Sunday, April 26, 2015

Actions and Prayers for Nepal

A devastating earthquake, magnitude 7.8 on Richter scale, struck the Himalayan country of Nepal on Saturday, April 25. The epicenter of the quake was in a densely populated area near Kathmandu, and the impact extended into northern India. Hundreds of people are confirmed dead, and thousands have been injured. You can help via the American Red Cross, Care, Catholic Relief Services, Church World Service, Lutheran World Relief and Lutheran Disaster Response, and Oxfam,  Here is a list of other organizations providing relief from Public Radio International (PRI).

We are called to respond in prayer for the victims of the earthquake and for the first responders.  The prayer below is from Catholic Relief Services, followed a prayer from Episcopal Relief and Development.

A Prayer for First Responders 

Blessed are you, Lord, God of mercy, who through your Son gave us a marvelous example of charity and the great commandment of love for one another. Send down your blessings on these your servants, who so generously devote themselves to helping others. Grant them courage when they are afraid, wisdom when they must make quick decisions, strength when they are weary, and compassion in all their work. When the alarm sounds and they are called to aid both friend and stranger, let them faithfully serve you in their neighbor. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

— Adapted from the Book of Blessings, #587, by Diana Macalintal 

Mother's Day and Bread for the World's 2015 Offering of Letters

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
There are symbolic advantages of holding an Offering of Letters on Mother's Day, especially when the theme of the letter-writing campaign centers on child nutrition, as is the case this year with Feed Our Children.

One drawback of holding an Offering of Letters on Mother's Day is that some families are anxious to take mom out to brunch and might not stick around to write a letter.

The Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ has found a solution to this problem. The church plans to invite all members of  the congregation and visitors to see its Offering of Letters event as a gift to their own mothers — and as a way to honor or to remember them. The church will encourage participation by making available preprinted Mother’s Day cards for honorees. The cards will say: In your honor, a letter was sent to the President of the United States and to my elected legislators to encourage that all mothers will have enough food to feed their children. Happy Mother’s Day!   Read more in the Bread blog.

Cards to Congress in Appleton
Beth Lepinski, a Bread member in Appleton, Wisconsin, is also incorporating Mother's Day into the bulletin insert and sample letters she and her team will be using for the Offering of Letters at Memorial Presbyterian Church. She borrowed the format from the Bread teams in Minneapolis-St. Paul and Sioux Falls, South Dakota to create the bulletin insert, including the note about the Mother's Day card. However, the Mother's Day theme has already been part of the activities leading to the church's Offering of Letters, scheduled for next Sunday, May 3.

"I collected about 100 varied blank note cards, mostly with flowers and birds and butterflies, suitable for Mother's Day," said Lepinski."I led an adult ed. class on the OL topic on April 12 and 19. This was attended by about a dozen people. At the end of the session on the 19th I asked class members to write Mother's Day notes to Congress on the notecards, and collected them in a decorated basket."

Other members of  the congregation were informed about the Mother's Day theme for this year's Offering of Letters in the bulletin inserts that came with the weekly bulletins on April 19 and 26.  There was also a note in the bulletin itself explaining about the cards and collection basket. "The decorated basket for collecting completed cards is on a table in the narthex with a basket full of more blank notecards, April 19 and 26. Some people are taking cards to write at home," said Lepinski.

There will also be an activity geared toward the young people of  the church. "On May 2 there is a Youth lock-in at the church and I will spend some time with them talking about the OL and asking them to write cards," said Lepinski. " As a service project, they will also help me with the task of putting blank cards and envelopes, bulletin inserts and pens in the pew racks ready for Sunday morning, May 3.".

"Following the Youth lock-in, and right after the worship service, is the youth Pancake Breakfast fundraiser for their Mission Trip. I will set up a table during that with the basket, cards pens, and information for people to finish and collect the cards, to be mailed May 4."
Sample letter to Rep. Red Ribble, Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Sen. Ron Johnson

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ollas, Honey, Eggs, Seedlings Available at Growing Awareness Urban Farm

East Central Ministries is a community living out Jesus' values of justice and compassion with our marginalized neighbors in Albuquerque's International District.
Photo: East Central Ministries
It's that time of year again – Spring planting! Support East Central Ministries’ many innovative community and youth programs for the La Mesa and Trumball neighborhoods by buying food and gardening products from them. Visit the East Central Ministries website to learn about their programs, including the One Hope Clinic (medical and dental services).
Photo: East Central Ministries

Growing Awareness Urban Farm is a micro-enterprise of East Central Ministries. The farm grows seedlings from seed and makes ollas to sell, raise chickens and bees, and engage in work and conversation together - for the benefit, beautification, and growth of the community.

Click on “Urban Farm” for a description of the many items for sale: ollas and honey, eggs, and seedling plants (many varieties of tomatoes, chiles & peppers, eggplant, strawberries, grapes, herbs and petunias).

An olla is a handmade terracotta pot used as an ancient drip irrigation for gardening. It dramatically decreases the number of waterings and amount of water needed, as it provides water directly to the roots.

Drop by ECM for ollas, plant seedlings and other items. Location: 123 Vermont NE (general hours are 10am – 4pm, though you may want to call 266-3590 first to confirm they’re open). Ollas and honey are sold at their Common Good Thrift Store, 2902 Eubank NE (map). Numerous businesses also carry ECM’s plants, honey and/or ollas, including Plants of the Southwest, Jericho Nursery, Osuna Nursery, Jackalope, Rehm's Nursery, and two Whole Foods stores: (1) Academy and 2) Carlisle/Indian School. All proceeds go into ECM’s community development programs. See website for more information.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A New Place to Pray with Your Feet

The labyrinth is a model or metaphor for life. The Christian life is often described as a pilgrimage or journey with God, a journey in which we can grow closer in relationship with God, and in turn, closer to others. In life, as in the labyrinth, we don’t know where the path will take us. We don’t foresee the twists and turns that the future holds, but we know that the path will eventually arrive at the center, God. Sometimes the path leads inward toward the ultimate goal, only to lead outward again. We meet others along the path—some we meet face-to-face stepping aside to let them pass; some catch up to us and pass us from behind; others we pass along the way. At the center we rest, watch others, pray. Sometimes we stay at the center a long time; other times we leave quickly.  -from Labyrinth: The Walking Prayer, Rev. Lana Miller, Campus Pastor, Eastern Mennonite University
  St. Paul Lutheran Church dedicates its new labyrinth and garden  (Photo: Anne Morawski)
On Sunday, April 19, St. Paul Lutheran Church dedicated its new labyrinth and garden, available for anyone in the community to use. This spot offers an opportunity for individuals who work or live near the university to spend a few quiet moments praying with their feet. See pictures of the dedication and potluck. Groups are welcome to use the labyrinth but must fill out a building use form and call (505) 242-55942 or send an e-mail ( to schedule.

CAC labyrinth
Labyrinth walks are a different form of contemplative prayer. Rather than sitting still, we are moving in a steady and deliberate manner while connecting with our Creator. Labyrinths can also be used to symbolize the connection between action and prayer. During their spring picnic in 2013, parishioners at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Jackson, Mississippi, created a unique labyrinth out of canned goods collected for their local food pantry.

The new site at St. Paul Lutheran Church is just one of many places in the Albuquerque area where we can practice labyrinth prayer. I have walked labyrinths at New Life Presbyterian Church in the Far Northeast Heights and the Labyrinth of the Dancing Christ at The Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in the South Valley.

In Albuquerque, there are also labyrinths at the Cannossian Spirituality Center, the Albuquerque Center for Spiritual Living, St. Chad's Episcopal Church and many other locations. See full list of labyrinths in Albuquerque and elsewhere in New Mexico.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Reflections on Earth Day

God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on the trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars. - Martin Luther
Earth, my earth, my mother, my life,
dust of my making, home of my dying,
I honor you; I honor your loving Creator.

Gobi, Denali, Amazon, Serengeti,
steppe and ocean, garden and stream,
herd and hive, flock and forest,
we are one being, one life, one living cell.
May we waken to our unity,
and renew our reverence for you.
Handwork of God, intricate gift,
teach us beauty, creativity and joy.

We say we love nature,
that God comes to us in you;
but still we despoil you,
and so we treat God.
May we repent of our self-serving abuse of you,
honor you in all we do,
and emulate your self-giving.

Earth, our home, our family, our self,
may the grace and glory of God
speak in us as surely as in you.

-Steve Garnaas Holmes from Unfolding Light Blog

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Coffee, Pastries and Jazz: A Sweet Way to Help Family Promise of Albuquerque

Family Promise of Albuquerque invites you to its 9th Annual Sweet Jazz Concert this Sunday, April 26 at 7:00 p.m. at Sandia Presbyterian Church,10704 Paseo del Norte NE (map). Come enjoy coffee and sweets and live jazz music and participate in a silent auction. Click here to get your tickets ($20 each) for this fundraising event. You can also purchase tickets by calling Family Promise at (505) 268-0331 For the past 25 years, Family Promise has collaborated with several faith communities in the Albuquerque to provide shelter for families experiencing homelessness.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Archbishop Óscar Romero: The Church Must Follow in the Steps of Jesus

Christian faith does not cut us off from the world but immerses us in it; the church is not a fortress set apart from the city. The church follows Jesus, who lived, worked, struggled, and died in the midst of a city, in the polis. 
-Archbishop Oscar Romero

O God, to those who have hunger give bread: And to those who have bread give the hunger for justice. Amen. - Latin American Prayer

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Author of 'Tatoos on the Heart' to Speak in Santa Fe on Wednesday

Jesuit Priest Greg Boyle, author of  Tatoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, is the featured speaker at Jobs Not Jails, a discussion sponsored by Santa Fe ¡Youthworks! on Wednesday evening April 22, 7:00 p.m. at the Lensic Performic Arts Center, 211 W. San Francisco St. Santa Fe (map). Long-time local Judge Michael Vigil will also speak.  Tickets are $12 and are available here.

For twenty years,  Father  Boyle has run Homeboy Industries, a gang-intervention program located in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, considered the gang capital of the world. "In Tattoos on the Heart, he distills his experience working in the ghetto into a breathtaking series of parables inspired by faith," said a description of the book by a national online bookseller.

"Homeboy Industries, which Boyle calls the United Nations of gangs, serves as an employment agency, counseling center and tattoo-removal service, as well as in various other social service capacities," Valerie Weaver-Zercher wrote in The Christian Century. 

Homeboy Industries offers alternatives to gang members
"It’s a non-profit organization of several businesses, including Homeboy Bakery, Homeboy Silkscreen, Homeboy/Homegirl Merchandise, Homeboy Diner, Homeboy Farmers Markets and Homegirl Café, created to provide training and work experience for gang members–sometimes from rival gangs, working side by side. In fact, the most remarkable aspect of Father Boyle’s efforts is his preaching “God’s call to peace” in this battle-weary neighborhood," said in an article published in the Los Angeles Times. 

Tattoos on the Heart has been one of the texts that JustFaith Ministries has used as part of its curriculum on themes of social justice.

Here is a 20-minute TED talk featuring Father Boyle

Friday, April 17, 2015

U.S.Senator Joe Donnelly Featured Speaker at Bread for the World Conference in Indianapolis

The Indiana Bread team poses with Sen. Joe Donnelly
The Offering of Letters conference in Indianapolis on Saturday, April 11, featured couple of very important speakers: Bread for the World's Senior Domestic Policy Analyst Christine Melendez Ashley; and former board chair and Bread activist Dave Miner (who was also one of the event's organizers). 

The most prominent speaker at the event at Northminster Presbyterian Church that day, however, was U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, who addressed the crowd of about 65 participants for about half an hour. Sen. Donnelly serves on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry, which considers the legislation that is relevant to nutrition programs and will have major input into the Reauthorization of the Child Nutrtion Act, the topic of Feed Our Children, Bread for the World's 2015 Offering of Letters.

Among other things, Sen. Donnelly spoke about nationwide efforts to address hunger in our country, including the successful backpack program, which provides children who qualify for school meals during the week with food for the weekend. “There are children all over the states in all economic strata who are facing these challenges,”Sen.Donnelly said. “And that little backpack gives them hope when they go home for the weekend and gives them dignity.” See coverage from Indianapolis television station Fox 59.

Four Workshops
The conference, entitled "Voices Uniting to Feed Our Children," also featured  four workshops relevant to the Offering of Letters: 1) Strengthening our National Child Nutrition Programs, 2) Good Nutrition for Mom and Baby Through WIC, 3) Healthy Meals in Schools & When School's Out, and 4) Church Voices Uniting: The 2015 Offering of Letters.

The impressive conference was just the latest project from one the most active Bread state grassroots organizations in the country. Bread members in Indiana have developed a website that provides information on the 13 local Bread chapters (including a virtual e-chapter), hunger statistics for the state,  reasons to get involved in anti-hunger efforts and much more.  Check out the great website for Bread Indiana.

(Pictured in the photograph above from left to right: Jon Gromek. Bread for the World organizer; Rev Dave Schreiber, Resurrection Lutheran Church; Dr. Dave Miner, Board Chair Emeritus, Bread for the World; Rev Judy Dunson, Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis; Senator Joe Donnelly; Rev Teri Thomas, Northminster Presbyterian Church; Rev Dr. Dick Hamm, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the US and Canada 1993-2003; Rev Dr. Matt Boulton, President, Christian Theological Seminary; Monsignor Joe Schaedel, St Luke's Catholic Church; Fr. Steve Schwab, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Twin Cities in Minnesota is a Happening Place for an Offering of Letters

Twin Cities delegation visits Rep. Erik Paulsen's office
In a recent post, I mentioned the impressive flier that local Bread for the World leader Cathy Brechtelsbauer put together for the Offering of Letters in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and other areas in the state.

Now I want to share the equally impressive work of the leadership team in Minneapolis-St. Paul on the 2015 Offering of Letters, Feed Our Children

The Minneapolis team--including Ed Payne, Donna Neste, Carol Dubay, Vernita Kennen, Marty and Dottie Fergus, and Ed Nieman--has created an entire website that provides letter-writing resources and highlights Offering of Letters activities!  The site also contains information about the group's advocacy activities, including local visits and letters to the editor. The team organized two workshops in the metro area, one at Bethel University and the other at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, to help provide the best information to Bread members in the area. It's no wonder that the area produces thousands of letters to Congress every year! Check out the Minneapolis-St. Paul website.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, the Minnesota group provided the template for the one in South Dakota.  Here is the flier that the leadership team is making available to would-be letter writers.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

La Montañita Cooperative to Observe Silver Anniversary of Earth Day in Nob Hill

Ecuadoran visitors celebrate Inti Raymi at UNM
As Earth Day 2015 approaches, I reflect on one of the songs I heard last night  in the repertoire of the Albuquerque-based Baracutanga band. The piece, entitled Sangra Pachamama, urged us to protect Mother Earth (Pachamama) against the ongoing environmental violence that we have inflicted upon her.

Pachamama has been a central figure in the Aymara and Quechua cultures of the Andes, and her name is now invoked in efforts to protect the Amazon Forest.  In the winter (summer in the Northern Hemisphere), the peoples of the Andes hold the Inti Raymi celebration to honor Mother Earth and the Sun.

Baracutanga's  music of celebration  makes all listeners want to dance. That was the case in their appearance at The Outpost  Performance Space last night. And the good news is that this band is one of the featured performers in La Montañita Cooperative's annual Earth Day celebration in Nob Hill on Sunday, April 19. The group plays Brazilian sambas and batucada, Colombian cumbias, Afro-Peruvian festejos and landos,South American fusion music and much more. Check out this video of their performance of  "Rumba de Burque."

Along with Baracutanga, several other local musical and dance groups are performing at the Earth Day  event on Sunday. Here is the lineup:

10 am: Ehecatl Aztec Dancers
11 am: Adobe Brothers
12 pm: Alma Flamenca
1 pm: Jeeze Laweez
2 pm: Baile Baile Dance Company
2:30 pm: Adama African Dancers and Drummers
3 pm: Soul Kitchen
4 pm: Band Width No Name
5 pm: Baracutanga

Photo: La Montañita Cooperative
Nob Hill Event
This year represents a milestone for the Earth Day event, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. As usual, a few blocks of Silver St. just behind the cooperative will be closed to traffic. Dozens of organizations that care about the environment and its inhabitants (people, flora and fauna) will set up displays. And of course, all sorts of delicious organic food will be available for sale. Read  more about the event in La Montañita Cooperative's website.

While the event is a festival and a celebration, it offers a sober reminder of how a steady warming of the global climate has put our global community at risk in a very significant manner. "Recent unusual weather patterns, not only here in New Mexico when we had three weeks of spring in February ending with the 9th biggest snow fall on record, are an undeniable reminder of the work we have do to restore and sustain our little planet," said Robyn Seydel, one of the organizers of the event.

Still, Sunday is also a day for commitments. "We firmly believe that with the same cooperative spirit that for 40 years enabled the Co-op to thrive and become the community hub for a sustainable future it has become, we can and will overcome the challenges we face," said Seydel.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

This is How Bread Members in South Dakota are Promoting the 2015 Offering of Letters

Cathy Brechtelsbauer, a long-time Bread for the World member in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, created this flier to promote the 2015 Offering of Letters, Feed Our Children. Cathy borrowed the idea from Ed Payne and Vernita Kennen in Minneapolis. No doubt you've heard the saying "All Politics is Local." The saying can be adapted to say, "All Offerings of Letters are Local." Cathy used statistics from  South Dakota in the flier to make the flier more relevant to letter writers in her state.

Friday, April 10, 2015

180,000 Meals for Local Pantries, Food for Kidz

On April 1, 2015,  students from St. Pius High School, Holy Ghost School, many of the parochial schools in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, St. Pius Alumni and many other volunteers came together to packag 180,000 meals. About 80% of the packages stayed in New Mexico for distribution to local food pantries, including St. Felix Pantry, Rio Grande Food Project, St.Vincent DePaul Ministry at the Shrine of St. Bernadette,  the Wherry Elementary School Backpack Program and other sites. The other 20% was loaded onto a truck for delivery to Food for Kidz, which will distribute the packages to locations where the food is needed. Kids from St. Pius did a great job of hosting the event for another year, and special thanks goes to the M.A.D. Against Hunger committee and the faculty and staff at St. Pius who made it all possible. -Ali Frumkin

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

How a Photograph Prompted a Belgian Soccer Star to Help a Rural Village in Guinea

Every now and then we hear a story about how renown professional athletes step outside their circles to do something good for the broader world. Recently, we wrote about Swedish soccer star Zlatan Ibrihimovic, who plays for the French club Paris St. Germain, and his campaign to shine the spotlight on world hunger. Ibrihimovic is working with the World Food Programme in this endeavor.

A handful of athletes become involved in their community (local or global) through some coincidence. Dries Mertens, who plays for Napoli in Italy's Serie A (First Division) League, happened  to be browsing through social-media posts from National Geographic (@NatGeo when he noticed a picture of a primary school classroom in a remote village of Meliandou in the West African country of Guinea. One of the young students happened to be wearing jersey with his name and number on the back. The school had recently reopened after having been closed because of the outbreak of Ebola in the region.

"I was focused on the young children learning French. I barely noticed what they were wearing when I later posted the photo on Instagram," said National Geographic reporter Pete Muller, who arrived in the village in February, a year after the first case was reported in the region.

Mertens, who represented Belgium in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, did notice the photo and got in touch with Muller. "He initially wanted to send him his new jersey. On Friday, we connected with Mertens’s agent, Sam Kerkhofs, and now they hope to do much more to help the community," said Muller.

"Meliandou needs [this assistance]," added Muller. "The virus spread rapidly in Meliandou, now known as ground zero, eventually claiming 24 lives in the village and more than 10,000 across Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia."
While Mertens and the young man with the jersey are an important part of the story, there is a broader and more important aspect of the narrative.The impact of the Ebola outbreak is hard to imagine beyond the statistics that we hear in the West. "I found the residents of Meliandou lamenting a lack of food, which they expressed as embarrassment over their inability to customarily offer me a meal," said the National Geographic reporter. "Food wasn’t entirely absent, but severely limited, as the outbreak disrupted last year’s planting season."

And yet, with all the challenges caused by the Ebola outbreak, the community continues to put education for both boys and girls at the top of its priorities. "Despite the current hardship, the adults of Meliandou still allocate the necessary funds for their children to attend school," Muller wrote in the article.  "So many do this, in fact, that the benches of Meliandou’s three-room schoolhouse are crowded beyond capacity." Read the full piece in National Geographic.

If the young student had not been wearing that jersey and if Muller had not posted that photograph on Instagram and Twitter, it's unlikely that much-needed assistance would be flowing to the village of Melianndou from an international soccer star. Even more important, we wouldn't have been aware of the resilient spirt of the people of Meliandou.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

A Fiery Preacher, a New Book and Sneak Preview of the New Home for New Mexico Conference of Churches

A few days ago, we posted that  Rev.  Dr. Robin Meyers would be the featured presenter at "The Risks and Rewards of Fearless Preaching" on Saturday, April 18. This is the latest installment in the Congregational Vitality Series sponsored by the New Mexico Conference of Churches (NMCC).

Another special event featuring Rev. Meyers is scheduled on the prior evening, on Friday, April 17. The peace activist and author of six books, will speak about his latest work, Spiritual Defiance: Building a Beloved Community of Resistance.  The book is scheduled for release a week later.

This reception also provides participants with the opportunity for a sneak peek at the new home for the NMCC, which is on 1019 2nd St. NW, Albuquerque, NM  87102  (mapGet your tickets here ($50) for this fundraiser for the NMCC (and also for Saturday's event).  Enjoy drinks and hor d'oeuvres beginning at 6:30 pm followed by a preview of Rev. Meyers' new book.