Prayer for poor needs to then be followed with action


POSTED: Saturday, February 07, 2009

Maybe it happens when planets align or when your perfect numbers appear on the calendar. Maybe it happens during a spectacular setting of the sun or while you are witnessing a historic inauguration. It could happen during a moment of complete contentment or during the conjunction of emotions that accompany a national crisis.

However it happens, when moments of clarity arrive and something suddenly makes sense, we need to ponder deeply and act wisely. People of faith often refer to these “;aha”; moments as a time of enlightenment or awakening or epiphany.

Therefore, on a recent Tuesday when some religious folk were gathered with some of the residents of Kukui Gardens to pray for the resolution of a particular housing crisis, some ideas started coming together. The basic idea revolves around the concept that all life is interconnected.

This miraculous web of life that connects all creation, that binds all people together creating a rich tapestry of cultures, religions and ethnicities, that provides the framework for our relationship with other creatures and with the environment, has started to unravel and needs our attention.

Indigenous people have been aware of these truths. They know that when you spit on the ground, you are actually “;spitting on our mother, the earth.”; It's a disgusting image. So why don't we treat the earth with more respect and with more care?

As individuals, we know how much we value the basic qualities of life: freedom of belief; protection from harm; equal access to health, food, shelter and other human rights; and the sharing of love and friendship. All religions teach that when any individual is denied any of these basic qualities, the web of life is torn. People of faith are instructed to be involved in the repair work.

Regarding the housing crisis, there is an incredible amount of work to be done. Simply make a list of the recent damage: increasing homelessness, the number of housing foreclosures, the lack of affordable shelter, inflation that's out of control, collapse of our financial institutions. If something isn't done for the residents of Kukui Gardens, they will soon be counted among the homeless.

People of faith have been the vanguard of those who have responded, and they have made a remarkable contribution. To mention a few: Faith Action for Community Equity (FACE), the Salvation Army, the Institute for Human Service (IHS) and the 65 congregations that comprise the Family Promise transitional shelter program.

However, given the rampant greed that has taken over much of corporate America and many aspects of the housing industry, we need to take our religious practice to a new level. Gathering for a prayer vigil is important, but without action its meaning is diminished. There is a time for meditation, and there is a time for calling your legislator.

We are all connected. That which is holy calls us to work together until every person has shelter, food and some measure of happiness.


The Rev. John Heidel is a United Church of Christ minister, president of the Interfaith Alliance Hawaii and a member of Christ Church Uniting in Kailua.