Change the World... 2011


There is value in Change the World, this kind of coordinated "Day of Good" for The United Methodist Church, and I'm glad United Methodist Communications is working to organize it again this year.

We did this sort of thing every year when I was on staff at United Way in Madison County, Indiana. We, like many other United Ways across the country, called it, The Day of Caring. It was a day, usually a Saturday, when we'd organize volunteers across the entire county to be part of projects that could make a difference in the lives of individuals and local organizations. The work varied widely, and included such things as building ramps,  painting indoors or out, weatherizing homes, cleaning up and beautifying neighborhoods, building new playgrounds and helping food pantries reorganize their stockroom to make their distributions more friendly and efficient, to name a few. None of these things changed the world. But all of them made it better for those we were able to reach on that day every year, and in turn for those who came to them as friends, or in the case of agencies, for help.

It was good work, and good fun. It was something that united the whole county, and something we always looked forward to doing each year,  in spite of the massive amount of work necessary to organize and coordinate it all.

There was strength in numbers on these Days of Caring.

But we also knew that our real strength at United Way lay not simply in organizing these one day events, but in organizing and inspiring the leaders across the community-- in every sector-- to work together every day for things that WOULD change our county for the better. Things like reducing the infant mortality rate, increasing school performance for our children, and doing all the things needed to move our county's economy from a dependence on one auto manufacturer toward a more diverse and sustainable future. Here, the strength isn't just in numbers-- but in sustained effort, long term relationships, and leadership to "address" not just the "root causes" of community problems but to tap into the root strengths for positive community change.

So let's be about doing both. Re-thinking church does mean  remembering that we have a lot of United Methodist partners in the US and globally with whom we can coordinate to get some good things done on a local basis one weekend per year. And we should do that.

But actually re-BE-ing church means we do at least what United Way does-- remembering that while the one-off projects are fun, helpful and build good will, our  calling as disciples of Jesus Christ means we have to be out there all the time, building relationships and bridges across our communities-- working with every sector-- and bearing witness to God's reign which is the real power that changes the world.

Peace in Christ,

Taylor Burton-Edwards