Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Panel Discussion in Albuquerque on Pope Francis' Encyclical on the Environment

Photo: Vatican official site
The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system...The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system. Another determining factor has been an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes. -An excerpt (Section 23) from Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ of The Holy Father Francis on Care for Our Common Home.

New Mexico Interfaith Power & Light and the New Mexico Conference of Churches invite you to lunch and a discussion of the papal encyclical on the environment. 

Tuesday, July 7, 11:30 am - 1:00 pm 
First Presbyterian Church
215 Locust St., NE (I-25 and Martin Luther King Blvd.)

Everyone is invited and the event is free with donations accepted

RSVP's needed by Friday, July 3 to Sister Joan Brown, (joankansas@swcp.com)

Three distinguished panelists will offer their insights on this rich document.
  • Msgr. Richard Olona, longtime advocate for ecumenism and justice concerns,
  • Larry Rasmussen, noted lecturer and published author of Earth Community, Earth Ethics -
  • Sr. Joan Brown, osf, Executive Director of NM Interfaith Power and Light  (Read her comments on the encyclical)
Monsignor Richard Olona

Larry Rasmussen
Sister Joan Brown

Monday, June 29, 2015

We Call to You O God in Such a Time as This

The pews at Grant Chapel African Methodist in Albuquerque were all filled, and all the metal chairs in the overflow room were taken. On this Sunday afternoon, June 28, people from all walks of life came to pray for unity and the end of racism, and to mourn the senseless death of nine people at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., who were killed by a single white man on June 17.

For the cover of the program, entitled "The Doors of the church are still open," Grant Chapel AME Senior Pastor John D. Hill chose a picture of Mother Emanuel AME on the day the church reopened after the shooting.

 After a series of songs, prayers and reflections, the service ended with this Community Prayer

We call to you O God in such a time as this.
A time of many senseless things, a time when
there are those who don't see others as part of your creation.
A time when we tell our children not to bully yet among adults there is no respect.

We call to you O God in such a time as this.
A time when symbols and other things have
become more important than how we treat each other.

We call to you O God in such a time as this.
A time filled with hurt, pain, and suffering
A time in which we know by your Grace we are better than before.
But it is a time when much more can be done.

We call to you O God in such a time as this.
Because in you we see our hope, in you we see our trust.
In you we see a future and that evil will not win.   Amen

Sunday, June 28, 2015


The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and their destination. 

-John Schaar

Saturday, June 27, 2015

'Our First Offering of Letters'

Three churches in New Mexico  organized or are planning an Offering of Letters for the first time ever this summer. These churches already had a strong commitment to social justice and action, but it took a few people to take the initiative to organize all the logistics and publicity. Sixteen churches have held or set a date for an Offering of Letters this year (and three others have indicated intention to hold a letter-writing Sunday).
Read more about what each church did to prepare for its first OL:

Westminster Presbyterian Church
We started our Offering of Letters on Sunday, May 31, with a Minute for Mission introduced by our pastor, Rev. Lorelei Kay, explaining the work of Bread for the World and its importance for the cause of hunger and poverty. Then I used some resources from the Bread for the World website, informing our congregation of the need to speak up strongly for the reauthorizing of the Child Nutrition programs for the 2016 budget, since our wealthy country still has such an unacceptable level of hunger and poverty, particularly among children and families.

After the service we showed a brief video from the Web about hunger programs in schools. I then had materials at the back of the church, including copies of sample letters, of the addresses of our Congressmen, and envelopes and stamps. Some people wrote their letters before leaving church; more took the materials home with them. We will continue on June 7 and 14 to give people the opportunity to participate, and the project will be publicized in our church newsletter soon, hopefully motivating more people to participate   Kathy Mezoff

Central United Methodist Church
Thanks to the enthusiastic support of Pastor Scott Sharp and the Church Council at Central United Methodist Church, an Offering of Letters is scheduled for June 14th. An explanation of the letter-writing campaign will be given during the Mission Moment at all three services.

Three weeks prior to the scheduled date, I presented the idea to my Sunday School class, Harmony, where it was enthusiastically received. Members of the class wrote their letters then in order to be available to man tables and offer assistance during the writing of letters. The letters will be stamped and collected following the three sessions. On the following Sunday, the letters will be blessed before the congregation before they are mailed. Since this is our first Offering of Letters, our goal is 50 letters. Dodie Hawkins

St. John XXIII Catholic Community
Weeks before the actual Offering of Letters, the planning committee put an announcement in the bulletin (to run weekly for several weeks) with information about child hunger in New Mexico. "The Social Concerns Ministry...invites you to join in taking action to advocate for the estimated 140,000 children in our state who do not have adequate and consistent access to nutritious meals." The bulletin announcement was enlarged and posted on the Social Concerns bulletin board along with the poster announcing the OL.

On July 11-12, the weekend before the Offering of Letters, the committee is planning to make an announcement about the campaign and show the one-minute video at each Mass. A flier with information on the Offering of Letters will also be distributed after each Mass. On July 18-19, parishioners will be invited to sit down and write  the letters.  The letters will be blessed on July 26 and sent to Washington.

According to organizers, their efforts were made much easier because of the strong and enthusiastic support of the three pastors: Rev. Lorelai Key, Rev. Scott Sharp and Father Arkad Biczak. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sister Joan Brown: Pope's Encyclical Offers 'Eagle's Eye' View of Environmental Protection

In a piece published in Global Sisters Report, a project of The National Catholic Reporter, Franciscan Sister Joan Brown of Albuquerque, director of New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, offers an encouraged reacttion to Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment  Laudato Si. On Care for Our Common Home. Sister Joan draws a connection between the encyclical and  an outing she was leading with an  interfaith group of women in New Mexico's Pecos Wilderness.

Prepared to be given a bird’s eye view of the concerns of environmental devastation, climate change, poverty and structures that create our ongoing dilemma, I am surprised to be given an eagle’s eye view of our reality that is sharp and in places so specific it causes discomfort. There are many invitations to conversion, a very Franciscan virtue.
Laudato Si’ begins to sing through me like the ancient Canticle of Creation by St. Francis of Assisi. My organizer’s mind imagines how this document can be of service. Laudato Si’ can add a moral perspective to a number of issues including:  the Clean Power Plan  the EPA will give to states in August; the Congressional appropriation of money for the Green Climate Fund  to assist our brothers and sisters who are economically challenged and affected most by climate change; the mobilization of people of faith and conscience to raise a moral and ethical imperative for world leaders to agree upon a binding global treaty on climate change in Paris at the end of the year. (See IPL Paris Pledge to lend your voice.)   Read full article

Upcoming Opportunities to Discuss the Encyclical

Lunch  Panel on July 7, First Presbyterian Church,  I-25 and Martin Luther King Blvd. 11:30-1:00, featuring Msgr. Olona, Larry Rasmussen and Sister Joan Brown

July 14: Press Conference led by New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light

For more information on the two events, contact Sister Joan Brown  (joankansas@swcp.com)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

#Hangry5K: Angry for the Hungry Run in Columbus, Ohio

The hashtag #Hangry5K combines two adjectives: hungry and angry. And it also made for an attemtion-grabbing slogan for a 5-kilometer race that started at Sharon Woods Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio, on June 20, 2015.  "There are people in central Ohio who live with hunger and we are angry about it," said organizers of the event. "That is why we are “Running Cause We’re Hangry.”

Participants paid a registration fee to run, with all proceeds donated to local food banks in Columbus, including Heart to Heart pantry at First Community Church. Runners were also asked to make a donation of non-perishable food item.

So how did they do?  
Here is the answer:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

'Together we can Bake an Enormous Loaf of Bread'

Come for celebrating the supper of the Lord.
Together we will bake an enormous loaf of bread.
We make wine that overflows like in Cana long ago.
Surely the women won’t forget the salt, and the men will gladly bring the yeast. 
 (Adapted from a Brazilian hymn by Flavio Irala)

Members of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Albuquerque wrote a total of 230 letters to Sen. Tom Udall, Sen. Martin Heinrich and Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, urging them to protect and expand child nutrition programs. We are thankful to Terese Rand Bridges (pictured above) for organizing the Offering of Letters at St. Michael and All Angels for the past several years.

As of June 21, members of nine congregations in Albuquerque, Gallup and Las Cruces had written almost 1,120 letters as part of the Feed Our Children campaign. At least a half-a-dozen other churches in New Mexico are planning  an Offering of Letters scheduled in coming months.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Constant Act of Praise

Prayer is sitting in the silence until it silences us, choosing gratitude until we are grateful, praising God until we ourselves are a constant act of praise. 

Richard Rohr, OFM 

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Party in Honor of a Book and the Girls of Gugulethu in South Africa

Tuesday, August 4, 2015, is a very important date for a group of young women in the township of Gugulethu near Cape Town, South Africa. On this date, the world will learn their stories about growing up in post-Apartheid South Africa. These remarkable young ladies collaborated with my friend Kimberly Burge to write the book The Born Frees. Kimberly created  this website to promote the book, which has already received rave reviews.

Born into post-apartheid South Africa, the young women...still face daunting challenges. Their families and communities have been ravaged by poverty, violence, sexual abuse, and AIDS. Yet, as Kimberly Burge discovered when she set up a writing group in the township of Gugulethu, the spirit of these girls outshines their circumstances.  -publisher W.W. Norton & Company

“Burge’s group provided a safe space for girls to gather without fear of judgement. Writing became an outlet for many involved, and the club itself grew into a platform to share thoughts about issues that matter the most to the girls… Incredible and inspiring, this account belongs in every library and on every bookshelf.” Library Journal (Starred Review)

Photo: Busboys and Poets

Release Party at Busboys and Poets in D.C.
The Born Frees will be officially released on Tuesday, August 4, 6:30 p.m., with an event at Busboys and Poets (14th and Vermont location) in Washington, D.C. 

More information coming to at Busboys and Poets' Politics and Prose site. 

Photo from Kimberly Burge's website
Pre-Order Now
Can't wait until August 4 to acquire your copy of The Born Frees? You can pre-order from hundreds of independent bookstores around the country. Here is a sampling of locations that offer you that opportunity: Bookworks in Albuquerque, Tattered Cover in Denver, Book People in Austin, Broadway Books in Portland, Sky Light Books in Los Angeles, the Book Cellar Cafe in Chicago, Rainy Day Books in Kansas City, Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, Horizon Books in Cadillac (Michigan), Books & Books in Miami, Octavia Books in New Orleans, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Joseph Fox Bookshop in Philadelphia, and Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn. Publisher W.W. Norton & Company also offers a link for pre-orders.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


You don't think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking. -Henri J.M. Nouwen 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Three Vigils in Albuquerque to Remember the Victims of Church Shooting in South Carolina

 Sunday June 21
At 5:00 PM, the Ministerial Alliance of Albuquerque & Vicinity will host a candlelight vigil at the African American Performing Arts Center, 310 San Pedro Dr. NE (on the grounds of Expo New Mexico) to rally support for the families and community of the nine African Americans murdered while attending a Bible Study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charlestson, SC, on Wednesday, June 17, and to condemn this senseless act of violence.

This event provides an opportunity for our community to stand together to let the world know that terrorism against African Americans is unacceptable and must cease.

Organizers aim to use this occasion to emphasize that bigotry, prejudice and discrimination in the United States as well as in New Mexico should be replaced with love, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "We stand in solidarity with the victims and all people oppressed and abused," said the organizers.

Participants are asked to bring their own candles. For more information contact Lovie McGee at (505) 299-7910
Wednesday, June 24 
Join Lutheran Campus Ministry at UNM/CNM, 8:00-9:00 p.m., for scripture, music, reflection, and discussion dedicated to the recent shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina - as well as a call of action for Peace & Justice around the world.  Luther House is located at 1805 Las Lomas Dr. NE on the UNM campus  Neal Mather will lead the vigil, and Dee Brown (music director at othy Lutheran Church) will lead us in music.  MoreSt. Tim information in this Facebook Event

Sunday, June 28
Prayer service at Grant Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, 7920 Claremont NE, 3:00 p.m.  Stay tuned for more details

Van Hanh, Wamba Dance Ensemble and Howl and Pine Featured at World Refugee Day Today

Today is World Refugee Day in Albuquerque, 11:30-3:00 p.m. at the Cesar Chavez Community Center, 7505 Kathryn SE (map). There will be information booths for community services, dancing, soccer, art activities, free snacks and drinks, dancing and music--including Howl and Pine, Wamba Dance and Drum Ensemble, and Van Hanh Lion Dance Team.  Below is a sample of what you'll get with Van Hanh Lion Dance Team.  See you there!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Lobby Day 2015 and the International Spy Museum

There. I got your attention with the headline. One had nothing to do with each other besides the fact that the two were part of my activities during a recent trip to Washington, D.C.

Slide from Lobby Day briefing
I was the lone representative from New Mexico on Lobby Day this year, and the visits went well (as expected). The staffs from Sen. Tom Udall, Sen. Martin Heinrich and Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham were cordial, attentive and engaged (I also dropped off packets to the offices of Rep. Steve Pearce and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan).

We usually go into a visit with a single request; sometimes with two. This year, There were three requests we made to staff of our legislators:
  • Support the Summer Meals Act of 2015 (HR 1728 and S. 613)
  • Cosponsor and pass the Global Food Security Act (HR 1567 and S. 1252), which would make permanent the U.S. food and nutrition security program, Feed the Future.
  • Prevent cuts to programs that invest in children in the U.S. and around the world. Pass a budget deal that addresses sequestration.
Stefanie Casdorph, a Bread for the World communications intern this summer, joined me for the visit with Alma Acosta, legislative assistant for Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham.  Below are photographs with aides to Sens. Udall and Heinrich.

Here are a couple morephotographs that I took with the aides:
With Eli Greenspan (Sen. Heinrich)

With Lisa Van Theemske (Sen. Udall)
Okay, since I mentioned the Spy Museum, here are a couple of photos:

The briefcase recorder

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Lobby Day 2015 (Part 2) Get Your Smart Phones Ready

Meeting with Sen. Heirnich's staff in 2013
As of Saturday morning, June 6, Lobby Day visits scheduled with more than 50 members of the U.S. Senate and almost 80 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. This list is likely to grow slightly between now and June 9, which is when Bread grassroots members, staff and Hunger Justice Leaders will be on Capitol Hill to meet with staff (and possibly the legislators themselves)

Studies have consistently revealed that constituents personally visiting their members of Congress is often the tipping point to get support for a bill, in this case to strengthen national children’s nutrition programs like school lunches and WIC.

Lobby Day will include a request to Congress to protect and expand child nutrition programs, which is the theme of Bread’s 2015 Offering of Letters.

Because of distance, schedules, etc..., most bread members from Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces and other communities in New Mexico won't be traveling to Washington for Lobby Day. The next best option is to pick up your smart phone or your land phone and call Washington. 

Here's how you can participate from outside the beltway...
On Monday, June 8, or Tuesday, June 9, please take a couple of minutes to make a call to your own representative (Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Rep. Steve Pearce, Rep Ben Ray Lujan) and Sen. Tom Udall and Sen. Martin Heinrich. Identify yourself as a Bread for the World member

Ask  your representative and each senator to:

1) Support the summer meals act (House Bill 1728  Senate Bill 613)
This initiative  gives hungry children access to meals during the summer months, like the Summer Meals Act.  Read background

2) Co-sponsor the Global Food Security Act and make Feed the Future permanent
Just last week, the Senate introduced S. 1252, The Global Food Security Act. This legislation makes permanent the U.S.’s food security program, Feed the Future. It also calls for a first-ever comprehensive U.S. strategy to address hunger and malnutrition in developing countries.
Read more background

3) Protect child nutrition programs and prevent cuts in the budget and pass a budget deal that eliminates sequestration
This third ask is the one that deals most directly with our 2015 Offering of Letters. Bread sent an action alert on this earlier this week.  Here is some background (beyond what you already know from this year's Offering of Letters).

These are exactly the same requests that Bread for the World participants will make during their meetings with legislative aides on Tuesday.

Here are the phone numbers:
  • Sen. Tom Udall (202) 224-6621
  • Sen. Martin Heinrich, (202) 224-5521 
  • Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (202) 225-6316
  • Rep. Steve Pearce (202) 225-2365
  • Rep. Ben Ray Lujan,  (202) 225-6190
Thank you for joining me on Lobby Day!

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Words of Wisdom from Ambassador Tony Hall in Albuquerque

"Hunger and malnutrition have long been issues covered in the media, debated by politicians, and battled by charities and non-profits worldwide. Yet only recently has the strong connection between U.S. hunger and health been brought to the forefront of this pervasive conversation. 

With one in six Americans lacking access to affordable and nutritious food, the immense and devastating consequences of hunger on the long-term health of our citizens can no longer be ignored."  - Tony Hall (a quote from an Op-Ed piece in The Huffington Post, February 2014)

There were flow charts, pie charts, listings, new concepts, old concepts, updates from health providers, and from the USDA, on efforts to promote nutrition and healthy lifestyles, programs to eliminate food deserts and a lot more information. Admittedly, there were some concepts and tidbits of information that peaked my interest: the increasing use of healthy food prescriptions in the medical field and the fact that Presbyterian Health Services in Albuquerque sponsors a growers market on Tuesday mornings. (More on those topics later).

And then there was Tony Hall, director emeritus of the Alliance to End Hunger, former U.S. Representative from the Third District in Ohio, and former ambassador to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (OAS).  In his role as director emeritus for the alliance, Tony Hall serves on the board of directors of Bread for the World, so I have had the privilege of conversing with him at our meetings. And when we saw each other in Albuquerque, it was like meeting up with an old friend (or at least a long-time acquaintance).

Event included local panel near the end of the summit
For those who are anti-hunger activists/advocates, it helped to have Tony's voice in the middle of all the dizzying (but extremely useful) array of information that was presented to us at the regional summit of Come to the Table, put together by ProMedica, Presbyterian Healh Services, and the Alliance to End Hunger, on June 2 at Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm in Albuquerque's North Valley. (Albuquerque was the third city to host the regional conference, following Atlanta and Chicago).

Tony kept it real. He told stories, speaking  about his experiences on the campaign trail while serving in Congress and about his trip to Calcutta to see Mother Teresa. He said Mother Teresa told him, "I want you to always remember this...do the things that are in front of you."

In other words, you don't have to do everything or know everything. Do what is possible and in front of you.

Still, it's also important to remember the bottom line, summarized in a white paper developed by Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease and ProMedica, March 2013. "Without conscious consideration of hunger, particularly in policy discussions about improving health in America, we are missing a critically important factor. Despite the attention given to our obesity crisis and the inter-relationship hunger and!obesity share with!access to nutrition and common socioeconomic demographics, few policy discussions about obesity reference the problem of hunger."

"Meeting in a Box" exercise
The basic message was also reinforced in an interactive exercise described as a "Meeting in a Box," which discussed several aspects of hunger as a health issue.

Other than that--and an unscheduled opportunity for questions and perspectives--there was little input from those in attendance, which I think was a big mistake, given the wealth of knowledge and experience in the room. One issue brought up during the impromptu question-and-answer session was whether poverty should be given greater prominence as as a cause of poor health, and ultimately hunger. Another participant suggested that high subsidies to the large corn producers were a major reason for the prevalence of inexpensive junk food, and that those subsidies should go to growers of fruits and vegetables. Perhaps greater audience input should be considered for future summits, including one coming up in New York in the near future.

A panel comprised of representatives from local community food systems and healthy and organic food advocates also provided a valuable New Mexico-based perspective. This was a nice touch, but this seemed almost like an afterthought. Perhaps the panel should have been scheduled earlier to provide a break from the almost academic-like presentations.

Don't get me wrong. I don't intend to downplay the importance of the content of the presentations. I reiterate that the information is valuable.  It's just that it's hard to wrap my activist (and even journalist) brain around all the flood of facts and figures, theories and outcomes coming to me in a rapid sequence of presentations. Still, I am comforted by the thought that if I need those pie charts, flow charts, and listings, they are available online from ProMedica's Come to the Table site. 
You can compare the information with the topics that were discussed in Atlanta.