Generous Stewards — Compassionate and Caring

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I listened to a fascinating TED Talk on National Public Radio about compassion a while ago.1 It featured political analyst Sally Cone, and journalist Christa Tippet.

“Compassion [is] the ability to appreciate and respect another person’s viewpoint, even if it isn’t your own,” said Cone. It includes communicating that your feelings are valid, and prompts you to form a connection with someone regardless of his or her viewpoint. “This is the starting point for change,” Cone stated.

Tippet hosts an NPR radio show called, “On Being.” She said that compassion is a core virtue that has within it many others, leading to “what it’s like to lead a worthy life.”

This got me thinking about compassion and caring as attributes of generous stewards. So this is Part Four of that article series. And three churches’ ministries came to mind, in how they encourage and celebrate compassion among their people.

One is a debt annihilation program at Circle of Hope, a Brethren in Christ church in Philadelphia, PA.2 Scott Sorrentino knows about that firsthand. A married father of three, he had accumulated $6,000 in debt by the fall of 2010, with no known way to pay it off. Then he discovered the Circle of Hope’s program. Five debtors made their minimum payments on what they owed, then contributed an additional payment for someone else in the group, so all six of them got out of debt in two years’ time. “I don’t have the discipline to do this on my own,” Scott admitted. “I really feel like this came from the Spirit.” The 500-member Circle of Hope church gathered $8,000 from its members in seed money to start the program, and have been paying off participants’ debts in what they consider “the practice of being generous.”

A second example is Los Altos United Methodist Church in CA, which declared “Compassion Week,” organizing thousands of volunteers to come together to serve the community.3 “Compassion Week is an invitation to serve, care for and support our community,” said Senior Pastor Mariellen Yoshino. She noted that the congregation sets up service projects with partner organizations not only to make an impact that week, but also to inspire participants to keep serving those organizations.

Grace Church, in SW FLA, is a third example. Its members engage in intentional acts of compassion and caring every Wednesday afternoon and third Saturday morning. They give away “thousands of pounds of food; hundreds of pounds of pet food; haircuts by the dozens; hundreds of articles of clothing; referrals to medical, food stamp, insurance providers, and more; plus everyone receives prayer by one of [their] prayer team.” They turned an old grocery store into a community center to house these ministries, including a homeless program and an after-school drop-in center.

Compassion and care are individual values and habits, but they can be celebrated and multiplied by our faith communities. We can prompt one another to be faithful, joyful stewards of God’s Good News, and of everything else God has entrusted to us!

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 – Ted Radio Hour on KXPR (88.9) National Public Radio, Dec. 22, 2014.

2 – Jesse James DeConto, “Pay pals: A small group for debtors,” Christian Century Jan. 25, 2012, pp. 10 ff.

3 – “Compassion Week will serve 200,000 people in need,” Oct. 7, 2015, www.cnumc.org/news/wra2344

4 – Rev. Jorge Acevedo, “Staying Focused!” Upper Room Disciplines 2012, p. 222.

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