In April, the Session of Bower Hill Community Church voted to make BHCC a Matthew 25 congregation. This initiative from the National office of the PCUSA focuses on Matthew 25: 31-46, the parable of the sheep and goats in which Jesus makes clear that what we do matters to God and how we treat others is important to God. There are three focus areas in the initiative for churches to choose from:
• Building congregational vitality by challenging people and congregations to deepen their faith and get actively and joyfully engaged with their community and the world.
• Dismantling structural racism by advocating and acting to break down the systems, practices and thinking that underlie discrimination, bias, prejudice and oppression of people of color.
• Eradicating systemic poverty by working to change laws, policies, plans and structures in our society that perpetuate economic exploitation of people who are poor.
While there is a great deal of intersectionality between these three, the Committee proposed, and Session agreed that the focus for BHCC would be to work to eradicate systemic poverty. Given that we are now a Matthew 25 congregation, here is the really exciting news. Our first project in working to eradicate poverty will be to work with the other congregations in the Synod of the Trinity along with the nonprofit RIP Medical Debt, to abolish some of the medical debt for our neighbors who live within the geographic area of the Synod. We will have a crowd-sourcing campaign using RIP Medical Debt with our current goal of raising at least $500,000. There are over 120,000 Presbyterians in the Synod of the Trinity. If each one gave only $5, that is $600,000, so our goal is not ridiculous. RIP Medical Debt has already set aside nearly $20 million in debt for us to abolish, which will cost about $355,000 or about 1.8 cents donated for
every dollar of debt abolished. As the campaign moves forward and we reach our goal, we expect that more debt will become available for us to abolish. Given that medical debt is one of the main causes for bankruptcy in the US which can lead to homelessness, we are very excited to be able to be impactful on our neighbors’ lives. Here are a couple of links where you can learn more about RIP Medical Debt’s work.
The New Yorker Radio Hour on July 11 (scroll to that date) - The New Yorker Radio Hour : NPR
CBS Sunday Morning - A charity that abolishes medical debt - CBS News
We are currently working to get the campaign webpage established on the RIP website, and hope to start the campaign around October 1.