Crisis and Care: Meditations on Faith and Philanthropy

Dustin D. Benac and Erin Weber-Johnson, editors
Cascade Books, 172 pages

We need answers.

The penultimate queries are pressing.  How does the church emerge from this terrible season of COVID-19, systemic racism and economic injustice? How do we heal and go forward?  These essential questions demand a response.  As congregations and church leaders, how do we imagine a vital faith of robust discipleship and life-changing community?

“Crisis and Care” offers creative, Christ-centered convictions, both testimonies of faithfulness and helpful signposts toward the future.

Dustin Benac teaches at Truett Seminary, and Erin Weber-Johnson is a senior consultant with the Vandersall Collective.  They have gathered a group of diverse collaborators – pastors, academics, stewardship professionals, church leaders – to wrestle with these issues.  They put their finger right on the heart of the matter.  “What kind of wisdom guides adaptation?  What sustains it?  What needs to be left behind?”

Aimee Laramore is right: “There is something about the nature of crisis that makes you think deeply about what is most important.” Trey Wince is right:  “Despite the pain, we must recognize the spectacular possibilities associated with this moment.”  And Emily Hull McGee is right:  “We have learned again the faithfulness of letting go.”

This moment is not for the faint of heart.  Budgets are stressed.  Maintenance has been deferred. Leaders have died or moved on.  The church has long since left the center of the public square.  Some of our people are wondering: Why do I even need to show up for in-person worship?

The contributors to this text waste no time, offering a straightforward response to this question.  Dave Harder writes: “We are in the midst of a massive cultural shift.  Our pre-corona existence was not normal; rather, it normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, extraction, disconnection, racism, and scarcity.”  He points to the power of discipleship we often overlook, the power of stories to form us, to spark possibility and to link us together.

Perhaps Sunia Gibbs best captures the rich promise of this moment.  Even after our wounds and losses, “the beginning of every creative work is inspiration and curiosity,” she writes.  “I have been invited to trust in the Divinely placed intersections I embody.”

When you and I look back on the last year and a half, we wonder how we made it.  But more importantly, we rediscover Christ’s call to see dry bones come to life, trust the new creation, and place our confidence in the Lord’s presence among us.  There is much goodness and excitement ahead!

There are other books that address the layered, practical realities of individuals whose participation in the church is now only digital or who take part both virtually and in person.  There are other books that offer practical, step-by-step guides for a program of generosity and stewardship in the local congregation.   But Kathy Miller Perkins brings these concerns together in a moment of truth: The myth of our invincibility has disappeared, and the importance of trust has intensified.  Meaning and purpose have moved to the foreground.  Our priorities have shifted.

In this moment of opportunity, as people focus on meaning and purpose as they yearn for a community of trust, this resource points the way with clarity and grace.  Whether you are a pastor, elder, development officer, lay leader or theological educator, this book is a gift.

Glen Bell is a senior vice president of the Presbyterian Foundation and lives in Louisville, Kentucky.