Dear Plymouth Family,
I've been thinking a lot about the time we have in life and how we use it recently. Here is what I would like to share along with an invitation (so if you don't feel like reading more... no judgement and just skip to the end):
The word “hobby” comes from an Anglo-Latin word “hobi”—a 1400s nickname for a small, active horse. As time progressed, the word evolved to refer to a hobbyhorse, which was a children’s toy rocking horse or wooden figure of a horse. The word hobby evolved from that wooden horse toy to today where it generally means an activity that doesn’t go anywhere or is only for amusement. 
Hobbies are different for different people. Some people rock climb, some go fly fishing, some do yoga, some hike, bike, swim, knit, gossip, or gossip while knitting or hiking (that is probably all of us)! But when people ask me what my “hobby” is, I have to reply as follows: “If by hobby you mean the activity I do with all my spare time and to which I dedicate vacation days and passion and for which I do not get paid, then my hobby is affordable housing advocacy.” Certainly makes me sound like I am riding a high horse, doesn’t it? Words have a way of coming full circle.
While certainly not immobile or only for amusement sake, over the past couple of years my volunteerism, board involvement, and spare time have all been focused into a passion for this much overlooked area of social justice advocacy. It isn’t overlooked because people don’t care, but rather because it is immensely complicated! It is also particularly nuanced because it is not easily categorized as a liberal or conservative interest. While advocating for tax credits and private activity bonds sounds like a "conservative" endeavor, it becomes an immensely important and "progressive" task when talking about them as essential funding mechanisms for developing affordable housing.
Some (including my husband) might call it my “hobby,” but I now see this side of my life as a part of my sense of call. Affordable housing in its many forms and programs is hard work to advocate for because it requires so much learning: vouchers, water tap fee structures, state and federal tax credits, financing, zoning, the difference between non-profit/ for-profit/ housing authority development, LCCC, LCC, partnerships, Fair Housing laws, proformas, gap financing, CDBG, HOME, board development, debt coverage ratios, fundraising… etc., etc. Sounds fun, huh? It actually is fascinating. Just like learning to fish or rock climb, it takes time, vocabulary, and dedication to acronyms.
Late last month, I used some of my vacation time to go to Washington, D.C. with the National Commissioners’ Committee of NAHROand other commissioners from Northern Colorado's Housing Catalyst to advocate on Capitol Hill for affordable housing and public housing authorities, their funding, and policy needs. I am careful to keep my work hours, time, and continuing education separate from my affordable housing advocacy--and using personal vacation days to attend an advocacy conference and meetings with legislators on behalf of the "least of these," for those who need supportive services, for the homeless, for the housing insecure, for the dearth of affordably priced and attainable housing in our country is the best and highest use of vacation I can imagine. I do come home refreshed from this use of vacation days because I believe this advocacy matters and am refreshed by being around others who care about the issue.
What are passion areas or interests outside of what you do for a paycheck? Call them hobbies or advocacy or passions… whatever they are, I encourage you to nurture them. You never know when something might emerge that is fundamentally part of what you know you are meant to be doing. God can emerge in unexpected and important ways from these hobbies we find in life outside of work. One of my uncles found that his love of surfing in North Carolina translated into amazing work as a mentor for local youth. You never know what your hobbies might become when empowered with an open mind and heart.
Additionally, I want to underscore how easy it is to advocate for issues you care about and how important speaking from a faith perspective can be when speaking about funding priorities. If as Progressive Christians we can learn to speak from our faith, we can have an incredible impact. I have found that my voice as a minister is valuable in the affordable housing conversation and welcomed in those dialogues. Where is God calling you to use your voice?
Lastly, as part of this sense of call to affordable housing advocacy, I have been able to turn my 30th birthday into a gift for Habitat! On Wednesday, June 27th from 6 PM to 9 PM, you are welcome to come celebrate my 30th birthday!* Click here to view the Facebook event.
Comet Chicken in Old Town and Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity are throwing my birthday party and donating 20% of proceeds (all food and drink) to Habitat for Humanity of Fort Collins that evening. In lieu of birthday gifts, additional donations to Habitat are welcome but are not necessary. Both the 20% of revenue and all donations that night will me matched $1 for $1 by Thrivent Financial! This all started with a question: "I wonder if even my birthday can be a gift to affordable housing?" Then I just stood back and watched God and community do the rest.
When you find that hobby or purpose that helps make your day complete, always remember to declare, as my friend Erika, the faith community coordinator for Habitat does, “Let’s see what God will do!”
Associate Minister and Aspiring Houser,
The Rev. Jake Miles Joseph (or just Jake)
The Rev. Jake Miles Joseph ("just Jake"), Associate Minister, came to Plymouth in 2014 having served in the national setting of the UCC on the board of Justice & Witness Ministries, the Coalition for LGBT Concerns, and the Chairperson of the Council for Youth and Young Adult Ministries (CYYAM). Jake has a passion for ecumenical work and has worked in a wide variety of churches and traditions. Read more about him on our staff page.