Praying about the economy

prayingBernankeMany GetReligion readers have been anxious for more religion stories that deal with the economic crisis. In addition to the Time piece Doug highlighted, National Public Radio had an interesting story about how church leaders are responding to the country's financial mess. Reporter Linton Weeks spoke with Episcopal, United Church of Christ and Orthodox clergy about what they're doing to help parishioners who have been negatively affected.

The Episcopal priest says she has seen an increase in attendance, particularly on weekdays, and is offering extra prayer sessions and career counseling to help people cope. The UCC pastor has a different response:

Across the country at the Parkrose Community United Church of Christ in Portland, Ore., the Rev. Chuck Currie has noticed that his congregation is rife with "fear and distrust of leaders."

He tries to calm the flock by saying: "Ultimately, our hope rests with God."

But, he adds, "economic problems are moral problems and how we respond speaks about our relationship with God and to the world."

Parkrose is no megachurch. With 114 members, it's a small house of worship in a modest neighborhood of low-income and elderly people. "We have a responsibility," Currie says, "to care first for those Jesus called the 'least of these' in society: the poor, homeless, sick, children and the elderly."

I think it's great to speak with a pastor who looks at the problem morally and who looks at the issue as having spiritual and earthly dimensions. I'm really not sure about this, but I'm wondering if the reporter should have identified Currie as being rather outspoken in his support of Obama. Is it relevant? Does it matter? I'm honestly not sure.

There was another part of the story I wasn't quite sure about:

The current meltdown comes at an especially inopportune time -- stewardship season.

Many churches calculate their finances according to the calendar year, and the first of October traditionally marks the time when preachers are talking about money anyway. On any given Sunday, you are liable to hear the pastor refer to the Apostle Paul, who quotes Jesus as saying: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

We don't pledge money in my church but a quick Google search showed churches with stewardship drives in the winter, spring, summer and fall. And I'm not sure about hearing Acts 20:35 on "any given Sunday." Liturgical churches have a lectionary they follow. In my church (we follow the historic one-year lectionary) we heard this reading on July 13. I guess technically it's true that you might hear the verse on any given Sunday but that would go for any verse in the Bible. Perhaps it was just journalistic license but I think stewardship issues are quite sensitive and should be handled carefully.

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