Monday, November 14, 2011

New Priorities

This morning I spent some time at City Hall talking with a number of people connected with the New Priorities Network, and the Bay Area New Priorities Campaign. The hope is to encourage local communities across the country to collectively speak up for a shift of resources away from war-making towards jobs, healthcare, and education.  As one person said of this effort, “This is an opportunity to bring a policy issue that represents the 99% before an elected body."

Poster from
Below, is what I plan to say to our Board of Supervisors in the coming weeks. Wherever you are, consider connecting with this effort. Join folks all over the country asking our elected officials, at every level, to speak up for funding the priorities we share.

Members of the Board of Supervisors,

My name is Will Scott, I am the Vicar of St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church in the Western Addition of San Francisco and live in Bernal Heights. Faith communities in the city of San Francisco as in every part of this country share the challenge of caring for those Jesus called “the least of these” --- we are one of the places people go to seek support in times of economic stress.  A few examples:
  • In my faith community, congregation members are struggling to keep their homes.  Young families are leaving because they can’t afford to stay.
  • In our neighborhoods the lines at food pantries are getting longer and longer. 
  • The already far too lean budgets of non-profits serving the vulnerable, youth,  elders, veterans, the working poor, those who are homeless, mentally ill, and addicted are being cut --- in a time when there are more and more people who rely on these services.
  • Many people with valuable skills are unemployed or underemployed and have been for years now ---  isolation, depression and hopelessness have become daily struggles.

Sometimes our church is able to provide some alleviation, counsel, comfort and advice to those who are feeling the deep pain of this economic crisis, the most severe since the Great Depression, and we aspire to do more --- but the reality is that the struggles so many are facing demand more than charity, or attentive pastoral care.  Communities of all shapes and sizes are crying out for justice. 

Holy Scripture from the Book of Isaiah paints a hopeful picture of the future when there will be judgment between the nations,
the nations, shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
   and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
   neither shall they learn war any more.

The resolution before you calling for cuts in war spending & redirection of those funds to domestic needs is an important step toward that hopeful vision of the future expressed by the Prophet Isaiah.

On Sunday mornings at St. Cyprian’s new and longtime members are speaking up and out clearly and passionately about the need for a reevaluation of our national priorities. There’s a shared recognition that we need our government to invest in the fabric of this country, we need a new New Deal. I believe strongly that we must stop spending trillions of tax dollars a year on the instruments of war and redirect those funds towards “the things that make for peace. “ I say all this as the grandson of a WW2 veteran, and my maternal grandfather spent his entire career at the Pentagon serving there through three wars--- but his heart broke during the Vietnam War, and he suffered a nervous breakdown. During his long retirement his children and grandchildren witnessed not a defeated old military man but one passionate about education, the arts, empathy for the suffering and the beauty of nature. I believe our country is going through its own nervous breakdown --- we need to regain our passion, as my grandfather did, for education, the arts, care for the vulnerable and creation.

Thank you.

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