Water Buffalo Theology
Sisters and brothers,
Many faith communities raise money during their high holidays to support projects like Heifer International.
Heifer addresses poverty and hunger issues around the world by sending live animals for agricultural work or for the production of milk, eggs, or meat; you can support them by donating money sufficient for a goat, a hive of bees, or a cow (for example).
You can find out more about Heifer's approach here: http://www.heifer.org/site/pp.asp?c=edJRKQNiFiG&b=201452
One Church of the Brethren congregation I know of near Dayton, Ohio, started out to raise $1500 this year, and by Christmas Eve, they raised $5000!
Here is the letter which was sent by another congregation, Monroeville Church of the Brethren, near Pittsburgh, PA, along with their donation check this year.
Monroeville Church of the Brethren
481 Center Road
Monroeville, PA 15146
10 January 2007
1 World Avenue
Little Rock, AR 72202
Dear Staff of Heifer International:
Enclosed is a check for $3,520 for a gift of �14 Water Buffalos for Indonesia.� Each Advent and Christmas season our church chooses some special service or charitable project to reflect our teaching that the church is in the world for the world. This year we wanted to focus on Indonesia because of the recent natural disasters and hardships there and also to highlight the country as the site of a forthcoming, international peace conference in December of 2007.
As a minister and seminary professor, I am involved in a decade long program of seeking cultures of peace through a partnership with the Historic Peace Churches and the World Council of Churches� Decade to Overcome Violence initiative. This is ecumenical and cosmopolitan work. This year our context is Asia with plans for a major conference and consultation in Indonesia.
The Monroeville Church of the Brethren is a teaching church. As such, this Advent we used both Heifer International and the WCC Decade to Overcome Violence as programs that make cosmopolitan affections concrete and embody the lesson of the lectionary: �Peace on earth and good will to all.�
We made good use of Heifer�s educational materials. Your water buffalo buttons and cards were quite effective. For example, each person, youth or adult, that helped name one of the 14 buffalos, contributed money, or told friends and neighbors about this special project received a button and card in a spirit that was both playful and purposeful. We also created additional materials for use in the church such as water buffalo cut-outs and posters.
In this Water Buffalos for Indonesia campaign, 33 family units or individuals made contributions totaling $2,020. The balance of our gift to Heifer, $1,500, came from a tithe on the annual rent we receive from the Head Start program in our church. Our church board made a deliberate decision to regard the use of our facility by groups beyond the congregation as a ministry of service rather than a mere profit making enterprise.
When the Head Start program learned of this, because Heifer International is wisely nonsectarian, they happily introduced their children to Heifer�s good work and philosophy and to our Water Buffalos for Indonesia project.
We as a church are aware that Heifer International has deep roots in the Church of the Brethren through the pioneering work of Dan West and many other worldly saints. We are also delighted that the vision of Heifer was not narrowly missional or sectarian but cosmopolitan. Thus, Advent at the Monroeville Church of the Brethren this year witnessed 14 Water Buffalos dwelling in peace with the donkey and the sheep at the conventional manger scene. For us, the classic Christmas narrative found artful and ethical expression in a Water Buffalo theology.
Best wishes and blessings in your good work.
The Reverend Scott Holland, Ph.D., Lead Minister on the Pastoral Team of the Monroeville Church of the Brethren and Associate Professor of Theology and Culture at Bethany Theological Seminary.