Criterion Institute’s develops congregational guides and support in an initiative to build a base of congregations and individuals committed to discovering God’s Economy and transforming our own. The idea is that a congregation or small group becomes engaged by starting a process of Bible study and discernment that helps participants see new ways to connect faith with the economy, finance, and justice in their local communities. The Bible study ends in action, with the group choosing to make a small loan to a small business in their community in support of a mission concern of the congregation. This can be a transformative experience, giving them courage and confidence to become more active, informed, and faithful actors in shaping the economy over time to more closely resemble God’s economy.
But these things don’t always go as smoothly as the study manuals lay out. Below, Phyllis Anderson shares the story of Napa Valley Lutheran Church.

At Napa Valley Lutheran Church the 1K Churches group found that even though the largely Anglo congregation wanted to provide a loan to a small business in their Latin community, the cultural gap between the congregation and the community was a barrier to giving out the loan. The group did not give up though. They enlisted the support of The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Napa County. This partnership not only helped the congregation understand how best approach potential loan recipients, it helped bridge the gap between this largely Anglo congregation and its Latin neighbors, building a relationship with their community that wasn’t there before.

albertoRecently, The Napa Valley Lutheran Church shared a photo with us. It is of the 1K Churches loan blessing ceremony. The loan recipient is Alberto Fuentes. He is the owner of Mega Toner Printing in Napa, specializing in business cards, banners, vinyl signs, refilling toner cartridges and much more. The picture includes his wife Marina and son Christopher, who is a freshman at Napa High School, and served as interpreter for this blessing in the Sunday morning service of the congregation.

The loan was for $5000, interest free for two years. He is using the money to expand his business inventory. Also in the picture is Pastor Larry Hamilton and Dorothy Arata, Steward of the 1K Churches Bible Study and Implementation committee, and Phyllis Anderson, member of the congregation and Criterion volunteer staff.

Sometimes, what we see as a simple action (in this case providing an interest free loan to a small business) turns out to be a series of much smaller actions that, grounded in faith and approached with grace, become pathways to building bridges in a community. Congratulations Alberto and family, and congratulations Napa Valley Lutheran Church. This is what discovering God’s economy looks like.

– Phyllis Anderson, Criterion Institute

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