Could U.S. unemployment reach 10%? The people hunger for hope

If the recession is easing, as this morning’s headlines suggest, we still have a long way to go. Today, I read that U.S. unemployment is on the rise yet again. Columnist Bob Herbert recently wrote the effective unemployment rate–counting those who’ve given up seeking work, those working part-time but seeking full-time jobs, and those recently laid off–could be as high as 16.5 percent. Staggering.

If the official rate reaches 10 percent, which is possible, it could set off yet another economic contraction. Anxiety is high. People seek sources of hope.

At the 2008 General Conference, Bishop Mary Ann Swenson called The United Methodist Church the “cup that runneth over.” As people hunger today, are we sharing our bounty of hope? The hope we know in Jesus Christ? Are we going out into our communities to reach people who fear the worst, to be the community Jesus calls us to be even amid despair?

As everyone knows, church membership in North America is in decline, and spiritual seekers are looking elsewhere. It is a trying time for we who hold dear the Wesleyan principles. But it’s also a time of opportunity. We must seize this as an opportunity to do what God calls us to do … to leave our church buildings and go to the people who hunger for hope.

United Methodist Communications is trying to do our part. We have invited the people of The United Methodist Church into a conversation to Rethink Church. Its goals include gaining the attention of spiritual seekers, to engage, invite and offer the message of hope that United Methodist Christians believe in.

If unemployment worsens, people will be desperate for connection, community and, perhaps, evidence that God is present with us, and that this makes a difference. In community we embody that hope, and through community we live the evidence. How might we share it?

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