My mother-in-law’s church has issued a spiritual challenge to its members: Buy nothing new for a whole year. In response, support groups have sprung up like weeds. There are purists whose underwear will grow thin, there are realists who gather to weigh alternatives before making a purchase, and there are new communication networks to facilitate the movement of used items between parishioners. Why shouldn’t the retirees clean out their basements and simultaneously help new graduates set up apartments? If Sue needs a lawn mower and Joe has one languishing in the garage, shouldn’t the church play a role in conserving these resources?
As an inveterate garage saler and chief proponent of Twice Nice at our annual church bazaar (which, by the way, netted over a grand this year), I get shivers of glee hearing about Epworth’s commitment. I love the alternative economy they’re creating, how individuals are learning to tap community resources first before heading to the mall. I love how they are using ordinary stuff (clothes, dishes, books, the detritus of daily life) to build connections to one another. I deeply respect this commitment to the earth which is also a commitment to our inevitable interdependence. And I’m thrilled that this work of fulfilling individuals’ physical needs (and even desires) is being taken on by the church, an institution which has usually ignored this domain.
One of the lasting lessons from my three year stint living in Christian community is the value of making do. If a mop broke, we’d try to fix it. If we needed a tool, someone tried to create it. The benefits of making do were physical (we didn’t spend much money), emotional (we grew self-reliant, resourceful, and creative), and, I suspect, spiritual. The jerry-rigged system that re-used laundry water filled me with awe, as did the pervasive sense that the community members skills were more powerful combined. When communities commit to sharing resources, the power and creativity that emerge are beautiful, miraculous even—the body of God manifesting itself. Of course churches should provide alternatives to our consumer economy! This is the bread that nourishes all of life.
–Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew