From the Pastor’s Desk

Did you know that 1 in 5 adults lack the basic reading skills beyond a fourth grade level?  Or that almost 85% of all young people in the juvenile court system are illiterate? As a complicated and broad social justice issue, literacy is an issue that touches (and addresses) other issues, including economic justice, gender inequality, criminal justice, and public education, racial justice, among others. But it affects very simple aspects of our lives, from being able to complete a job application to reading the instructions on a prescription bottle.

In fact, limited literacy skills are a major contributor to poverty, illiteracy becomes a barrier for those marginalized by race and economic status.

As a child I knew no greater joy than spending my free time reading. My father had to leave school after ninth grade and had only rudimentary reading skills….but I still remember the pride in his voice as he would read Dr. Seuss books to me. For him, those silly books allowed him to connect with me in a special way.

Beginning this fall, the United Church of Christ is asking all of its congregations to participate in a church-wide initiative called Reading Changes Lives. The program acknowledges that literacy is essential to end the cycle of poverty, to close the school-to-prison pipeline, and to create inclusive, healthy communities where all can be active and advocate for themselves.

In our continued fight for equality and justice, our denomination (the United Church of Christ) recognizes that the inability to read is detrimental to a person’s basic human rights. The need has never been greater for faith communities to stand up and take action. The time to address the current crisis is NOW, and the need is pressing upon us. Our Christian mandate dictates such.

I hope you will join us in this call to action. Reading Changes Lives will begin the fall of 2014 with the inaugural “One Read,” an all-church read with an inspirational book: Hotdogs and Hamburgers: Unlocking Life’s Potential by Inspiring Literacy at Any Age. Cost of the book is $10. A discussion guide will be available and we will gather as a group in late October to discuss.

This ongoing literacy initiative will continue into spring 2015 with March Forth for Literacy (beginning on March 4, 2015) with an all-church initiative with goals and hands-on participation similar to past all-church initiatives, Mission 1 and Mission 4/1 Earth.

Also, General Synod 30 being held in Cleveland next summer (the national gathering of the UCC held every two years) will lift-up literacy as a service project focus and ask Synod attendees to participate within the Greater Cleveland community, one of the country’s urban centers of illiteracy.

Reading Changes Lives is a great program for us to join with others in our denomination around an imporant issue affecting millions of Americans. It is also a great way for us to unite as a church to make a difference in our community. I do hope each of you will seriously consider joining us in these efforts. Copies of the book will be available at church beginning mid-August.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Tara