Day

by Bob Lupton on

Workers on strike leave the Pullman Factory

Workers on strike leave the Pullman Factory

Labor Day – it’s almost here. It’s always the first Monday in September, the final party day of the summer that ushers in the autumn season. What benevolent politician should we credit for coming up with a free day off (long weekend actually) in recognition of our nation’s hard-working labor force? A patriotic statesman, perhaps, who understands and appreciates the sweat and toil of those who have built our great nation? 

Well, not quite. President Grover Cleveland may have signed the decree, but it was motivated much more by political pragmatism than altruism. In the summer of 1894 (when Labor Day became a federal holiday) the nation was in the midst of a deep economic depression. Unemployment was reaching alarming rates and those workers who could find jobs faced long, exhausting work hours and drastically reduced wages. Labor unions were organizing strikes and business owners were forced to shutter their plants. This was a time of tension and strife, hardly a time for celebrating workers.

In Chicago one prominent industrialist had devised a creative plan to keep his business operating and his employees working during these difficult times. His name was George Pullman. He had built one of the premier manufacturing companies in the nation – The Palace Car Company. Inspired by the faith-motivated garden city movement that was reforming employment practices in Europe, Pullman had built an entire self-sustaining town around his railroad car factory. (He named it Pullman!) It provided his employees and their families all the amenities of healthy community life – attractive housing, convenient shopping, recreation facilities, even a church for worship. George became convinced that a well-run company town not only fostered loyalty among employees but increased profitability as well. Cadbury, Lever and other industry leaders in England had proven this.

But unlike Cadbury and Lever whose guiding value was “love of God and neighbor,” Pullman saw this garden city strategy primarily as a profit-making tactic. Company housing, stores, even the church building, were income producing cost centers. And it worked – for a time. But as the depression dragged on, Pullman maintained company profitability by extending work hours and cutting wages. His employees might have understood these measures as necessary tightening of the corporate belt had he eased rental rates on company housing or reduced prices on basic necessities at the company store. But he did neither. He continued to operate these amenities as profit-making enterprises. Consequently, employee loyalty evaporated. The final straw, however, was when it was discovered that Pullman and his stockholders were making handsome earnings while workers sunk deeper and deeper in debt. Workers quickly organized a strike, bringing production to a halt. 

Striking Pullman workers were soon joined by other labor union members in sympathy strikes. This cascade threatened to bring national rail transportation to a standstill. Riots ensued, then violent eruptions. Train cars were burned and engines destroyed. Police and armed security guards fired on the surging mobs of demonstrators, killing and wounding several protesters, which further inflamed the violence. Ten thousand state militia and federal troops were sent in to quell the uprising. More deaths occurred. The outcry went national. 

President Cleveland had to do something drastic. Deploying more troops was not the answer. That failing strategy was costing him serious losses in popularity polls. Giving beleaguered workers a long weekend off could help calm the tensions, he reasoned. A special day of recognition, an olive branch of sorts, might soothe some of the wounds that hard-working citizens were experiencing. And so Labor Day became a day “dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers... a national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” A worthy tribute, yes, but mostly a day to pause from conflict and toil, to play and relax, to eat and drink, to enjoy family and friends. And now, more than a century later, it remains a day of thanksgiving for the God-ordained role of work. 

(By the way, President Cleveland lost his re-election bid)



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