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What is ours to do?

Giving Witness by Merrie Bunt

Dear Epworth,

It’s been wonderful to celebrate this season of abundance and the diversity of life experiences shared here at Epworth, in particular the life experience shared by Michael Martin, Katie Johnson and others produced by our youth group members.

As we approach Commitment Sunday I want to share with you a bit about my journey, a spiritual adventure, and how I’m approaching the questions of “What is mine to do?” “What does the Lord require?”

I’m an aging millennial, which means I played the Oregon Trail on floppy disk, I remember the first time we dialed up the internet, and on 9/11 I watched the twin towers fall on tv in my high school spanish class.

You’re probably familiar with news stories or memes on social media painting broad strokes about millennials and gen z’ers about our devotion to our avocado toast and our evolving attitudes towards money, delaying or forgoing marriage, homeownership, and starting families. I read a recent USA Today article that profiled nine young people between the ages of 23-40 about what it means to be financially successful when faced with wage stagnation, rising inflation, mounting interest rates, housing unaffordability, not to mention the climate crisis, war, and a growingly divisive, fractured world.

The article cited a poll that found that two-thirds of Americans believe younger people face greater financial hardships today than earlier generations. What struck me about that article was that only one of the young people, a black woman, pointed to the impact of race and the lack of generational wealth as a factor. While the article rightly states that the traditional systems no longer work for us, it fails to perceive how our social consciousness requires us to examine the very foundations of these institutions.

I’m so grateful to be part of this faith community in our commitment to being anti-racist church and I am so grateful to be with you on this journey – from the holy conversations series on race, to the reparations study group – I’ve been challenged to re-learn history, and confront the legacies of slavery, institutionalized racism and together answer God’s call to faithfully begin to repair the damage done by these systemic injustices.

Our congregational forum on reparations and the recent racial wealth gap simulation opened the door for me to learn more about my own family’s privilege in the context of these systems. What I learned was that my grandfather – a child of the depression, frugal and hard working – was not eligible for military service and didn’t qualify for any GI Bill benefits. He handled everything in cash, never carried personal consumer debt and thus had minimal credit, but in 1953 was still approved for a mortgage. While a far cry from the portrait I had imagined of manicured lawns and white picket fences, for them it was a significant step up.

While my mother owned our condo, as a single parent raising two school-aged children and attending seminary, we were by no means financially secure. But that condo was situated in a zipcode with higher property values and well funded elementary schools that nurtured my educational pursuits. And later, I received some financial support from my family to pursue higher education and a family member bailed me out from defaulting on some credit card debt on my path to financial literacy and independence.

Through this journey, I recognize how I’ve still inherited their privilege, even as they benefited only indirectly from these policies. And although I’m not in a position to buy a house just yet, I do see a role for myself in supporting this work.

I am excited to contribute what I can both to my church and to the black wealth builder’s fund.

I can commit to consistency. I can commit to showing up as frequently as I can. I can commit to sharing with others what I’ve learned throughout this journey. I can commit to making an ongoing financial contribution.

And I hope you’ll join me in making an ongoing contribution both to Epworth and to the Black Wealth Builder’s Fund. Because I believe that when we come together in faith to share our resources, just like the miracle of the loaves and fishes, God multiplies our gifts until everyone has enough.

Merrie Bunt


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