Tikkun Olam

Tikkun Olam

Tikkun Olam is a Hebrew phrase that means to repair the world.  It has also been translated to mean to heal the world.  It is a responsibility that every Jew is to participate in as part of living their faith.   Unitarian Universalists also call upon its members to do their part to repair the world.  We sometimes call our activities social action or social justice, or social outreach.  There may be other names that we call this when a congregation decides to do something together as a congregation to help better the world in which we live.  

What I see as necessary for the church when doing social justice work is to be fully engaged.  It is to be offering opportunities where members can engage the work fully with their whole beings.  I see lots of congregations where their main outreach effort is to knit hats and gloves for the homeless.  This is a very good thing to do, but it is only one piece of doing social justice work. Providing knit hats does not do much to change the status of the homeless.  They remain homeless.  A tad warmer perhaps on those blustery winter days but they remain without shelter. Knitting hats is step one. There is more that a congregation can do to make a difference in the lives of the homeless.  There are other ways in which to engage the congregation.

But what if the real purpose for being involved in social justice work is to have the lives of the members of the congregation transformed through the living of their values on behalf of helping someone else achieve justice.  I recently read an article from the good folks at The Alban Institute.  The article is “What is the Mission of “Missions” by Dan Hotchkiss.   He writes that many churches and synagogues “have found it fruitful to reframe their social mission from ‘We serve the needy,’ to ‘We transform our members into Christian disciples who live lives of service.’ It is a small but important shift. Some existing outreach ministries continue without change. But the criteria for initiating, evaluating, staffing, and funding social ministry change quite a bit. For instance, if our main goal is to change our members’ lives, we will not be satisfied to write a check from the church treasury. We would prefer to send some of our people along with it so they can engage in the kind of service that may change their lives.”

Living our values in the volunteer work that we do is an important aspect of being Unitarian Universalist.  Some may only be able to knit hats, but others can add to the provision of hats with making relationships with the homeless by volunteering at the soup kitchen or assisting to staff the shelter.  Still others can add their talents to building Habitat for Humanity homes or building interfaith coalitions to work on developing transitional housing opportunities or affordable housing complexes.  Together, each of these aspects of social justice work begin to change the landscape of the community in which we live for the better.  Together the stories of doing all these actions can and should be shared with one another to weave awareness of the tapestry of efforts being done that the whole congregation can point to and reflect on together when discussing their congregational values.

Gandhi is oft quoted for saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Tikkun Olam begins with our being the healing we want to see in the world.  Blessings.

Published in: on May 28, 2008 at 2:32 pm  Comments Off on Tikkun Olam  
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