Thursday, March 1, 2012

Poverty in the Suburbs: a Call for Interfaith Dialogue

Last August, I began working for a non-profit agency that serves individuals and families in eight west suburban communities of Minneapolis. We respond to emergency needs (such as food, housing, employment, childcare, etc.) and work hard to move people from poverty toward stability and positive change. Two nights ago, there was an event at our facility where over 150 people from 18 different worship communities in the immediate area came together. We learned about the dramatic rise of poverty in the suburbs and the complexity of issues we face.

Until recently, I had a certain naiveté about poverty in the suburbs. It is, after all, mostly invisible. It wasn’t until preparing for my first interview with Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners that I began to seriously think about poverty in the suburban areas of this beautiful city. Now that I work there, I am in relationships with real people experiencing significant hardships on a daily basis. I am challenged by what is before us.

At a Sinsinawa congregation gathering a while ago, we were asked for a show of hands of those who live and minister in the inner city. What is stirring inside of me today is not where we live or minister, but that we respond to needs wherever we encounter them. There are many layers to poverty requiring the attention of interfaith dialogue. Our needs are universal and when one person is in need, all of us suffer. We are on this sacred journey together.

How are you being a Gospel neighbor today?

Tanya Williams, OP
St. Louis Park, Minnesota

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