Janina Krabbe is ordained in the CRCNA and serves as Resonate Local Mission Leader and community chaplain in Vancouver.
The band of white stretches around the page, outlining blocks of text. Often overlooked and disregarded, the margins are hidden in plain sight. Much like the margins on a page, the margins of society and the people within those spaces get overlooked and disregarded much of the time. My church community, Mosaic Church, exists in such marginal spaces in the Downtown Eastside (DTES) neighbourhood of Vancouver, BC.
Mosaic is a church of radical hospitality that centers difference. We are a community where all are welcomed as they are, where those experiencing marginalization are the heart of the church—as opposed to the subject of charity. Together we seek to do justice, to heal, to love, and to walk humbly with our God who incarnated as a wandering, homeless, peasant teacher.
Like many church communities, the realities of COVID-19 have meant our face-to-face times have been quite limited over the past year and Zoom does not function for those without devices and Internet. Nevertheless, we did have a lovely time meeting together in a park last summer while the weather was nice, and the restrictions allowed for socially distanced outdoor gatherings. The agility and creativity of our community to adapt to challenging circumstances is a thing of beauty!
The pandemic has accentuated the already widening disparity in our world, turning a canyon into a chasm. Requests for grocery store gift cards and toilet paper increased as our community members struggled to get their basics with everything shutting down.
And while our community faces these very real needs, we also recognize and hear the cries of friends across oceans and around the world who are facing increased poverty and struggles to feed their families. In fact, the recent Oxfam International policy paper, “The Inequality Virus,” states that on the one hand “it took just nine months for the fortunes of the top 1,000 billionaires to return to their pre-pandemic highs, while for the world’s poorest, recovery could take more than a decade.”
And on the other hand, “the increase in the wealth of the 10 richest billionaires since the crisis began is more than enough to prevent anyone on Earth from falling into poverty because of the virus and to pay for a COVID-19 vaccine for all.” While we have all experienced the pandemic this past year, how we were impacted by it depended on our geography, our class, our ethnicity, and our gender. Women, for example, have been at much higher risk of leaving their jobs or losing their incomes than men.
Chances are, you’re not one of the 10 richest billionaires in the world. But if you’re reading this as someone who did not lose their job during the pandemic, or who was able to pivot to working from home, it is worth considering that other people in your community were not so fortunate.
I encourage you to creatively think of ways to reduce the economic disparity gap in your neighbourhood, in your church, in your community Here are a few ideas:
- Put your vacation budget toward the benevolence fund at your church so people do not go hungry.
- Write to your government representatives petitioning for more just policies that are bent towards the dignity of all.
- Read Romans Disarmed. Written by biblical scholar Sylvia Keesmaat and Christian Reformed chaplain Brian Walsh, this captivating book digs into this issue of how the church responds to the economic disparity between brothers and sisters in the community. If you’re interested in reading it alongside others in Western Canada, let me know and we can take advantage of this virtually-charged world to do a Romans Disarmed book club.