Saturday, October 05, 2013

Bread for the World Sunday at Saint Michael's Lutheran Church


So tomorrow I'm blessed with the opportunity to do a temple talk concerning hunger and faith-based advocacy at Saint Michael's Lutheran Church in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. As I don't have a yearlong church assignment for Sundays during my last year at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, I decided to visit Saint Michael's a few Sundays ago for the first time and heard folks there were interested in getting involved with advocacy. Thus, Pastor Ingram and other members of the congregation got to talking and we decided to hold a series of temple talks and sermons about combating hunger leading up to Bread for the World Sunday, which this year falls on October 20th. On that day (or perhaps the following Sunday), we'll be contacting our elected officials (via either letter writing or perhaps recorded video) urging them to protect government programs like SNAP, WIC and to reform US foreign assistance.

I thought it would be a good idea to post a rough manuscript of what I'll be talking about tomorrow, both as a way to share information and in order to encourage other people of faith throughout America to participate in Bread for the World Sunday. Thanks so much for reading, and if you have any questions or comments, please let me know!

God's peace,

Temple Talk: Faith-based Advocacy and Hunger

Hi folks, my name is Dustin Wright and I'm currently a senior at the Lutheran seminary up the street, studying to be a pastor. A few weeks ago I visiting Saint Michael's Church for the first time, and I believe the Holy Spirit really took ahold of me. It was the Sunday you all had your Rally Sunday, and one thing I heard folks wanted to work on was doing some faith-based advocacy. Given that I spent the past year at the Lutheran advocacy office at the United Nations, and that I've also worked with Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania, I approached Pastor Ingram and told her I'd be happy to help out. After talking it over with Susan Cole and others, we decided it might be a good idea to advocate for ending hunger in the US and around the world by participating in a program called Bread for the World Sunday, which this year takes place on October 20th.

But before I blab on much longer, I got a few questions for you related to the topic:

- What is advocacy?
- Have you ever taken part in any faith-based advocacy before?
- Why do think its important to engage in advocacy as Christians?

So we can't make the world perfect folks, we can't fix every problem out there... only God will take care of that at some point. Yet, there are many problems we can alleviate in our world, and hunger is definitely one of em. Did you know 1 in 7 Americans, including 1 in 4 children, currently live below the poverty line? And that 1 in 6 Americans currently face food insecurity? And on a global level, wow, there's over 1 billion folks, over 1/7th of our global population going hungry. That's not the happiest news, but I don't mean to bum you out.

Cause there's even better news actually, profoundly good news! While there's a lot of hungry folks out there, it doesn't need to be this way... we have the tools right now to end hunger both in America and around the world, if only we had the political will. In fact, not only is hunger solvable, but in certain times and places, it has been solved. For instance, under the Nixon administration actually, did you know chronic hunger was for a time nearly eliminated in the US? Unfortunately, some of our subsequent presidents and congressional leaders didn't live up to their moral responsibility to ensure folks don't go hungry in this most prosperous of countries by changing the programs that made such an achievement possible. But here's some more good news... on the global level, while there's still a lot of work to do, we've cut the hunger rate in half over the last two decades, lowering the percentage of hungry folks from around 23 percent in 1990 to around 14 percent today. That's amazing progress, and with the political will, it can continue!

Now, as people of faith, we know God doesn't want any of Her children to go hungry, and thus we already do a lot of work to feed folks. Right here at Saint Michael's for instance I hear you have a community meal every week, and that's awesome! But there's another couple steps we can take too. First, let's pray for those who are hungry, and for our political leaders who should at least, be helping them. We also though need to contact our elected officials, telling them to protect and perhaps even expand government programs that feed both hungry Americans and our neighbors around the world. Between now on October 20th, we'll be talking about just how to do that, and then on either the 20th or the Sunday after, we'll be writing letters to our elected officials urging them to live up to their responsibilities.

For you see, us church folks can't feed the hungry on our own. Did you know that if you measured all the food that's either directly given to hungry people or paid for, food given out by churches would only be 1/42nd of all that food, with government programs the source for most of the rest? There's no way us church folks could make up for all that, no matter how hard we tried. That's why its so important that we urge our elected leaders to protect programs like the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program, the Women, Infants and Children program, and to reform foreign aid.

Thanks so much for having me everyone, and I greatly look forward to working with you all in the coming weeks.

Dustin is currently in his final year of a Masters of Divinity program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, having recently completed a year as Vicar at the Lutheran Office for World Community and Saint Peter's Church in New York City. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

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