Money as Medicine: Rooting, Inspiring, Readying Congregational Stewardship

By Stewardship for Us

Illustration with a tree of 100 dollar bills

by Rachel Maxwell

Stewardship for Us hosted a lively program at virtual GA on June 26th, introducing Edgar Villanueva’s book, Decolonizing Wealth, and his seven steps to healing through money, or using money as medicine. Over 175 people joined our session to learn and discuss the ways in which their congregations can engage in this work.

Villanueva’s Seven Steps are:

  1. Grieve
  2. Apologize
  3. Listen
  4. Relate
  5. Represent
  6. Invest
  7. Repair

Villanueva challenges us to consider these questions:

  • What if you invested only in things that made a better world?
  • What are the risks if you don’t do that?
  • What if we could liberate money to be used as a tool for love?

In our session we considered the stories of some of our congregations – including the campaign that the UU church in Nashua NH conducted to honor the Rev. Joseph Campbell.

In our discussions people came up with many ideas for next steps for their own congregations:

  • Host a community reading of Decolonizing Wealth. And use the toolkit that accompanies it to engage the congregation in discussion.
  • Help our leadership get beyond the mindset of scarcity and into one of abundance.
  • Align our budget with our mission.
  • Invest our churches’ resources (endowment and building) in better serving community needs and look at how this might help our church and community flourish.
  • Share the plate and keep the level of donations to community partners consistent, with donations from the operating budget even during these lean times.
  • Install a plaque or other recognition of the history of the land our congregation is on.
  • Keep careful archives for the benefit of future generations and recognize what we save may reflect what we value, hiding our less fond history.
  • Engage in the challenge of treating our staff fairly through COVID 19.
  • Redirect endowment investment toward funds that are socially consciously invested.
  • Use the offertory as a pass through to local charities and organizations and lift up the importance of our generosity as a part of our worship.
  • Engage the congregation in a discussion of the dilemma of owning land as an “asset” when that is a white supremacist point of view.
  • Get our congregation beyond the mindset of scarcity and into one of abundance.
  • Engage in a discussion about the concepts of values-based budgeting and values-aligned investing.
  • Make sure our staff are protected financially in this time of COVID.
  • Connect with local native American tribe members, as a white congregation.
  • Participate in Beloved Conversations.
  • Build relationships with local Black-led organizations, and follow their lead.
  • Bring the seven steps into the struggle many of us are having to sustain our churches during the pandemic.
  • We’re acting on what it means to give with love. For example, giving to an organizer that cannot get to a critical march because they can’t afford gas, to feed their children, pay for a hotel room, lost their job due to Covid and support their family in their home country.
  • Look into how our church acted during slavery. Our state was one of the last northern states to outlaw slavery.
  • We learned through a connection with Nashua NH, that the Rev. Jeffrey Campbell served our congregation for several years while he was teaching at the Putney School. We will plan a significant discussion of reparation and recognition of his service.

Part of the session focused on the UUA Common Endowment Fund, with particular focus on the Common Endowment’s expanded program of Community Investing including a matching program to invest in community alongside congregations.

The UUCEF has a list of tools for congregations interested in socially responsible investing.

About the Author

Stewardship for Us

The Stewardship For Us (s4us) Team, is based on a simple principle and a long history. The principle is that stewardship is important to all of us....

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