That’s the foundation of how ELCA World Hunger reaches out to companions around the world and around the corner. One definition we use is “Walking together in solidarity that practices interdependence and mutuality.”
Accompaniment has been written about by theologians and missiologists for years – but we laypeople can benefit from understanding it too. Let’s talk about what accompaniment might look like in practice.
Let’s say there are two people in the local food pantry, one behind the counter and the other choosing things to take home. How do the two people see themselves and each other? How does each one of the two people see what they’re doing together in that shop? Why do they see themselves and each other that way?
How do the two people in the food pantry see themselves in relationship to God? How does each one see the other person’s story fitting with God’s story? Is one person closer to God than the other person? Does one person have a bigger part in God’s story than the other one does? Why or why not, and if so, who?
In the accompaniment model, the two people in the food pantry see themselves and each other not as anonymous members of categories like The Poor or The Do-Gooders, but as individuals – companions, neighbors, equal members of God’s household, with common interests and complementary gifts. They see their individual stories not as completely separate, but as partly overlapping – and their individual stories and their shared stories are all part of God’s story.
It can take some time and intentionality to get in the habit of seeing people around us according to that accompaniment model, but it’s worth the effort. Give it a try. See if the world looks different that way.
Audrey Riley is associate program director – ELCA World Hunger.