Lay ministry spotlight
Highlighting how a layperson in the diocese brings the light of Christ into the world
Jonathan Youngman of Columbus works for Service Employers International Union (SEIU) as a research analyst; his daily tasks are widely varied and include a lot of independent work on behalf of semi-skilled workers, mostly in health care. He says, “We want [those we represent] to have the best contract or work experience possible. We also do research in order to support workers in their effort to organize, or to help an environment become more friendly [sic] to organized workers.” Impressively, his latest project will have him present his work to a government agency that advises the US Congress on Medicare payment reform.
Youngman says he found himself in this profession through a friend and soon found that he was truly passionate about improving conditions for workers and increasing the sense of dignity and pride in their work, both from the workers themselves and from others outside the industry. He feels that “working on improving the condition of work for Americans is a big deal, and improved working conditions and an environment that creates pride in work by demonstrating concern for employees will lead to holistic change in individual and family life.” He’s drawn to help others build a better life for themselves through “dignified work.”
As a Christian, Youngman says he believes that “one of the coolest things about Jesus was that he very deliberately … challenged the systems of power, and he in many ways made access to God a very public and egalitarian sort of thing … and that’s a big part of what the team at SEIU and I do. We acknowledge the systems that actively hold workers down and keep society very segregated. We need to confront people actively imposing injustice on the rest of people in society. Jesus’ active and correct confrontation of systems of injustice inspires me to do this kind of work.”
As a diocese, we can learn from the example of Youngman and SEIU in seeking the collaboration that our bishop described at our most recent convention. As Youngman says, “sometimes the church feels like it’s only the group fighting the good fight, and the church might want to consider that there are a lot of other good things going on already, and it might not have Christianity explicitly attached to it, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not the work of God’s justice in the world.”
Emily Pucker and Jed Dearing serve as members of the Commission on Ministry.