Trinity United Church of Christ, Covenant United Church of Christ, St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, Greater St. John Bible Church, and more, worked with nonprofit RIP Medical Debt—an organization that purchases debt from collection agencies and forgives or “abolishes” it—to raise $38,000 in order to wipe out $5.3 million in medical debt.
“People don’t know that they’re going to receive this,” Trinity’s Rev. Otis Moss III, who co-sponsored the direct community action with Rev. Traci Blackmon, said. “And it’s my imagination that there will be 5,888 families in Cook County that will be shouting and thanking God that their debt has been forgiven.”
Blackmon, Associate General Minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries for The United Church of Christ, and Senior Pastor of Christ The King United Church of Christ in Florissant, Missouri, is known for her organizing, having been a stabilizing force during the Ferguson uprising.
It was Blackmon’s idea to partner with RIP Medical Debt. She and other church leaders urged parishioners to bring the money from the bottom of their purses or coin jars, and by September, they had raised the money needed to buy the medical debt for pennies on the dollar.
“Our efforts in the Chicago area serve as a launching pad, in collaboration with the UCC’s 38 conferences and almost 5,000 congregations, to medical debt relief efforts for those living at or below poverty in the 44 states we currently serve,” Blackmon said. “We view this ministry as one that also embodies what it means to love God, love our neighbors and proclaim Good News to the poor, whether they worship in our churches or not.”