Accelerating Environmental Disasters Declining Church Response!

by Melissa Taft
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by Tom Sine

Originally published on New Changemakers

Since January 2019, the Southern Baptists alone have responded to 136 disasters across the country: hurricanes and tornadoes, wildfires and floods, with more likely on the way.

Between their recent responses to Sally and Laura, the hurricanes that scoured the Texas and Louisiana coasts in late August and early September, the Baptists had prepared almost half a million meals, put nearly 300 temporary roofs on storm-damaged homes, cleared trees from 2,300 more...” Smietana, Bob “White Christian America built a faith-based safety net. What happens when it’s gone?” Religion News Service 10/26/2020

A number of denominations including not only the Southern Baptists but Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, and Lutherans all have voluntary disaster response organizations. The largest of these organizations are “the 80,000 Southern Baptists who have been trained in disaster relief making them one of the largest volunteer disaster relief organizations in the country.” Ibid Religion News Service

As we race into the turbulent 2020s we are no longer in ordinary changing times. Suddenly we find ourselves racing into a decade of accelerating change. One of the most daunting challenges we are facing is not only rapidly increasing environmental disasters like Sally and Laura; we are also facing an alarming decline in the number of faith-based relief organizations.

As Pew Research has been communicating to church leaders in the US, for the past decade the church has been graying and declining because Gen Y & Z {the under 42}, by a concerning number, are no longer going to affiliate with our churches. All the pastors I work with are fully aware of the graying and declining of the church.

However, I find most pastors are surprised and disappointed, as some members began to return to their sanctuaries during the pandemic, not only by the decline in attendance. Pastors are particularly concerned by the decline in giving and volunteering for community service….like disaster relief. 

Clearly, we are likely to encounter a growing number of environmental crises–so we really need to see the church-based disaster agencies significantly increase the capacity for a compassionate response as we race into this troubled decade. However, given the graying and declining of the major denominations that support these critically important disaster relief agencies, this seems to be in serious peril.

During this daunting pandemic, many local congregations have created an array of feeding programs and a few have even created community gardens with their most vulnerable neighbors. However, given the current graying and declining of the church in North America, I suspect our capacity for all forms of compassionate response could significantly decline as we race into the 2030s.

Photo by Chris Gallagher

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How do we approach the world with gratitude and delight even in the midst of the most challenging situations? What if gratitude is more than an emotion? What can we do to bring more gratitude into our daily lives? These are some of the questions we grapple with as we look ahead to the changing seasons. What are your questions about gratitude? Join us and explore them in this interactive mini-retreat “Gearing up for a Season of Gratitude”.

Gearing Up for a Season of Gratitude Online Retreat

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