I find this to be a very important development, because it marries subjective expression, collective solidary, and an orientation to action.
From Chuck Collins in On the Commons.
“Borbeau was facilitating the first gathering of a “common security club” at her church in Concord, New Hampshire. These clubs, a cross between a study circle, mutual aid association, and social action affinity group, are a concept being piloted cooperatively by a loose coalition of organizations that includes the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and On the Commons.
The dominant messages in the U.S. economy are “you are on your own” and “some people are going to be left behind.” Countering this isn’t easy. For many, talking about their economic anxiety and asking for help is difficult and shaming. But to survive the coming period of uncertainty, we must regain use of our mutual-aid muscles, many of which have atrophied from lack of use.
As the economic crisis deepens, our churches are places where people can come together—not only to share one another’s concerns, but as centers of education, support, and social action. Organizers see common security clubs as one way to facilitate this work in congregations, as well as in union locals, women’s groups, and in other civic and social groups.
Indeed, for a growing number of faith communities, the economic crisis is a catalyst for action and spiritual reflection, a chance to consider what is most vital. “The church has a pastoral and prophetic role around this economic crisis,” said Rev. Cecilia Kingman, pastor of a church in Edmonds, Washington, that is piloting a common security club. “Most of us feel the economy is something that acts on us. We need to find our voice and agency—to realize we can act to make the economy more just.”
The common security club model was born out of work done in the last few years by people struggling with overwhelming indebtedness. Participants spend some time discussing the root causes of the economic crisis, drawing on readings and materials provided by the network. But they mostly focus on what they can do together to increase their economic security and press for policy changes.
As theologian Walter Brueggemann writes we need to shift from “autonomy to covenantal existence, from anxiety to divine abundance, and from acquisitive greed to neighborly generosity.” Common security club participants are experimenting with ways to make the practical, political, and spiritual changes this entails.
Clubs can be autonomous or affiliated with an existing institution, secular or religious. The ideal size is 10 to 20 adults who make a commitment to an initial five meetings with a facilitator. Clubs then decide whether to continue meeting and self-manage. Starter sessions have been developed and include “The Roots of the Economic Crisis,” “Personal Re sponses to Economic and Ecological Change,” “Things We Can Do Together,” and “Actions to Transform the Economy.”
Among the things “we can do together,” the clubs examine stories and examples of various economic and mutual aid activities. These have included teaming up to help each other weatherize their homes, helping each other rework their personal budgets and reduce debt, and forming food-buying clubs. Faith-based groups weave together reflection, prayer, and action.
“We can’t be a bank for each other,” said club participant Paul Monroe of Boston. “But there are so many things we can do to support one another and increase our economic security.”