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Thinking Ahead for Our Christmas Offering

Moving from Charity to Justice

First Baptist Church – Madison, WI

The Board of Outreach is hard at work and, now in this pre-holiday season, is considering how we might choose a local cause that would most benefit from our Christmas offering.

This year we are looking to seek donations for a special kind of need. Instead of addressing immediate needs, we want to look for opportunities to address systemic needs; that is, needs that are caused by fundamental root problems that result in those shorter term immediate needs. Addressing a systemic need could result in benefits that continue over time.

Many of us attended the series of classes this fall on the “Other Madison” organized by Wynn Davies and with presentations by major community leaders. We were shocked by the findings of the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Race to Equity report of inequalities between the white and black communities. Statistics showed that communities of color experience much lower graduation rates and much higher incarceration rates, along with serious problems of unemployment, lower education attainment, homelessness, poverty, and broken families. These are the products of decades of discrimination, systemic racism, and white privilege. 

There was much interest in the adult Sunday School about doing something to address the fundamental issues causing these inequalities. Discussions in FBC are in progress about what steps might be taken. There will be another meeting during Sunday School on December 7 to continue the conversation about what might be done. In the meantime, the Board of Outreach would like to use the Christmas offering to address some systemic aspect of the report’s findings. Addressing systemic issues is exemplified in the proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime". Feeding the homeless, although important, is a short term fix, whereas working to eliminate homelessness and providing the skills and opportunities for people to find success and independence is a real solution that changes the trajectory, for generations to come.  

One example of a systemic approach can be found in Rev. Alex Gee’s Nehemiah project, BROTHER, which is offering a mentoring program for an at-risk population of young black males in middle school, using methods with proven results. The BROTHER program will provide weekly group mentoring over the lunch hour, once-a-month Saturday trainings, and a summer program for at-risk boys, on the cusp of adulthood when choices can lead to life-long success or failure. We suggest readingthe recent Cap Times article on the BROTHER program (posted on the bulletin board in the Gathering Space) Click here to read it. The BROTHER program meets the objective that we would like to use when we make the final decision for the offering: A project/organization that addresses issues of racial inequality in our community with a program that changes the trajectory of inequalities in a systemic way.

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