Churches focus on economic disaster

Local churches respond to those hit hard by economy as President Barack Obama calls for “the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart.”

BY STEPHANIE BACKUS | BALTIMORE | January 20, 2009



"We have a line item budget for poverty issues to help raise the congregation’s awareness."

—Jerry Kelly, First United Methodist Church, Jefferson City, MO


President Barack Obama called for “the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart,” in his inaugural speech Tuesday. But as the new administration begins to focus on legislation, many Americans are already asking local churches for help.

Like many local churches, First United Methodist Church in Jefferson City, Mo., stocks a food pantry throughout the year. Church administrator Jerry Kelly says the church has seen an increase in families asking for help.

“We saw a gradual increase beginning in August of 20 to 25 percent when gas prices were so high. Gas prices are such a big part of household budgets,” Kelly said.

According to Kelly, FUMC also helps offset gas costs for 10 families a month. He said they have seen requests beyond 10 families, but had to limit the church’s help.

During President Barack Obama’s inaugural speech on Tuesday, he addressed the state of the United States. He told Americans it would not be easy, but that his administration would work to turn around the current economic crisis.

“The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift and we will act – not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth,” President Obama said. “We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.”

Kelly said members of the FUMC budget committee saw a need for action when preparing the 2009 budget in late 2008.

“We have a line item budget for poverty issues to help raise the congregation’s awareness. The money pays for someone to come into the church and educate specific parts of the congregation to programs helping with poverty,” he said.

Kelly also said the church also started a second fund on Christmas Eve to help with direct assistance. He said they have seen increased requests for help with rent, utilities and other emergencies.

President Obama has already worked with economic advisors on a stimulus package to help working Americans. The package would not only cut taxes for many employees, but reportedly will help create jobs in both the public and private sectors.

The president reminded Americans of better times in the economy during his speech on Tuesday.

“The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart – not only out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.”


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