Saturday, February 28, 2015

State Teams up with Foundation to Promote Community Kitchens in Smaller Communities in New Mexico

Volunteer Center of Grant County operates kitchen in Silver City
What do the  Taos County Economic Development Center, Community Pantry in Gallup, Volunteer Center of Grant County and Northern New Mexico and Food Hub in Española have in common? They each recently received a $10,500 grant to support their community commercial kitchens from the New Mexico Economic Development Department (NMEDD).  Press Release

These kitchens were chosen for grants because they are currently operational or will be in the next 60 days.

"The agriculture and food production industries have been a significant part of our state economy for many generations and we are pleased to continue that heritage with our investment in commercial kitchens in rural communities throughout New Mexico," said Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela. "The commercial kitchen initiative helps local farmers, artisan bakers and the like create jobs and bring about a sense of community and pride while growing the tax base."

The NMEDD is also providing technical assistance to five other rural communities in New Mexico to eventually develop commercial kitchens. These communities are Anton Chico,Las Vegas, Raton L os Pueblos in Ribera, and El Morro Valley Cooperative

Attempting to Replicate Successful Project in Albuquerque
The program involves a partnership with the Rio Grande Community Development Corporation (RGCDC) to replicate an already very successful commercial kitchen in Albuquerque's South Valley, known as the Mixing Bowl Community Kitchen Program. The goal is to build a network of community kitchens statewide."This initiative, known as La Cocina, will take the Mixing Bowl model statewide to support New Mexico's family entrepreneurs," said the NMEDD. "By providing a system that supports the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of commun ity members all across the New Mexico, the state has an opportunity to promote one of New Mexico's most unique assets - our food - to both support small businesses and build an export system that will create economic - base jobs."

"If funded, the La Cocina Initiative will help a dozen existing rural New Mexico communities build out food entrepreneur programs based on the successful Mixing Bowl model in underutilized commercial kitchens like those in community center, schools, and churches," Sarah Wentzel-Fischer wrote in  an article entitled " Cooking up Economic Development for Rural NM," published in "Edible magazine in December.
Commons Center to host Silver City community kitchen
Silver City Kitchen
The Nuevos Comienzos Community Kitchen in Silver City will be operated out of the Commons Center for Food Security and Sustainability at 13th and Corbin in Silver City.. "We really appreciate the Economic Development Department giving us this opportunity, and we're thrilled to get it," said Alicia Edwards, executive director of the Volunteer Center..

The kitchen serves as a small business incubator for local entrepreneurs interested in getting into a food-related business."Basically, the goal is to end hunger and poverty in Grant County, and we do that a bunch of different ways," Edwards told The Silver City Sun-News.  "One of those ways is to use the community kitchen for economic development.".

Friday, February 27, 2015

Celebrate 50 Years of Up with People (and Support Saranam, an Organization that Helps Homeless Families)

There was a lot of buzz in the air. It was a Friday afternoon sometime in the mid-1960s, and we  could not wait for the school day to end. We were waiting in anticipation for the special concert scheduled after school--an international singing group (or should I say chorus) called Up With People, comprised of folks from around the world who performed songs about getting along,.Up with People, a global education and arts organization whose goal is to bridge cultural barriers and create global understanding through service and music, celebrates 50 years of existence this year, so the concert we experienced was one of the first performed by the group! Here is a promotional video:

And the concert did not disappoint.  Throughout the next week, we were all singing, "If more people were for people, there'd be a lot less people to worry about, and a log more people who care."  There are many versions of  this song on video (including this modern one), but the video below most closely resembles our experience in the 1960s.

Benefit Concerts in Albuquerque
Fast forward almost half a decade later to 2015, and Up With People is still thriving and performing concerts around the world. A site for a few of their concerts is The Hiland Theater, 4800 Central Ave. SE, in Albuquerque (map). The group will be performing at that venue through Monday, March 2, but the concerts on February 27 and 28 are specific benefits for Saranam, a 2-year housing and education program for homeless families in Albuquerque. Saranam offers a comprehensive range of services to assist families in transitioning beyond homelessness. 

Up With People's program, entitled "The Journey," celebrates the 50th anniversary of the organization, acknowledging that UWP’s mission is an ongoing journey, and is as relevant in 2015 as it was in 1965. Service remains a priority for members of the organization. This morning's Albuquerque Journal contained a photograph of two members of the group, Lucie Van Boogart and Ileana Le Grelle, both of Belgiium, helping to sort food at Roadrunner Food Bank. The current cast, which includes 93 people from 21 countries, is volunteering at seven non-profits in Albuquerque.

So now you have an opportunity to affirm the mission of these young people, enjoy a beautiful and uplifting performance and support the work of Saranam. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for students, $60 for families (2 adults and 2 children), and $50 VIP (includes access to a pre-show reception on Friday evening with Up with People cast members, access to the Up with People Green Room and VIP seating).

Friday, February 27, 7:00 p.m.   Buy Tickets
Saturday, February 28, 3:00 p.m  Buy Tickets
Saturday, February 28, 7:30 p.m.  Buy Tickets

Thomas Merton's 100th Birthday (Plus One Month)

(A month ago, the Norbertine Community of Santa Maria de la Vid celebrated Thomas Merton's birthday with an inspired presentation by Rev. Brian Taylor, former rector of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church.  If you missed the talk, here is a write-up by one of our guest authors)

By Jennifer Murphy-Dye

Happy 100th Birthday, Thomas Merton!
Did you know that January 31, 2015, was Thomas Merton’s 100th birthday? Upwards of 130 people filled to overflowing the conference room at Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey to honor the memory of this holy and inspiring man on the anniversary of his birth.

Rev. Brian Taylor
The morning presentation began on a humorous note, with Norbertine Oblate Meg Ashcroft thanking everyone for coming in spite of the snowy winter weather, quoting from the first part of Merton’s famous prayer, “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.” Meg then introduced the Rev. Brian C. Taylor, a priest of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande who served as rector of St. Michael and All Angels Church for 30 years. Brian admitted that he is not a certified “Mertonologist,” but was introduced to Merton through his writings. He shared an opportunity he had to spend the night in Thomas Merton’s hermitage at Our Lady of Gethsemani Trappist Abbey in Kentucky, a place where Merton prayed, studied, and wrote – prolifically!

Merton authored seventy books during his twenty years in the monastery, including compilations of his poetry. Brian drew upon these writings, interspersing biographical information with quotations from Merton’s autobiography, Seven Storey Mountain, along with verses from Merton’s books of poetry. The breadth of Merton’s writing is awe-inspiring, covering topics from contemplation, Eastern thought, and monastic life, to social issues like war and poverty.

Participants were spellbound as a recording of Merton’s last public talk was played. The prophetic last words of his address in Bangkok, Thailand were “So I shall disappear.” After speaking at the conference on December 10, 1968, he died of accidental electrocution or a heart attack that followed. He was 53 years old. Brian spoke about five attributes of Merton’s life: authenticity, contemplation, social engagement, creativity, and humor. After offering examples of each, listeners were asked to share in conversation “Which of these attributes speaks to you about your own life experience at this time, and how?” The room was abuzz with many conversations which connected with Thomas Merton’s spiritual journey.

Merton could be both serious and humorous simultaneously, Brian pointed out. He played an audio recording of Merton speaking about how many towels a person really needs (two!) and details about what to do with towels after taking a shower so as not to be wasteful – all as a prelude to a talk about monastic life. He also commented on America’s relationship with football: “Football is one of the really valid and deep American rituals. It has a religious seriousness which American religion can never achieve.” Always, Merton’s reflections are food for thought and discussion.

Abbot Joel Garner
While many books about and by Thomas Merton can be found in The Norbertine Library, Brian recommended that anyone interested in learning more about Merton could begin with The Merton Reader. In reference to the crowded room at the Abbey, Brian quoted Merton: “Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone - we find it with another.” Another highlight of the morning was the opportunity for a period of contemplative prayer during which the sense of solidarity among those present deepened in the silence.

As noon approached and the snow began to melt, Abbot Joel Garner, O.Praem., thanked everyone for joining in the celebration of Thomas Merton’s impact on so many people’s journeys of faith, past, present, and future.

(The author coordinates community outreach for the Ecumenical Institute foir Ministry in New Mexico. She was recently elected as chair of the board of the New Mexico Conference of Churches).. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Art and Theology

Art is so often better at theology than theology is.
 -Christian Wiman

We praise You for our brothers and sisters who master form and color and sound and who have the power to unlock for us the vaster spaces of emotion and lead us by their hand into the reaches of nobler passions. We rejoice in their gifts and pray You to save them from the temptations which beset their powers. Amen. - Walter Rauschenbusch

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Save the Date (March 29): Offering of Letters Conversation in Santa Fe

Learn more about this year's Bread for the World Offering of  Letters, ,“Feed Our Children,” which urges Congress to reauthorize a Child Nutrition Act that can close the hunger gap.

Sunday, March 29    
2:45- 4:45
St. Bede's Episcopal Church  
1601 S. St. Francis Dr.  (map)

Nearly 16 million U.S. children--one in five--live at risk of hunger. The legislation that Congress is considering this year authorizes several important anti-hunger programs, such as the National School Lunch Program and the Summer Food Service Program. With improved access and investment, we have the opportunity to reach more children in need. urges Congress to renew our federal government’s major child nutrition programs, including those for school meals, summer feeding, and the WIC nutrition program for pregnant and new mothers along with their small children. 

A full workshop on the Offering of Letters is scheduled in Albuquerque on Saturday, March 14, at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, 9:30-Noon.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Swedish Soccer Player Seeks to Raise Awareness about World Hunger

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a Swedish soccer star who plays for the French team Paris St. Germain (PSG). You won't remember him from the recent World Cup in Brazil because Sweden just barely missed making the field of 32 countries in the international tournament. Ibrahimovic has a strong opinion on an important topic: World Hunger. And while he was unable to express his thoughts at the marquee event in Brazil last summer, he does have a pretty big stage in France's Ligue 1  Here's what he did in a recent match.

"In the second minute of PSG’s Ligue 1 game with Caen, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored an acrobatic kung-fu kick and promptly took his shirt off and showed off a surprising display of tattoos in yet another one of his self-centered yet loveable displays of narcissism," said ProSoccerTalk. "Or, so we thought. Now, Zlatan says the stunt was for more worldly reasons. According to the massive Swede, and supported by a video from the World Food Programme, he put 50 names across his upper body of starving children in temporary tattoos surrounding his already heavy haul of existing ones.

The WFP and Ibrahimovich, in fact, are working very closely to make sure that world hunger does not become a forgotten problem among those of us in the West who live a comfortable existence. This video is a great example of who the WFP and the soccer start have worked together. “Each one of the 805 million people suffering from hunger in the world has a name, a voice, a story to share,” said Marina Catena, WFP Director for France and the Principality of Monaco.”Zlatan accepted the challenge and wished to carry their stories on his own skin so that the world does not forget them.”  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Reflection in Isaiah 58 1-12: 'God Answers Before We Ask'

In San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS)'s Daily Lenten Devotions, Rev. Laurie Garrett-Cobbina put together a  few words  for Thursday, February 19, 2015. The reflection, entitled "God Answers Before We Ask," is based on Isaiah 58:1-12, which sees social justice as an expression of  authentic worship

 Rev. Garett-Cobbina is Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care & Education and Shaw Chair of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at SFTS. Her reflection follows this version of Isaiah 58: 1-12

God answers.

God answers before God's people ask a question, declaring:

"With a loud voice, with a full throat, like a trumpet disputing the silence, relate to my people that I see their rebellion.

Yet, they seek me daily. They beguile me with their mouth. They pretend to want to know my ways. They ask for instruction as if they intend to fulfill them. They constantly ask for rules of righteousness, as if they intend to satisfy them.

And when I do not answer their fast with a belly full of good things, with a loud voice, with a full throat, lake a trumpet in my ear, they shout,

'Why do we fast if you do not see? Why do we humble ourselves when you do not notice? We have afflicted our soul, and you do not know.'

But I say, look here, on the day of your fast all you do is chase business, all the affairs of your necessities you toil to pursue, even with robbery and violence you rush to prosper yourself. With a wicked fist you strike your debtors exacting payment from them on the day of your fast.

This kind of fast will not carry your voice to me. Breaking your heart, afflicting your soul, spreading out sackcloth and ashes. Do you call this a fast, an acceptable day to your God?


Is not this the fast I choose for you?

Loosen the bonds of wickedness and unbind the ties of captivity,
then ask why there are prisoners in our world.
Eliminate all perversions of justice,
then ask why injustice reigns in our social relationships.
Share you bread with the hungry,
then ask why there are hungry people in our world.
Bring the homeless poor to you home,
then ask why there are poor people in our community.
When you see someone naked cover them,
then ask why there are overly exposed and vulnerable people in our community, and remember that you too are vulnerable, so do not hide
your vulnerability from your community.

Then your light shall break through,
like the ray of dawn that breaks through the clouds.
Then your healing shall quickly sprout,
for I will bring up healing for you.
Then the glory of God will surround you,
and I will have your back.
Then you will call,
and I will answer.

If the fast of our community is unacceptable, what should we do? A famous quote from Dom Helder Camara, Archbishop of São Paulo, comes to mind: "When I fed the poor, they called me a saint. When I asked why are the poor hungry, they called me a communist."

Sometimes we like to reinterpret God's command that we love one another, serve one another, forgive one another, work to eliminate all perversions of justice, and hold one another accountable to God's fast because it is just too hard, too risky.

Yet, this is the fast I hear that God wants for us:

Make the world a better place for all of us.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Stewards of the Divine Zoom Paradox: A Prayerful Reflection (Part 3)

Bishop Jim Gonia of the Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) delivered the keynote address at the luncheon sponsored by the annual bishop's luncheon sponsored by Lutheran Advocacy Ministry -New Mexico in Santa Fe on February 10, 2015. His address centered on the Divine Zoom Paradox, which invites us to look at the big picture of justice as we do "zooming in" to help our neighbors.  In Part 1, we reprinted excerpts of his message to Advocates.  In Part 2, we posted his message to legislators and other public servants.  Part 3 offers us a wonderful  video from the Film Board of  Canada. (Thanks to Jennifer Murphy-Dye for passing this on)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday Reflections from Thomas Merton and Joan Chittister

"Now one of the things we must cast out first of all is fear. Fear narrows the little entrance of our heart. It shrinks up our capacity to love. It freezes up our power to give ourselves. If we were terrified of God as an inexorable judge, we would not confidently await His mercy, or approach Him trustfully in prayer. Our peace, our joy in Lent are a guarantee of grace. -Thomas Merton -an Excerpt from Seasons of Celebration

"The message of Lent is clear: Alms are for self-giving; prayer is for personal growth in the mind of God; fasting is for self-discipline. What you get out of this kind of religion is not simply a change of liturgical cycles. What you get out of this kind of religion is a change of person. But when the person is changed then other actions will show it, and not all of them will be called “religious” by establishment types.

Once I have given enough alms to have learned to give myself recklessly away, then I will be capable of giving myself for nuclear disarmament and immigrant children and planetary survival with an abandonment that is dangerous.

Once I have prayed myself into the mind of Christ, I will bring the Christian ethic to the national budget and U.S. foreign policy and the economic order and the right to life with a clarity called “unreasonable” and “naive” perhaps, but hard to fool with civil religion.

Once I myself have fasted to the point of hunger, I will have the self-discipline it takes to spend my life in such a way that all the world may be able to be filled here in the Garden Earth. "-Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB from Reflection for Ash Wednesday, February 18 (2015)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

An Invitation to Wear Purple (and Celebrate International Women's Day) at UNM on March 2

Oxfam Action Corps New Mexico and the UNM Peace and Justice Studies Program cordially invite you to International Women's Day on Monday, March 2, at the University of New Mexico Student Union Building (SUB),  Third floor (Acoma A & B), 7:00-9:00 p.m. Organizers will join together to honor accomplished and outstanding women in New Mexico, doing their part to make the world a better place. The event, which is held in conjunction with  International Women's Day, will include: a Q&A with successful local women, entertainment, light refreshments.

"This years theme make it happen will focus on the achievements of woman while calling for equality. We are planning on having fun and creating an atmosphere of empowerment and equality. Purple the color of justice and dignity, values associated with woman's equality. In 1908 woman the Woman's Social and Political Union in Great Britain adopted the color scheme of purple, white, and green to symbolize the plight of suffragettes. Today we honor woman everywhere with the color Purple," Oxfam Action Corps New Mexico. "Plan on celebrating with us. Wear purple if you like. Bring friends, family neighbors, children, and the men in your life are welcome."  Free and Open to the Public.  Join Event on Facebook

Monday, February 16, 2015

Bishop Jim Gonia: Public Servants as 'Stewards of the Divine Zoom Paradox' (Part 2)

(Bishop Jim Gonia of the Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) delivered the keynote address at the luncheon sponsored by the annual bishop's luncheon sponsored by Lutheran Advocacy Ministry -New Mexico in Santa Fe on February 10, 2015. In Part 1 of this series, we published his message to justice advocates. The message is similar for legislators and public servants) .

LAM honored Sen. Peter Wirth for his work in the Legislature
"If you are a public servant, you too are a steward of the Divine Zoom Paradox.  As Lutherans, our way of understanding God's work in the world is not limited to people of faith or activities of the church. In fact, Martin Luther was very explicit that government itself was one tool through which the God of the Universe was active and at work among us in very specific and particular ways.

That may not be something you hear very often, but it's how we understand what is taking place in the Roundhouse and in all the work you do, whatever your role might be.

There are at least two ways that being Stewards of the Divine Zoom Paradox applies to those of you called to public service in government. The first is pretty simple, but it's easy to overlook.As you tend to your work, keep in mind the benefit of  zooming in and out often.  It's called perspective. As you attend to the specificity of a bill or a measure or a law, it would be easy to get caught up in the minutia. But if you can stand back far enough to recognize how your work relates to the common good of all the people you serve, remembering that the welfare of any community is ultimately measured by the well-being of those who are most marginalized or who are in the situations of greatest hardship. This gives necessary perspective to all your efforts.

Photo: Karen Navarro
A question of Perspective
And as you keep your eyes on that larger landscape, you may discover new insights that inform and guide your work on the specific measures before you. I recognize that it's not always easy to know when to hold the line, when to compromise, and when to capitulate. But keeping your eye on the bigger picture can provide important perspective.

Sometimes it's simply not the right time or condition for change to happen or for it to happen in the way we think it should. It may be that your task in the moment has to do with planting seeds rather than harvesting the fruit. As you well know, there is value in such effort, even if others can't see it. We want you to know that we in the faith community appreciate your efforts on behalf of the poor and marginalized, even when the time is not right for specific changes that we hope to see.

It is in the willingness to zoom out and in and often over the long haul that we begin to gain the wisdom that is not only a divine gift, but so necessary for faithful public service.

There's another significance to understanding yourself as a Steward of the Divine Zoom Paradox if you're a public servant. It's rooted in the fact that the work of governing is hard, and it can often be thankless. Zooming out to see the larger vision of a God who is utterly committed to the well-being of the whole world and its people. This can offer hope and strength to run your race with perseverance. Zooming in to claim what you do every day as your vocation, as your God-given calling, this can be a source inspiration and motivation.

One of my spiritual directors once told me, "Jim do what you're call to with all your heart, but don't attach yourself to the outcome."  That is great insight for anyone who is a Steward of the Divine Zoom Paradox, whether your service is through the church or through the public sector. Serve with passion in the specificity of your context. Trust the ultimate outcome to a God whose vision of what will be and whose commitment to bring it to reality far exceeds anything we could possibly imagine.

Next: Part 3: The Divine Zoom Paradox in images and music

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bishop Jim Gonia: Advocates as 'Stewards of the Divine Zoom Paradox' (Part 1)

(Bishop Jim Gonia of the Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) delivered the keynote address at the luncheon sponsored by the annual bishop's luncheon sponsored by Lutheran Advocacy Ministry -New Mexico in Santa Fe on February 10, 2015.  Here is an excerpt from his address, which is based on the scriptures for Sunday, February 8 Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:29-39 and 1 Corinthians 9:16-23).

As people of  faith, that vision of what we wit\ness when we zoom out and what we witness when we zoom out is nothing less than a revelation of the Divine.  Our scriptures bear witness to that.

Last Sunday, in many of our churches, we heard a word from the Prophet Isaiah, in which God was described in cosmic terms as "One who sits above the circle of the Earth, whose inhabitants are like grasshoppers who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. This is a God who who stretches out the heavens like a curtain This is a God who is the Creator of the ends of the Earth, He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. the Creator of the ends of   who does not grow faint or weary, whose understanding is unsearchable."

On the very same Sunday, we heard from the Gospel of Mark,  of  a God who in the person of  Jesus Christ walked among the pain  and heartache of of human life, healing those who were sick, casting out demons that plagued human life, preaching good news to those who lived in a despair that was sometimes of their own making and often not. 

This is a paradox of the revelation to be sure: to recognize God's presence and work in the infinite and at the same time recognize God's presence and work in the intimate  It's not an either or. Either God's up there and out there or God is dear and near to us. No, it's a both and. This matters when we talk about the work we do as advocates. We believe that God is at work in the big picture, to bring to fullness God's intended reign of justice of mercy and peace and love. As I reminded our folks, this is an evolutionary work, not an instantaneous work.

Photo: Anne Morawski
At times it feels like that this work will never be realized. It's only when we zoom out and see the big picture of what has indeed changed over time; it's only when we survey the breadth of the landscape to recognize how those moments when it seems that things have been backwards have actually become foundational for the change for which we long; it's only in those moments that we begin to be filled with hope. And gratitude.

But if zooming out is all we do, we miss the point of the paradox. This steady and faithful and evolutionary work of God to bring forth justice and peace in this world is accomplished through us. And that's a fact we only see when we zoom in to recognize the people and the places where our hands and voices are called to be present and active in the most intimate of ways.

As Christians we call this zoom-in work of  God incarnational. And as our scriptures confess most often,  it is seen in the poor and marginalized and suffering of this world that God's incarnational presence and work takes root. To be stewards of the divine zoom paradox in the realm of advocacy is to recognize that our specific and particular role matters in this expansive work that God is all about in the world.

Next: Part II Legislators as Stewards of the Divine Zoom Paradox

(Note: The video was taken with a hand-held camera without a tripod. And the "stabilizing" mode in YouTube fixed the video slightly),

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Hunger, Faith and Food Conference in Denver on March 19

The Abrahamic Initiative and St. John's Episcopal Cathedral in Denver are hosting the Fourth Annual Hunger, Faith & Food Conference on Thursday, March 19, 12:30-5:00 p.m., at St. John's Cathedral, 1350 Washington St.

The event is part of the goal of the Hunger, Faith and Food coalition to join with community partners to end hunger in Denver and in Colorado.  The ultimate mission of the coalition is to build capacity among those eager to grow, prepare, and share food, offering religious leaders tools for organizing their faith communities to end hunger locally.

Each day, tens of thousands of our neighbors struggle to put nutritious and life-sustaining food on the family table. We hear news of hunger. We see hunger, We are called to act. Leaders of faith institutions, lay and clergy alike, have a special charge. They are able to commandeer great reserves of human talent, vision, and energy in their congregations. Many faith institutions have irrigated lawns that could be planted with food gardens. They have kitchens for teaching and food preparation. They have parking lots. They have pulpits and voices and a duty of care."

But religious professionals rarely have the resources to cook up a hunger-relief ministry from scratch. The good news? The resources are there.

The coalition invites folks in Denver and surrounding areas to join them for for the fourth annual Hunger, Faith & Food conference at Saint John’s Episcopal Cathedral,, "A plenary session on Sacred Writ will help us to hear G-d’s still, small voice. Two simple workshops (and a round of ‘speed-dating’ with community partners) will inspire us and give us tools to act," said organizers.

Adrian Miller, Executive Director of the Colorado Council of Churches and James Beard Award–winning author, will be the keynote speaker, asking “What Is God Calling Us to Do?”

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Cearley, Presbyterian Church, USA, will moderate the plenary session on Sacred Writ, “Feeding the Hungry.” Panelists include
  • Rabbi Stephen Booth-Nadav, who is chaplain, Kavod Senior Life, and director, Wisdom House Denver; 
  • Ismail Guder, a 1998 graduate of a theology school in Izmir, Turkey, is executive director of the Multicultural Mosaic Foundation, Denver; 
  • Ved Nanda is director of international law at DU, founding president of the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of the Rockies, and a member of its Board of Trustees.
The conference begins at 12:30 with a Zero Waste meal highlighting the faith challenges of local hunger and abundance, in Dagwell Hall. It closes at 5 pm. Participants may stay to socialize in Dagwell Hall with locally produced beverages, or join Lenten evening worship services in Saint Martin’s Chapel.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Why a Bowl of Beans Could be Just as Good as Fish on Lenten Fridays

Eating fish on Friday during Lent is a longstanding tradition in many Christian communities. By eating fish, this meant that you were foregoing  consumption of red meat, and in a sense fasting. This symbolic practice was more significant when red meat was more common on the dinner table. In more recent times, fish has become the more healthful option, particularly if it grilled or broiled. While fish remains a powerful symbol of Lenten Fridays, the food itself is not as important as what it represents: fasting.  I would argue that soy patties and meatless bean dishes are a good alternative to eating fish in fulfilling our fast.

Rev. Ken Collins,  a United Church of Christ minister in McLean, Va., points to another symbolic aspect of eating fish on Fridays. In the first century, meat was a luxury food.  "You either had to buy it in a market or you had to own enough land to keep cattle," Rev. Collins said in his Web site. "On the other hand, anyone could grow vegetables or forage for them, and anyone could catch a fish in a lake or a stream. You could buy better fish and vegetables, but the point is that you could eat without money if you were poor. So meat was rich people's food and fish was poor people's food. That is why the most common form of fasting was to omit meat and eat fish."  Read his full post on Why Christians Eat Fish on Friday and During Lent.

A Fish Fry to Help Feed Our Neighbors
No doubt many Christian congregations in Albuquerque and around the country will put together meals on Fridays during Lent that will feature fish (along with prayer and reflection).

One congregation, St. John's United Methodist Church (map), will serve a fish meal every Friday from Feb. 20 until March 27, 4:00-7:00 p.m. for a modest cost of $12. There is an important reason for the charge: The proceeds will be donated to two local worthy organizations Albuquerque Rescue Mission and Project Share

Spending less of our income on meals means that we have more money at our disposal for another of the important actions during Lent, which is to give to our neighbor. Or we can spend more on a meal (as is the case with the Fish Fry Dinner at St. John's UMC) in order to give to our neighbor. In our Lenten practice of charity, we are called not only to give of our excess but to show solidarity with our neighbor in a prayerful manner. Rice Bowl, the Catholic Relief Services' Lenten program, offers opportunities to pray, give and more importantly to learn about neighbors in our community and around the world who are in need. The program even offers you an app to engage in these practices via your smartphone.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sharing Water from the Well

Opening procession at Holy Rosary church
By Jennifer Murphy-Dye

An ecumenical pub crawl? Yes, that was one of the ideas floated when the theme of the Octave/Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, taken from John 4, was announced: Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”

The goal behind the Week of Prayer is to encourage churches to build relationships with one another and pray together, and to that end, celebrations were held at several churches in our community.

On Monday, January 19, representatives from more than seven denominations participated in a prayer service at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church that was planned and sponsored jointly by Rio Grande Presbyterian Church. The opening procession included representatives from the Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Disciples of Christ, and United Church of Christ faith communities. The executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Churches, the Rev. Dr. Donna McNiel, and the ecumenical officer of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Monsignor Bennett J. Voorhies, also participated. Representatives carried pitchers of water from their respective churches, and then poured them into a communal font while the choir led everyone in singing “All Are Welcome.”

Rev. Sue Joiner of First Congregational UCC Church in Albuquerque gave a reflection on John 4, noting that God meets us and quenches in us a thirst we didn’t even know we had. Recognizing the significance of holding this service on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Rev. Joiner connected the thirst for living water to the thirst for justice that Dr. King possessed.

ValLimar Jansen at Annunciation church
On Friday, January 23, Our Lady of the Annunciation hosted a prayer service that attracted people from churches across the city and beyond, including congregants from local evangelical churches, as well as from neighboring Grant Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Nationally-known Biblical storyteller ValLimar Jansen captivated and delighted the hundreds of people present with her dramatization of the story of the Woman at the Well.

The next evening, Saturday, January 24, the NMCC’s Turquoise Chalice Award Dinner was held at St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church. The Rev. Dr. Donna McNiel presented the Turquoise Chalice Award to the Rev. Carole McGowan of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande. Rev. McGowan was a longtime NMCC Board member and a passionate ecumenist.

It was a full week of celebrating our shared Christian faith – a sharing that should continue throughout the year as we exemplify the unity that Jesus prayer for in John 17:21: “that they may all be one.” Invite a fellow Christian to break bread with you or share a drink – it could very “well” mark the beginning of fruitful ecumenical relationship!

For more pictures, visit NMCC's Facebook Page

(The author coordinates community outreach for the Ecumenical Institute foir Ministry in New Mexico.  She was recently elected as  chair of the board of the New Mexico Conference of Churches).. 

Monday, February 09, 2015

Walking the Lenten Journey with Bread for the World

Ash Wednesday is about 10 days away, which means that the Lenten season is just around the corner. There are many parallels between Lent and Advent. They both offer an opportunity to step outside ourselves and make a deeper connection with our Creator. In a way, they both are seasons of hope (anticipation of the birth of Christ and the resurrection of Christ), although Lent urges a deeper reflection of our failings to our God and our neighbor.

In an essay entitled Ash Wednesday,  which is part of the book  Seasons of Celebration, Thomas Merton describes how Lenten prayers and reflections can become a true gift. “Once again, Lent is not just a time for squaring conscious accounts: but for realizing what we had perhaps not seen before. The light of Lent is given us to help us with this realization." 

“Nevertheless, the liturgy of Ash Wednesday is not focused on the sinfulness of the penitent but on the mercy of God. The question of sinfulness is raised precisely because this is a day of mercy, and the just do not need a savior.”

The mercy of God.  What a powerful gift. God urges us to practice mercy every day of the year, but the Lenten season is an important time to remember our obligation to those who share this Earth with us. "Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody's business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can," Thomas Merton  wrote in a letter to Dorothy Day.

For us whose ministry is walking with those who are hungry (whether we use advocacy, direct service, blogging or other gifts), every year Bread for the World offers us a handy tool entitled "Lenten Prayers for Hungry People." The reflections come in the form of  "table tents" that include a prayer for each of the six weeks in Lent, Bible scriptures and actions that will help in the fight to end hunger. The weekly reflections, Scripture readings and prayers for this year are available online through a PDF download.

"I am ready for Lent, and my table tent is ready to inspire me. I’ve put it near my coffee pot, where it is sure to be seen each Sunday," Robin Stephenson, national lead for social media and a senior organizer at Bread for the World,wrote in a piece entitled "Traveling in the Wilderness," published in the Bread blog.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Addressing Hunger: A Boy Scout Project

In the Law of the Pack, a cub scout gives good will and in the Boy Scout Promise, a boy scout promises to help other people at all times.  By participating in a Scouting for Food program, scouts come a step closer to fulfilling those words.  -Boy Scout Trail

As a a member of  the Boy Scouts of America (Owl Patrol, Troop 3, in Mexico City), I learned the value of citizenship. While duty to God and country (in our case, two countries) was emphasized, citizenship also meant the human race. According to the Scout Law, a Boy scout is helpful and kind. And the Scout Slogan urges all the young members who join the organization to do a good turn daily. "Many people need help. A cheery smile and a helping hand make life easier for others. By doing a Good Turn daily and helping when you're needed, you prove yourself a Scout and do your part to make this a better world.," says US Scouting Service Project.

While  these values are important all year, Saturday (no matter which month) is a special day for Boy Scouts to become aware that hunger exists in their community and that they have an opportunity to do a small part in addressing the problem. "Across the country, in many councils and districts, thousands of troops and packs with millions of scouts involved collect tens of millions of pounds of food which is distributed to needy neighbors," says Boy Scout Trail in describing the annual campaign Scouting for Food. "If your troop or pack is not involved in a local program, or if there is not a program in place, this is a great opportunity for
you to help improve your scouting program."

Collecting for Roadrunner Food Bank
In Albuquerque, the Scouts from the Great Southwest Council host an annual food drive to benefit Roadrunner Food Bank. Scouts will leave information about the food drive at homes throughout the Albuquerque community the first Saturday in February, and will pick up any food left out at homes the second Saturday in February.

Additionally, the scouts spend a few hours at several branches of a local supermarket to urge patrons to fill the red Roadrunner Food Bank barrels with non-perishable food items. This is exactly what members of  Boy Scout Troop 395 were doing yesterday, Saturday, February 7, at the Smith's Grocery Store on Tramway and Central.

This was an unusually mild and sunny day for February, one that lends itself to outdoor activities. And I'm sure the four young men collecting food with their leaders would have rather been somewhere in the Sandia foothills. And yet, here they were with a smile on their face as they did their service project. It looked like  the four barrels were each about half full. But the Scouts were going to be here another two hours, so there was time to convince patrons to add a couple of  cans of tuna or beans or a jar of peanut butter to their grocery purchase.

While my sense is that some Boy Scout troops do other things to help hungry people, such as spending time sorting food at Roadrunner Food Bank or helping in a soup kitchen, wouldn't it be great to have a merit badge that in some form teaches young people about the causes of hunger? Or perhaps the issue could be addressed in two merit badges: Citizenship in the Community and Citizenship in the Nation.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

FRAC Invites You to Summer Meals Matter Conference Call

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) invites you to its  Summer Meals Matter Conference Call on Thursday, February 12, 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time, 11 :00 a.m. Mountain Time.   Register Here 

Work with schools, advocates, summer program providers and other partners to develop a marketing plan that can increase the visibility of the program and build participation. Presenters will discuss what sponsors and advocates can be doing in February to ensure smooth program operations. You will also hear about effective methods and resources that advocates and program providers use to promote the program and reach the children who will benefit most from summer meals.

The effort to improve participation in summer meals is compatible with Feed Our Children, Bread for the World's 2015 Offering of Letters. There is also good information in the briefing paper that  Feeding America published recently about the 2015 Child Nutrition Reauthorization efforts.

Friday, February 06, 2015

One Thousand Bloggers to Write about Compassion and Social Justice on February 20

Social justice is an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability.  

Eight years ago, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed February 20 as World Day of Social Justice.  In issuing this declaration, the UN invited all member states to promote national activities in accordance with the objectives and goals of the World Summit for Social Development, whose guiding principle is to put people at the center of development. The International Labor Organization (ILO), working with the UN, has taken this principle a step further, developing the link between the rights of workers and communities with the increasing trend toward globalization.  In June 2008, the ILO released the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization.

The World Day of Social Justice has also given a group of bloggers an opportunity to come together on a single to post a piece about compassion. One Facebook group called 1000 Voices for Compassion has recruited 1000 bloggers to write posts about compassion, kindness, support, caring for others, non-judgement, care for the environment and other similar issues exactly two weeks from today. The number 1,000 is a target, not a limit. As of February 6, 1,107 people (including yours truly) had signed up for the group.  This means there could be 1,107 blog posts with the Twitter and Facebook hashtag #1000Speak on that day. 1000 Voices for Compassion also has a Facebook Page.
We do not often seem to think of social justice and compassion as compatible. Our thoughts about social justice are often about righting a wrong or fighting inequality. Those actions are often identified with angry protests by the oppressed and those who advocate for the oppressed against an oppressive economic system. February 20 is not about protests (even though they are certainly justified in most cases). By setting aside our anger about global inequalities (at least for a day), we are best able to enter into dialogue about the principles that should underlie economic and social relations within each country and among countries.

Here is a quote from the ILO's Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization.
The Declaration provides leaders and decision-makers with a balanced approach that connects with people and productive solutions at home, while also offering a common platform for governance at the international level. It contributes to policy co- herence for sustainable development in national policies, among international organizations and in development cooperation, bringing together social, economic and environmental object- ives. In this regard, it highlights that international and regional organizations with mandates in closely related fi elds can play an important role in the implementation of the integrated approach required and invites them to promote decent work. 

Stay tuned for 1,000 or more blog posts about compassion on February 20.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

A Screening of 'A Place at the Table' on Sunday, Februry 8

The New Mexico Black History Organizing Committee is hosting a screening of the powerful documentary "A Place at the Table" on Sunday, February 8, at the Guild Theater,3405 Central Ave NE (map), 2:00-3:30 p.m. RSVP here.

Admission is a non-perishable food item, and there will be a short panel discussion after the screening. Panelists include Kathy Komoll, executive director of the New Mexico Association of Food Banks, and representatives from New Mexico Appleseed and the New Mexico Department of Health. 

Check out other events in Albuquerque during Black History Month. Visit the Black History Month Facebook Page.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Save the Date: Feed Our Children (A 2015 Offering of Letters Workshop)

Saturday, March 14    
9:30 am -  Noon
St. Andrew Presbyterian Church
5301 Ponderosa NE
Presentation by Nancy Pope

Feed Our Children
Bread for the World's 2015 Offering of Letters,“Feed Our Children,” urges Congress to reauthorize a Child Nutrition Act that can close the hunger gap. Nearly 16 million U.S. children – one in five – live at risk of hunger.
The legislation that Congress is considering this year authorizes several important anti-hunger programs, such as the National School Lunch Program and the Summer Food Service Program. With improved access and investment, we have the opportunity to reach more children in need. urges Congress to renew our federal government’s major child nutrition programs, including those for school meals, summer feeding, and the WIC nutrition program for pregnant and new mothers along with their small children.

Download Resources for your Offering of Letters
Our Guest Presenter Nancy Pope, former director of the New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger and and advisor to several national anti-hunger organizations, will discuss the importance of child nutrition programs. She provides advisory services and interim staff support to non-profits, government agencies and companies who can contribute to ending hunger. Her clients include national organizations (Feeding America, ConAgra Foods Foundation and Share Our Strength) ,corporations (Target),  government agencies (State of Maryland), and small non-governmental organizations such as food pantries. Ms. Pope, a resident of Albuquerque, serves on the steering committee of the Interfaith Hunger Coalition.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Feeding Our Children Beyond School Meals

Using the hashtag #ThisIsImportant, the Healthy Food site recently posted the graphic below on Twitter comparing typical school lunches in four countries: Brazil, South Korea, Italy and the U.S.  (My sense is that lunches in each of  the countries probably vary from one district to another).  Another online resource, posted pictures of school lunches in 20 countries around the world (compare the photos from Ghana, Honduras, Djibouti, Kenya and  the Philippines with all the other countries). Also, how many of these meals include fresh fruits and vegetables?
The bottom line is that nutrition is a very important part of child development around the world. In the United States, free or subsidized school meals keep many children from low-income families from going hungry.

Photo: Bread for the World
Our federal government’s feeding programs serve as a lifeline for vulnerable children and families. Nearly 16 million children in the United States–one in five–live in households that struggle to put food on the table.

That is why Bread for the World members around the country will be writing letters to their representatives and senators this year urging them to renew our federal government’s major child nutrition programs, including those for school meals, summer feeding, and the WIC nutrition program for pregnant and new mothers along with their small children. Learn more about the 2015 Offering of Letters

And while school meals are relatively effective in reducing hunger, there are many times (like summer and weekends) when children do not have access to nutritious food. "Despite their proven effectiveness, child nutrition programs are only useful when they reach the children who need help. In particular, programs targeting children during out - of - school times fail to reach far too many children in need of food assistance. Our nation could do much more to reduce child hunger and mal nutrition simply by reaching more children. The reauthorization of child nutrition programs in 2015 provides an important opportunity to improve access to and the quality of child nutrition programs," Feeding America said in a briefing paper on the 2015 Child Nutrition Reauthorization efforts.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Recycled Heart Gallery Opening on Friday, February 8

”People who are homeless in this society tend to be invisible and for that reason, when they create art, they are telling you, ‘Here I am. Look at me. Here is what I can do.’ This is why ArtStreet excites me. Because life itself excites and that is why I continue to be a part of this.”
Anand Naren-Oma, ArtStreet Artist

Harwood Art Center and ArtStreet, a program of Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless, invite you to their annual Recycled Heart Gallery Opening, featuring mixed media and recycled art by ArtStreet artists.

The exhibit, which celebrates 20 years with ArtStreet, opens on Friday Feb. 6 with a reception, from 6:00 pm. until 8:00 pm. at the Harwood Art Center, 1114 7th St. NW (map). The art will be on display through Thursday, Feb.26. 

Sunday, February 01, 2015

On Super Bowl Sunday: Thomas Merton's Thoughts on Pro Football

This weekend we celebrate two totally diverse events. On Saturday, it was the 100th anniversary of Thomas Merton's birth. On Sunday, we observe what has come to be a truly American ritual (also observed in many parts of the world): the Super Bowl  So, is there an intersection between Thomas Merton's reflections and Super Bowl  XLIX?  You'd be surprised that the two celebrations do intersect in some form.

Our thanks to Rev. Brian Taylor for including this information in his wonderful reflection on Saturday, Jan. 31, at the Santa Maria de la Vid Norbertine Center in Albuquerque.

Thomas Merton wrote the following in his 1968 journal - on the way to Asia-  about a crowning American ritual. He was sitting dead tired with a glass of bourbon in the lounge of the Franciscan Friary watching pro football on TV--at midnight! 

Image: Feraliminal via Open Clip Art
 The Green Bay Packers beat the Dallas Cowboys - and it was, I must say, damn good football because it was pre-season and many contracts depended on it. 

 Football is one of the really valid and deep American rituals. It has a religious seriousness which American religion can never achieve. A comic, contemplative dynamism, a gratuity, a movement from play to play, a definitiveness that responds to some deep need, a religious need, a sense of meaning that is at once final and provisional: a substratum of dependable regularity, continuity, and an ever renewed variety, openness to new possibilities, new chances. It happens. It is done. It is possible again. It happens. Another play is decided, played out, “done” (replay for the good ones so you can really see how it happened) and that’s enough, on to the next one - until the final gun blows them out of a huddle and the last play never happens. They disperse. Cosmic breakup. Final score 31-37 is now football history. This will last forever. It is secure in its having happened. And we saw it happen. We existed.