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Bishop M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE is inviting everyone in the diocese to join in reading a book together in 2013, The Rich and the Rest of Us by Tavis Smiley and Cornel West. 

He describes it as a book that "asks us to re-examine some of our assumptions about poverty" and commends a diocesanwide study of it "as a way to begin to educate ourselves about poverty, one of the root causes of violence." 

"It is my hope that groups and individuals in every congregation of our diocese will take up this book study project, either in Lent or at some other time during the upcoming year, and start a conversation that, with the Holy Spirit's leading, will invite us into meaningful action that will help bring Christ's peace and healing into this world," Shaw writes in his introduction to the study guide produced for the diocesanwide project.

The book study comes in response to the shooting death last fall of Jorge Fuentes, 19, a young leader in the youth program supported by the diocese at St. Stephen's Church in Boston.  Diocesan Convention in November voted to establish a task force in his memory to, among other things, "investigate methods and models to alleviate the root causes of violence, consulting with communities of faith, social service and government agencies and interfaith communities, to develop materials and programs for congregational, deanery and diocesan use in broadening this effort."

The book study is a project everyone can join now while the task force's work gets underway, Shaw said.

The study guide was written by the Rev. Thomas Brown, the Rev. Tim Crellin, the Rev. Cathy George, the Rev. Kate Malin and the Rev. Sam Rodman.  It divides the book into a five-week study with Scripture passages and questions for reflection and discussion. 

Download the study guide here.

Groups and individuals taking part in the book study are welcome to share their insights and questions with one another using the comment form below.

We are finishing up our Lenten Book Study with our fifth meeting tomorrow morning after church. This was a great program, and thanks to those who developed the guide. We had some lively discussions, since the book provoked strong feelings both positive and negative in our group. In a way our discussions were a great model for the way we should be talking together about politics...we were all respectful and listened carefully to each other, and while we didn't always agree, we worked hard to understand each other's point of view. As we end the program I see that it did just what I think it was supposed to do--challenge us to think in different ways about the poverty in our community, and shake us up a bit so that we consider new attitudes towards our neighbors and ourselves.

From: Krista McLeod
Location/Parish: St. Andrew's Methuen, MA

We are beginning our Book group tomorrow afternoon. We've already sold 16 books, and others have bought theirs on line. I'm looking forward to a thoughtful discussion. Members in our parish have faced downsizing, others have been financially poor for awhile, and still others fall in the financial middle class or upper class. I'm thankful our church community values people in ways that go beyond the value on a pay check.
Blessings to all engaging this book - a valuable Lenten discipline.

From: Margaret Schwarzer
Location/Parish: Grace Church

I have just finished reading the book, and hope to encourage others to do so as well. I am struck by how much of this book reinforces my thoughts on social justice, particularly here in North Andover, where there is a striking south to north social stratification, made quite evident by the estate sized homes to the south of town and the multi family and public assistance housing to the north (where I live), which abuts the city of Lawrence, where many people rely on various forms of assistance for survival. I have been out of work for 2 years, and have fallen out of the middle class, into hopefully temporary poverty. The indignities I have endured are difficult and in many cases unnecessary. I agree that democracy cannot be sustained under these conditions.

From: Bill McKenna
Location/Parish: St. Paul's North Andover

We are meeting five times during the day time. Our group is composed of three looking for work, one on Snap, one retired, and our priest. The discussion is very very good because we each have a different experience and perspective.
For me the stunning facts that are provided in the book are so helpful. EX. “In 43 years, we have gone from an aggressive stance on the eradication of poverty to passive, indifferent, and downright destructive positions where the poor are maligned and rendered invisible.” pg 68
The cost of 10 years of wars in the middle-east is becoming clear in our group. We know that the poor men and women serve in the military, but how painful to learn so many are homeless now that they have returned to America. Who knew that the middle-class is disappearing in a frightening rate?
Lastly, I deeply appreciate the prayer and scripture we share.

From: Louise Forrest
Location/Parish: Church of the Good Shepherd, Watertown, MA

Several of us from the parish are beginning our joint reading and discussion of the book this morning at 10. The statistics are overwhelming, and I can already tell that my own fears are being bluntly and forcefully addressed by the authors. Jesus tells us the truth will make us free. Praise be to God for Episcopalians willing to look at the truth together.

From: Beth Grundy
Location/Parish: Christ Church, Swansea

Our Lenten study group has begun the adventure that this book invites. We had a wonderful conversation about what we consider to be the American Dream and our own experiences of poverty. If part of the ethos of the American Dream is to do better than our parents, isn't that eventually a recipe for failure? We also are discussing the personal stories in the book, and wondering how the people's experiences of poverty would be changed if they were members of a church community. The fact is that in our parish, we have parishioners who fit the profile of the new face of poverty -- successful executives who have lost their jobs and now live with the threat of losing everything. How are we called to respond, to be present and to love our church family members through these scary and difficult times? And what are we invited to do to reach beyond our comfortable community of Cohasset?
This book invites deep reflection and thoughtful conversation. It is a pleasure to be sharing this experience with many other people and parishes in the Diocese.

From: Amy Whitcomb Slemmer
Location/Parish: St. Stephens Cohasset, Massachusetts

A group of us from the Diocesan Offices are meeting every other week during lunch for this book study project. I am surprised to see the number of people affected by poverty. We have had some interesting discussions so far. I hope more people will join us!

From: Diane Pound
Location/Parish: Diocesan Offices, Boston

Each time I pick up the book, I am astounded at the poverty statistics and the huge challenge they present. I am having a difficult time getting my head around how we can all make a difference and optimistic that our discussion will lead us forward.

From: Jackie Drapeau
Location/Parish: Boston

An important lesson in American capitalism by-products

From: Spencer Alphonso Felder
Location/Parish: St. Peter's/San Pedro of Salem, MA

Just downloaded it and it looks good. Race Matters by West was a pivotal learning point for me in the 1990's.

From: Lori Mills-Curran
Location/Parish: St. Andrew's Framingham