Even when the economy was booming in the 1990s, what was euphemistically known as "downsizing" left much of the U.S. workforce in a state of uncertainty. The recent economic slowdown has not helped matters. Large companies struggling with reduced demand have announced old-style layoffs in the tens of thousands, and the New Economy portends further reductions in traditional jobs. Englishman Richard Kew, an Episcopal priest, speaker, and author of Starting Over—But Not from Scratch (Abingdon), wrote for eight years for National Business Employment Weekly as a career counselor. Kew, who has lived in the United States since 1976, recently spoke with CT associate editor Jeff M. Sellers about how Christians can cope with unemployment.

How can the church help the newly unemployed?

Initially, just by being there for them. The uncertainty can almost be worse than unemployment itself—there is this sense of being exposed, insecure, of not knowing whether you are going to have the material resources to meet the challenges the future is going to throw at you. Pastoral care from clergy, and care within groups in congregations, is extremely important.

What groups are you referring to?

It's also important that those who are struggling with even the possibility of unemployment be willing to open themselves up, to share their discomfort so that others might reach out to them.

These issues first come up in the person's context, be it a handbell choir, a Bible-study group, a prayer group, or a ministry group of some kind. It's also important for congregations to form groups where the unemployed can come together and support one another—and not just those in the church, but anyone who is unemployed, much as Alcoholics Anonymous allows recovering ...

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