Amy Jones,
Agape Coordinator
Dear God, we come to worship you today. 
We come to pray, and listen.
You always hear us. 
Help us to hear you. Amen
Luke 14:12-14

12He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
After weeks of recruiting tutors and practicing Zoom break-out rooms and host and co-host features, this past Tuesday I led my first ever Zoom tutoring session. The idea was pretty simple: high school students would offer free tutoring to elementary and middle school students in urban school districts. Everyone would join one Zoom call and then break out into Zoom rooms while a teacher bounced between rooms to answer questions and generally make sure everyone was on task.

It seemed like a wonderful idea. The high school students were eager to give back to their community. We practiced everything at least twice. We sent invites, solicited the names, ages, and content areas with which the students might need help. We even practiced using the Zoom “whiteboard” feature. We took turns making notes, erasing notes, and saving notes.

On the day of the first tutoring session, it became clear that we would have more tutors than students in need of tutoring on the call. Although we had carefully planned one-on-one tutoring, and even matched the aptitude of tutors with the needs of the students, it seemed not all of our students in need of tutoring would be getting on the call.

Once we got awkward introductions out of the way (and burned some time to see if more students would get on the call), I needed to figure out how to reconfigure the groupings of tutors and students. It was then that the most obvious flaw of our plan dawned on me. The tutors were all white and the urban students seeking academic help were not.

An immediate burn of shame filled me. Not only had we proven the outcome of four hundred years of systemic racism, but we also perpetuated the idea that urban students of color need something that only white people can provide. The hierarchical tutor/student relationship called out the power the white students had to offer a service the other students could not receive any other way. The whole thing felt wrong.

No one wants to come to your pity party, even those who cannot afford to decline. Manipulation, not righteousness, is the word that best describes offering a banquet to those who cannot repay you simply to secure your spot in heaven and assuage any guilt you may have about your relative wealth. I suspect most of the students in need of tutoring did not join the Zoom call because they knew their role in this was to provide a way for affluent students to “give back” and they didn’t want to be part of a charity project. 

The kingdom of heaven will not be brought nearer if I simply seek to offer gifts to those who could not possibly repay me. The kingdom of heaven requires that I first ask why there are people who do not have the things they need.

I do not know where we will head next with our tutoring groups. I know the tutors are good people who want nothing more than to do the right thing and give what they can to help others. We will need to give careful thought to issues of inequality in technology and education. We will need to figure out if tutoring is the answer to the question of why some students in some school districts don’t have the resources they need to reach their full potential. That is what the kingdom of heaven demands.
United God, teach us how to be a family in the kingdom of heaven together. Help us to ask the hard questions of ourselves and propel us to do better and be better. Amen.
Amy Jones
Frozen Turkey Collection for Elizabethport
This year, when the need is greater than ever, PCW will once again be collecting frozen turkeys for our friends at the Elizabethport Presbyterian Center. Please consider donating a frozen turkey and/or nonperishable side items (e.g., stuffing mix, canned vegetables, pasta, canned fruit, etc.)

With outside visitors having limited access to the Parish House, we must modify how we collect these items.
  • A cooler labelled “FROZEN TURKEYS” will be outside the Parish House doors on the parking lot level.
  • There will also be a second bin for the non-perishable items.

Please do NOT leave a turkey outside overnight. It will thaw, and be wasted.
All donations must be received by November 20th.

Thank you for your support!
Amy Jones, Agape Coordinator
Amy Jones our Agape Coordinator is an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church. In this tradition, deacons are ordained clergy who bridge the ministry of the church with the needs of the world, and vice versa. In more than 15 years of ministry, she has worked in churches, in children and family ministry, higher education, and nonprofits. In each setting, her focus has been on matching the resources of the church with the needs of the world. Agape Community Kitchen is exactly the type of work she was called to do. 

Amy can be reached by email at:
The Presbyterian Church in Westfield continues to burn as a light in the darkness as our community weathers this fearsome storm of illness. Our reach of care continues to extend far beyond our immediate borders. You can help us make a real impact in the lives of others by joining in our work through your time, your talents, and also in the fruits of your labors.
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