Church reaching out to those most in need
Easter isn't just about chocolate eggs and scavenger hunts.
It's also about remembering how much Jesus loved us when he died on the cross — and showing that same love to others.
So believes Leonard Santucci of Vernon Temple AME Church.
He has seen many families affected by the recent downturn in the economy and wants to do his part to help.
What prompted Vernon Temple's latest community appeal?
Vernon Temple, through the office of the Pastor, is making an appeal to the public seeing that our membership and their extended families have been affected by the economic and social conditions of our community. People are hurting. When parents lose their employment, that threatens the fabric of the family unit. When a husband is unemployed, it impacts on his self-confidence and stature in the eyes of the family. When a man cannot address the needs of his family he sees himself differently and everyone in the family sees him differently as well. Helplessness breeds hopelessness.
Have any members of the community reached out to the church for help? What are some of the needs you've seen in recent months or years?
Members of the community reach out to the church for help consistently, but the demands are becoming staggeringly high as a result of our economic situation.
We are now seeing greater evidence of the ‘working poor'. People who are employed as well as those who are unemployed are struggling to make it. The gap between the haves and have nots is growing at an alarming rate.
Historically, we used to get requests for a bag of groceries. Now, people are asking for forms of assistance that exceed the ability of the church to respond. Mortgages, rental assistance, utilities, food — all of these are being requested at this time. In the face of this, we try to talk to people about downsizing their standards of living.
In the United States, when I was a pastor in New Jersey, it was possible to implement programmes through a ‘not-for-profit' to obtain federal financial aid funding. We do not operate like that here in Bermuda. Here, you either have funding or you don't.
What are you hoping you can do for those people who are out of work and struggling — financially, emotionally and spiritually?
My hope is that we can provide people with a level of spiritual understanding that God still cares, that they should maintain their hope and a spirit of optimism. When one is left to walk alone, one is helpless and defenceless. When one is made to understand that they have company in the midst of their struggle, it is not as overwhelming.
You've said before that the church should get beyond the four walls and reach out to the community. Why is this so important in this day and age?
Jesus was the personification of outreach. He happily went to the people as opposed to waiting for the people to come to him. Pastors and churches need to operate outside of the church as a basis of closing the divide between the people and God.
A pastor who is accessible and touchable is going to be appreciated by people more as opposed to that one who is only visible and accessible only on a Sunday or Sabbath day. Most of us as pastors, come from very humble beginnings. As a result of our survival instincts we can connect with others and show them how to make it and how to survive.
What are the first steps people should take if they need help?
If people need help, they should contact a minister of their denominational preference who would be prepared to work with them. They should meet and work out an action plan. This plan should include God or a relationship with Him.
Is there anything in particular you would say to those people who feel stuck and don't know where to turn?
If a person feels stuck, they should cry out for help to someone they can trust. I would also encourage them to include Christian worship and fellowship into their redevelopment planning. Most people rediscover their faith through the challenges of life's circumstances.
This period in our history could possibly be the worst since the Second World War, depending upon how some will choose to see the world. For my generation (those 50 and under), it is our worst experience in life.
It is at times like these that we reflect on historical Biblical principles regarding times of plenty and times of leanness. We had plenty, but that period has come and gone. The ill-prepared, which includes the working class poor, now have to hold on and hold out to make it. And we will need to do it by the grace of God.
Anyone in need of spiritual help or support can contact Rev Santucci on 238-1178 or email@example.com.