One of the great attractions for me of NACSW is the great diversity of our membership. Deeply rooted in my own Roman Catholic tradition, I find myself spiritually enriched and my Christian faith deepened by meeting other Christians of different traditions, ethnicities, and cultures. I am in awe of the committed faith of the many members I encounter whether reading Social Work & Christianity or The Catalyst, following our blog (Facebook is still a challenge!), attending Board meetings, and, of course, at our Annual Convention.
Ideally, our conversations with each other would be civil, particularly when we disagree. However, human nature being what it is, we can become passionate when we feel our values are being challenged. Equally, we can be disturbed when we sense that our association might be changing in ways we do not like. Working with diversity and change is not always easy, nor is it always comfortable.
When a member is concerned, our esteemed executive director, Rick, gets contacted, possibly in regard to something that appeared on Facebook, or was posted on our blog, or was accepted as a workshop at the annual convention. The other type of concern he addresses is when NACSW does not speak up on particular issues that are important for Christians. The underlying worry is whether NACSW actually stands for anything today.
In fact, NACSW stands for something absolutely vital in our modern world. In a world where issues are often bitterly polarized and civil disagreement seems to have vanished, an ecumenical, Christian association can be sign of God’s grace at work in the world. By being a safe place for ongoing discussion on controversial issues among Christians in social work, and by providing a forum in which Christians can civilly dialogue and disagree, NACSW can witness how we can disagree, but still love and not demonize the other. At times, our conversations can be encouraging and uplifting as we realize how much we have in common. At other times, these can be painful conversations when we recognize our failures to listen, to love, and to act compassionately.
History reminds us that we Christians have not always followed the Lord’s command that we love one another; on the contrary, we have, at times, persecuted or shunned each other. Nor have we obeyed His call to unity, that we be one. However, with God’s grace, NACSW can help us find a way to work towards a loving unity, not by some form of “lowest common denominator”, but by embracing the richness of our many, diverse cultures and traditions.
I invite you to share the richness of your faith tradition in the many forms of print and social media that NACSW offers and we will all be enriched.
Denis Costello is the executive director of Catholic Family Services in Toronto, immediate past president of NACSW’s Board of Directors, and has been a member of NACSW since 2004.