A UMNS Report
By Barbara Dunlap-Berg* 1:00 P.M. EST Nov. 19, 2010
John Wesley espoused three simple rules: Do no harm, do good and stay in love with God.
Though these rules sound — and are — incredibly simple, actually practicing them is anything but easy.
“I have a hunger for us to return to some of the original values and lifestyles of the early church and the early Methodist movement,” the Rev. Ryan Wieland, 28, said. He serves Ridley Park United Methodist Church in Pennsylvania.
He cited Acts 2:45 (The Message). “They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.”
Recently, United Methodist Communications asked 4,000 United Methodists how they felt about simple living, using the definition: “a lifestyle characterized by consuming only that which is required to sustain life.”
More than 500 people, both laity and clergy, answered the survey.
Living simply “is necessary for the survival of the planet and humankind, physically and spiritually,” the Rev. Nick Keeney, 31, wrote. He serves Dorranceton United Methodist Church in Kingston, Pa.
Another respondent said mission experiences prove eye opening. “I meet in my mission work persons to whom our surplus represents unimagined riches. Such an imbalance bothers me.”
The Rev. Douglas Dean, 64, of Faith United Methodist Church, Oregon, Ohio, agreed. “The ‘simple lifestyle’ is a part of the equation for a ‘balanced life,’” he said.
Different things to different people
For some, living simply offers an opportunity to strengthen one’s spirituality. Others choose this lifestyle to improve their health and alleviate stress, to have more “quality time” with loved ones, to reduce their personal ecological footprint or to save money. Socio-political goals such as conservation, social justice, ethnic diversity and sustainable development motivate some people.
However, talking and actually putting words into practice are two different things.
“In theory, I believe that living simply is what my faith requires, but in fact I don’t make it a priority,” a respondent admitted.
Another commented, “I try to reduce my usage of natural resources and to be more self-sufficient. But I use much more than is really needed to sustain life.”
Several noted that the U.S. infrastructure largely depends on locked-in resource-usage patterns.
“Alternatives to electricity, water, natural-gas usage and garbage recycling are seldom available in ways that have a measurable overall impact,” the Rev. Pat Dunbar, 52, said. She serves Dawsonville (Ga.) United Methodist Church.
“While I may be interested in a simple lifestyle,” she continued, “it is a fight against the very business and government forces we put in place.”
Survey results summary
Many United Methodists survey respondents consider the concept of simple living important. Often, however, “simple living” does not represent their current lives. Many comment about what a simple life involves and how best to define it.
Elements of simple living most important to respondents are financial independence, recycling and conserving natural resources. Secondary elements important to them are avoiding conspicuous consumption, refraining from self-indulgence, becoming more self-reliant, reducing one’s ecological footprint, advocating sustainable development and purchasing locally produced food.
Of less importance are living an ascetic lifestyle, growing one’s own food, reducing meat consumption and reducing reliance on technology.
Many respondents recycle, use a shopping list and contribute to thrift stores. Although they may not actually visit farmers’ markets or use permanent shopping bags, they are interested in doing so. Less than half regularly shop at second-hand stores. “Eating out” appears as another challenge to living simply.
Church participation in “simple living” appears mixed. Among the respondents’ churches, 76 percent recycle, 71 percent coordinate or contribute to a clothing ministry and 47 percent use fluorescent light bulbs. However, 67 percent still used Styrofoam cups. About one-fourth of the congregations have discussed the concept of simple living.
— Barbara Dunlap-Berg
Another mentioned the challenge “for the disciple of Jesus to, step by step, move away from accumulation and move toward simple, Christ-like living.”
One pastor recalled seminary days of living in a tiny apartment, going without in order to afford tuition and eating starchy, cheap food. It wasn’t a match made in heaven.
“The simple life,” that minister said, “is a life of sacrifice, and while it may feed part of the soul, it doesn’t feed the entire soul. … There has to be time for play and indulgence once in a while.”
Continued at the following link: Simple living not necessarily simple – UMC.org.