Thursday, December 18, 2014

Advent: What Wondrous Love, St. Olaf College Choir

Although various sources have attributed this text to a number of different writers, it remains anonymous. "What Wondrous Love" was first published in both Stith Mead's hymnal for Methodists, A General Selection of the Newest and Most Admired Hymns and Spiritual Songs (1811), and in Starke Dupuy's hymnal for Baptists,  It meditates on Christ's wonderful love (st. 1), which brought about our salvation (st. 2), a love to which we and the "millions" respond with eternal praise (st. 3-4). via Hymnary.org

This version is performed by the world renown St. Olaf College Choir

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New Mexico Tour: Speaker to Present Overview of Catholic Relief Services' Programs for Farming Communities in Nicaragua

"Mini aqueducts were constructed in five communities in the Pueblo Nuevo municipality, thanks to an investment 2.5 million córdobas (US$94,000) from the international organization Catholic Relief Service (CRS) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which provlded the financial assistance. Jorge Brenes Abdalá, director of the ACORDAR project,  in which CRS is a participant, visited the communities to verify the benefit of the project for 200 families, who previously had to travel long distances to haul water in order to conduct their daily chores."  Read full article in Spanish in Nicaraguan daily newspaper La Prensa.
Photo from La Prensa
With the assistance of projects sponsored by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), some 12,000 families in Nicaragua have been able to increase their income and achieved self-sufficiency. Nicaragua is one of the five countries featured in the 2015 CRS Rice Bowl Lenten catechetical program.

The CRS efforts in Nicaragua are led in part by Jorge Brenes Abdalah (sometimes spelled Abdalá), who coordinates CRS' agricultural business promotion efforts in the Central American country via the alliance to Create Rural Business Opportunities through Agroenterprise Relationships (ACORDAR).

Brenes Abdalah, senior chief of agribusiness for CRS in Nicaragua, has helped put together some important studies on agriculture issues in his home country. "ACORDAR municipality investments have bolstered the farmers’ supply chain competitiveness and created powerful synergies with municipal government investments," he said in a 2012 report.  

Photo: CRS
The CRS specialist, whose family fled Nicaragua during the war in 1985, dedicates his life to helping poor, small-scale farmers in his country.

Brenes Abdalah will share his experiences and discuss the programs that CRS offers in Nicaragua during his speaking tour in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Vegas, N.M., on Jan. 24-25, 2015, sponsored by the Office of Social Justice and Respect Life of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

Here is a list of events open to the public where Brenes Abdalah will speak.
  • Saturday January 24, 11:45-12:45. Presentation in Spanish- Ascension Church, 2150 Raymac, SW, Albuquerque (map), (Open to all Spanish speakers, includes lunch—please register by calling Leslie Farías 505-918-4447) 
  • Saturday, January 24,  1:30-3:30 p.m., St. John XXIII Catholic Community, 4831 Tramway Ridge Dr., NE, Albuquerque (map). The event is cosponsored by the local graduates of the JustFaith program in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe
  • Sunday, January 25, 10:45-11:45 a.m.  Adult Formation Class  St. Therese Catholic School, 311 Shropshire, NW, Albuquerque (map)
  • Sunday, January 25, 2:30-3:30 p.m.  Newman Center (New Mexico Highlands University), 901 8th St., Las Vegas, N.M. (map)  For more info contact Adrellita Chavez, Campus Minister, Newman Center, (505) 429-3310
  • Sunday, January 25, 5:00 p.m. Mass—Speaking after communion (Spanish), Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 417 Agua Fria, Santa Fe (map)
For more information about these events, please contact the Office of Social Justice and Respect Life, 505-831-8167 or justice@archdiosf.org or the contact person listed for a particular event.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Albuquerque Homeless Persons Memorial Vigil this Friday, December 19

Every December, the community of agencies supporting men, women and children who experience homelessness joins with some of  the people who do not have a permanent shelter (or who were once homeless) to plan a procession and ceremony to remember those men and women who died outdoors in Albuquerque during the past year. The vigil this year is scheduled for Friday, December 19, from Noon until 3:30 p.m.

Noon: Participants will gather at the Memorial Wall outside Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless, 1217 First St. NW (near First and Mountain). Lunch will be provided at Noon. There will be a short ceremony at 12:45 p.m.

1:00 p.m. March from Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 619 Cooper Ave. NW.  Participants will walk in silence to make their presence powerful.

2:00-3:30 p.m. Memorial Vigil inside Immaculate Conception Catholic Church

The vigil is a powerful reminder that each of these individuals who lost their lives on the street was a person to be valued. These are individuals from all walks of life. Some might have been battling addiction or were military veterans. Some might have died during an attack; others were simply victims of the elements. What they had in common is that they became more vulnerable simply because they did not have a roof over their heads.

Ana Powell, who once worked at St. Martin's Hospitality Center, wrote her reflections about the vigil in December 2009 in her blog Coluna da Milk. Her words were originally written in Portuguese for her readers in Brazil and  the U.S. Here are some excerpts:
Before the vigil, people gather at the patio of  Albuquerque Health are for the Homeless...Participants prepare to walk through downtown to the church....The ceremony inside the church was very beautiful, including the opening comments by a minister...the music...the poetry...I cried a lot...especially when they played the song In My Life by the Beatles, and also when a Native American sang some songs from the Sioux tradition...After all this, we lit the candles in the name of each person and read his or her name out loud. Then there was a moment of silence when we all blew out the candles at the same time. This was a very intense moment!...The vigil ended with all of us singing We Shall Overcome. I cried again....
My thoughts at the moment were that there was nothing better than ending my work year with a ceremony like this one: walking alongside our clients, listening to what they had to tell us, singing and praying together, and celebrating the memory of of those who lived anonymously in the streets of Albuquerque...Oh my God, I am crying again as I write this. (Sighs) 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Third Sunday in Advent: Rejoice (Oh Happy Day from the South African Youth Choir)

A pink candle is lit on the Thurd Sunday of Advent as a symbol of joy. In the Catholic tradition, the candle is is lit on Gaudete Sunday–named for the entrance antiphon for that Sunday’s Mass: “Rejoice (gaudete) in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice.” The joy is subdued, however, as the penitential violet of the other weeks lessens to rose as we move closer to Christmas. 

On this Third Sunday of Advent, I share a video of the South African Youth Choir singing a familiar song of joy, the 18th Century spiritual O Happy Day. The video was recorded live at Willowbridge Barnyard, Cape Town in June 2010, and uploaded by Charl van Heyningen. In keeping with the contemplative theme of Advent, this is a more mellow, yet joyous, version of the song (as compared to a more celebratory version from the Soweto Gospel Choir).

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Storehouse Moving Forward

The Storehouse, an agency that has served the local low-income community with food and other supplies, made the national news in 2005. In an article for In These Times magazine, entitled "The Cruelest Cuts," Santa Fe-based author Mark Winne wrote about how proposed cuts in food stamps and other federal nutrition programs would greatly increase the need for families to resort to an already overextended agency like The Storehouse.  

For generations, The Storehouse has been a lifeline for many local families. So reports earlier this year that the agency was facing financial problems and a very uncertain future, created  significant concerns in  this community. Fortunately, a solution was found in May of this year, when the Adelante Development Center agreed to take over management of the operation.  The move was a success. While not yet out of the woods, The Storehouse seems to be in a recovery mode, thanks to the efforts of Krista Kelley and other members of the Adelante & The Storehouse staffs.   I reprinted a  couple of articles (including tbe accompanying photographs)  from a recent newsletter from The Storehouse, which offer more details about the transition and a positive outlook for the operation.  (A third article, about founder Titus Scholl will be reprinted later).

 
The Storehouse has undergone quite a few changes over the past few months. Fortunately that change has brought growth and stability, and possibly kept us from shutting our doors for good. With timely assistance from Adelante Development Center, there is very real hope now that the organization can continue its vital mission.

“The relationship with Adelante has been remarkable," said Storehouse board chairJennifer James."The support they have given us has been lifesaving. We are thankful every day for all they have done and continue to do in helping us achieve our core mission in feeding New Mexico’s hungry.”

While The Storehouse still needs more public support, efforts to restore The Storehouse to a viable long-term organization have made measurable progress since April, said Krista Kelley, vice president of development at Adelante.

“The immediate prospect of closing down is no longer such a threat, but The Storehouse is not out of danger yet. Adelante is working to diversify revenue streams as well as community programming, but we are still very much in need of public support before we can consider the agency on solid ground for the long term. In the meantime, we are finding ways to carry out our mission more efficiently.” The Storehouse is once again on the right track, and steadily becoming better equipped to handle growing numbers of hungry New Mexicans.

Even so, our state leads the country in food insecurity, and we are ranked second in the nation for poverty. How much worse would it have been for Albuquerque if The Storehouse had not been there for the past 38 years attacking hunger on the front lines? The organization now supports over 71,000 people in and around Albuquerque with the food and support they need to make life work. But more can be done, and with the help of our very generous donors and volunteers, it will be.

Hunger knows few boundaries, and with The Storehouse regaining its strength as an organization, fewer New Mexicans fight a losing battle. There is still reason for hope.

Adelante Development Center Lends a Helping Hand
Incorporated in 1976, The Storehouse has been a pillar of the community in Albuquerque for 38 years, and now supports over 71,000 people with food on a regular basis. But in late 2012, New Mexico’s largest food pantry began to suffer when funding began to decrease due to a downturn in the economy.

Over the course of the following year, the organization experienced a “double whammy”, as hunger and poverty in New Mexico rose to new highs and greater demands were placed on The Storehouse’s already dwindling budget for operations.

According to Jennifer James, Board Chair for The Storehouse, “Just running the pantry, and getting the food and provisions to people in need takes a lot of time and effort. When donations started to dry up, our budget started to atrophy very quickly. Eventually we were looking at shutting down, which would have been catastrophic for so many in and around Albuquerque.”

By early 2014, The Storehouse board had approached Adelante with the prospect of working together to keep such a vital, life-saving organization from shutting its doors. By April, a management agreement had been finalized – Adelante would provide immediate operational, administrative and developmental support, and would ultimately manage the entire operation.

In May, Adelante organized a press conference to announce the new management structure to the general public, with an appeal for donations at a time when The Storehouse had only a few weeks of operational funding remaining. “It’s critical that The Storehouse remain in the community,” said Mike Kivitz, CEO of Adelante. “Our community would not be the same without The Storehouse, and it was a natural for Adelante to step in because The Storehouse is also a source of food, work and and volunteerism for the people with disabilities that we serve.”

Friday, December 12, 2014

JustFaith Advent Reflection: Hearing God's Call to Service

JustFaith Ministries shares this beautiful prayer and reflection exercise for the Advent season. 

Light a candle. Fill a small saucer or bowl with oil. Find a silent space alone or with a small prayer community. 

Oil — source of food and warmth, healing and blessing... energy and wealth, conflict and pollution. At baptism we are anointed as holy, servant, and prophetic people. With this ancient sign of God’s abundance and blessing, rulers and prophets are marked; spiritual gifts and healing are conferred.

Mark the sign of the cross on your palms or forehead. If sharing the ritual with a community, anoint one another.

“ With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. ”             Micah 6:6-8

The examples in these first two verses from Micah describe lavish gifts — gifts that even a very rich person would have trouble offering freely. God requires something even more than these gifts. Through our baptism, we are anointed by the Spirit to do God’s work in the world. What God requires of us is to become a people who long for justice. But do we have the courage to encounter the broken parts of our world? Are we willing to risk moving out of our comfort zones to encounter the systems of injustice that are at work? Do we have the humility to acknowledge our complicity with the powers and structures that oppress? Can we transform our lives and, in doing so, change our world? What is God calling me to become, to care about, to do?

After a couple of minutes of quiet reflection, close with this simple prayer (adapted from Psalm 46:10). Pause between each line for prayerful silence.

Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know. Be still. Be. Amen.

Click here to to download a printable version.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Tony and Julianna Pelletier Invite You to an Art Exhibit

Many of you who have attended ArtStreet art exhibit openings over the years have seen the extraordinary art works of Tony and Julianna Pelletier. The two artists have now put together their first-ever solo art show, entitled "Off the Wall." 

To mark the occasion, they invite the public to an opening reception on Friday, December 12, 5:00-8:00 p.m., at the Sundowner Apartments community room, 6101 Central NE (just west of San Pedro).

Their art will continue to be on display at that site Monday through Friday, 9:00 to 5:00 p.m.  Tony is a board member of Albuquerque. Healthcare for the Homeless.


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

A Gift for Wings Ministry's Christmas Party and a Pet Picture with Santa at Habitat for Humanity's Thrift Store

Presents Needed for Wings Ministry's' Annual Christmas Party
Wings for Life Internationnal, a ministry that supports the families of members of our prison population, is collecting presents for its annual Christmas party this Saturday, December 13, at St. John's United Methodist Church in Albuquerque.  If you would like to donate presents, please bring them to the Wings office, 2015 Wyoming, Suite J, or to St. John's United Methodist Church, 26226 Arizona NE.  Here is  the Christmas Wish List  

 WFLI is also accepting donations for the party, including undecorated sugar cookies, frosting, sprinkles, Crystal Light lemonade, paper supplies (cups, plates and napkins), and financial donations to buy pizza.

WFLI hosts three parties a year: a Christmas, Easter, and a Back-To-School Party, hoping to reach families at important times throughout the year. The parties are held in sponsoring churches in different parts of the city and in different denominations. All participants in Wings, whether they are inmate’s family members or church volunteers, enjoy the interaction of Christians working together from many different denominations

For  more information contact Ann Edenfield Sweet, AnnEdenfield@WingsforLIFEInternational.org

Habitat for Humanity Sponsors Pet Pictures with Santa
Photo: Humane Society of Ottawa via Flickr
Restore,  the thrift store of Greater Albuquerque Habitat fo Humanity,  encourages you to bring your pet, family and phone/or camera this Saturday, Dec. 13, and next Saturday, Dec. 20, to take a picture with Santa, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The store is located at 4900 Menaul NE.
 
Other activities will be featured:
  • If you need an outdoor shelter for your dog, upcycled, insulated dog houses created by  ITT Tech students will be available for sale.
  • On Dec. 20, representatives from Paws to People will be on site to speak to you about the organization and the research it funds to help find cures to diseases that both animals and humans share.
  • KoriAnn Sanchez, family services manager at Greater Albuquerque Habitat for Humanity, will be on hand to prequalify families for local Habitat houses. She is currently looking for families to be placed in three newly constructed homes, featuring 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, LEED certified/energy efficient,on Townsend Ave. in the Alamosa Community neighborhood. Mortgage payment $500.00 on a 25-year note interest. For more information, contact koriann@habitatabq.org

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Second Sunday of Advent: Uncomplicate Christmas

Decking the halls. Dashing through snow. Making wish lists too long to check once, much less twice. When did Christmas get so complicated? Maybe it’s time to rethink the way we celebrate and focus on others. To simplify and rediscover the true meaning of Christmas.
Shopping has become the centerpiece of our holiday celebrations. Even if we observe the Advent and Christmas season by attending services, lighting Advent wreaths, decorating our homes, enjoying holiday concerts, baking goods, somehow shopping elbows its way into our celebrations. The United Methodist Church's campaign Rethink Church invites us to step back from all the busy activity to engage in reflection and prayer.
Perhaps you were not aware that the church has a season dedicated to waiting? It’s a small distinction, the difference between Advent and Christmas, but it’s an important one. It's no surprise though that right after Thanksgiving we want to ask, "When can we sing Christmas songs?" But the question we must ask is: Are you ready to receive the one and only that God is sending our way? Are you ready to make room for Christ, even when he comes in the form of a homeless child, a teenager in recovery, and an older adult who's more confused than he is "with it"?”
 

Saturday, December 06, 2014

60 Minutes Touts Vital Role of World Food Programme in Syria

Solving hunger is also a contribution to peace and stability. When governments can no longer guarantee adequate food supplies, states are prone to fall. Volatility on food markets can quickly translate into volatility on the streets. -World Food Programme
Photo: World Food Programme
The  UN World Food Programme, which was conceived in 1961 and established formally in 1963, was created to respond to food emergencies around the world. The organization, however, places a strong emphasis on hunger alleviation as a solution for many of the problems facing the world. For example, if we ensure that people have access to adequate food and nutrition, we can help avert conflict. Sometimes the opposite situation occurs. When we have conflict, hunger increases significantly. Civil wars tend to deprive large populations of food and water.  This is the case in Syria, where a civil war that has continued over the past 18 months has caused millions of people to leave their homes.

Here's what the WFP says about the situation in Syria
"Access to basic needs including food, water, electricity and medical supplies has been interrupted in areas witnessing armed activities. A growing number of main breadwinners have become unemployed and soaring food and fuel prices across the country have also exacerbated the situation. In response, WFP – in partnership with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and 23 other local organizations– is providing monthly food assistance to close to 3 million Syrians and will scale up to feed 4 million people by October."   Visit WFP's secition on Syria

Photo: World Food Programme
On Nov. 30, the CBS television program 60 Minutes broadcast a segment on the WFP's efforts in Syria. Host Scott Pelley reported on the men and women of the WFP who are risking their lives to save Syrians from starvation  Pelley interviewed WFP director Ertharin Cousin;  Matthew Hollingworth, head of the WFP's Syria mission; and Andrew Harper, who heads the efforts in neighboring Jordan by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. View the 60 minutes video. You can also read the script

Cousin noted that the operation in Syria is the largest ever for the agency. "We have over 3,000 trucks supporting 45,000 metric tons of food delivered every month inside Syria," said the WFP director.

Some areas are worse than others. For example, the Syrian regime sealed off the city of Hons for 600 days.  In February, the government finally allowed a delegation from the WFP to enter the city to provide relief.  The impact was very tangible among the population,  "I could lift a grown man because he'd got to about 40 kilos (85 pounds)," said Hollingworth.

The WFP is facing a financial crisis and is unable to continue its current levels of support. On Dec. 1, the UN agency announced it would suspend its food voucher program due to a severe cash shortfall, a decision that will leave nearly 1.7 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey struggling to pay for food. Prior to the program’s suspension, the WFP was providing refugees with $15 to $45 monthly voucher cards to purchase food in local markets. "The suspension couldn’t have come at a worse time – as winter approaches," Bread for the World's international policy analyst Beth Ann Saracco said in the Bread Blog

Friday, December 05, 2014

The Role of Non-Governmental Organizations in the Ebola Crisis

Map: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
There are at least 65 non-governmental organizations are providing some sort of direct or indirect assistance in the fight to control the Ebola outbreak  in West Africa. Some of the names on the list compiled by US Agency for International Development (USAID) are familar and others are not as familiar  Among those agencies and NGOs I recognized are CARE, Doctors Without Borders, United Methodist Committee on Relief, Unicef, World Food Programme, Catholic Relief Services, Episcopal Relief and Development, Save the Children and World Vision. And these are just the organizations with some connection to the US. There are probably many NGOss from Europe, Japan, Canada and other areas assisting with the crisis.

So with so many organizations involved in addressing the crisis, how do you prevent duplication of efforts?  Is there a mechanism for these organizations to work together? I'm sure many of these organizations find a way to work together and with government agencies. Would you believe the U.S. State Department has an NGO handbook?  Chapter 6 addresses cooperative efforts. "Community needs are too numerous and society’s problems are too complex. "Your NGO needs to work with other NGOs and your government to accomplish your goals...Through partnerships with other NGOs, and the public sector, you gain access to new resources, including funding and in-kind support as well as information, expertise and skills."

The NGOs working directly in the countries affected by Ebola face some challenges, according to Sam Worthington, President and CEO of InterAction, an alliance of U.S.-based nongovernmental international organizations. "The current Ebola outbreak...presents a unique situation for international NGOs. It began in Lofa County in northern Liberia, in which most of the health infrastructure was destroyed during the country’s recent civil war,"  Worthington said in an interview with  The Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. 

CARE's project includes the distribution of hundreds of #Ebola posters in Sierra Leone as part of  its effort to work  health officials in West Africa to help educate the public about the disease. (See a sample of the poster below). "Experts agree—to #EndEbola everywhere requires stopping it in West Africa. CARE is expanding lifesaving hygiene programs in Sierra Leone and Liberia that are helping stop the transmission of this deadly virus. Prevention is the best cure," said the humanitarian organization.

"As relief and recovery efforts evolve, these organizations tailor their work to meet the changing needs of people and communities," said USAID. "Monetary donations enable responding organizations to react with speed and specificity in critical sectors now and as communities recover. Even a small donation can have great impact. Monetary donations save lives and money." To support any of the organizations working in West Africa, please visit USAID site for links to each of the 65 NGOs. .

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Today is #GivingTuesday

Church World Service campaign
The past few days (Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday) have centered on encouraging holiday purchases. 

Now we have Giving Tuesday before us.  Today, we are encouraged to give financial donations to non-profits that are making a difference in the lives of others. Catholic Relief Services, Oxfam America, Church World Service, and many other organizations feature on their home page the hashtag #GivingTuesday--an opportunity for folks to make a special donation on this day or to commit to buying products or donate a service that will help someone in a poor community across the globe.

The White House has also involved in promoting this day.“Some might choose to volunteer their talent, others might make charitable contributions and still others simply to connect with friends and loved ones. Through millions of online clicks and offline acts, we expect #GivingTuesday will take many forms, but all will be energized by a common impulse to make life better, especially for those in need,”said Jonathan Greenblatt, a Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and the Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation.

Some communities around the U.S. and globally have even banded together to offer special #GivingTuesday events, in conjunction with the UN Development Programme

Food Donations are important
Roadrunner Food Bank photo
There is another type of giving that his ongoing today and during the rest of this holiday season, including the box at your local retailer to collect toys for underprivileged children. Then there are efforts to provide food for families in need. Many grocery stores give you the opportunity to acquire a meal for a family. And then there's the barrel at your local grocer, intended for patrons to drop non-perishable foods for the local food bank.

Which brings me to a recent post that was circulating on Facebook in recent weeks. The post was entitled 10 Things that Food Banks Need but Won't Ask For. The suggested list includes spices, feminine products, chocolate, toiletries, canned meats and jerky, crackers and tortillas, baby toiletries, soup packets, socks,canned fruit other than pineapple. The list appears to reflect the types of items needed by the agencies that obtain food from the food banks.

I asked my contacts at two of the largest food banks in New Mexico whether the list is accurate. Here is what they said.

"The non-food items are  hard for us to distribute as we really only deal in food," said said Alissa Barnes, Director of Community Initiatives at Roadrunner Food Bank in Albuquerque. To help donors determine what to give, Roadrunner Food Bank has drafted a list of items that are most needed.

The Food Depot in Santa Fe, which is a smaller operation than Roadrunner, could use almost all the items on the list. "We would happily take anything on that list except socks," said Sherry Hooper, executive director of  the Food Depot.  

"We just purchased some toiletries and have a Diaper Depot, which collects diapers for babies and adults," added Ms. Hooper.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Sister Simone Campbell: Advent--God is Already Here

"We have started our journey with a guide in our very being. God hums us at every moment. We just need eyes to see and ears to hear. We can’t shy away from decisions we face or the work to be done and simply wait for God to come. God is already here. Through our wanderings, our questions, our encounters with beauty and with pain, the God within us is revealed. Advent is waking up to God in our midst. It is in the wandering that our eyes are open to the deeper truth. So let us not sleep through Advent. -Sister Simone Campbell, S.S.S. 

An excerpt from "Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent"
Read the full reflection in Pax Christi USA

Sunday, November 30, 2014

First Sunday of Advent: The Benedictines of Mary

On the first Sunday of Advent 2014, I share this simple video from the Benedictines of Mary, a promo for their album "Advent at Ephesus" (released in 2012). 

The full list of songs is not available on their site, but there are samples of three tracks. Amazon  does has the full list of songs in this album, including sample tracks (but please buy the CD from the sisters). You can purchase "Advent at Ephesus" and other titles here.



Saturday, November 29, 2014

Abby Foreman: Seek Justice, Encourage the Oppressed

Abby Jansen Foreman, one of Bread for the World's organizers during the early years of The ONE Campaign, is now Associate Professor of Social Work at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. She wrote this inspiring piece for In All Things, an online hub committed to the claim that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has implications for the entire world.  Here are a few excerpts and the link to read the full piece online.

When I was growing up, the day after Thanksgiving was not spent scouting for sales but rather was a day when my cousins and I helped my grandma sort the food that had been collected during the Thanksgiving food drive...Many of us can easily be convicted to be compassionate in these ways; to give food, money, clothing and even our time. We know that we are doing what God calls us to. But is this all that God is calling us to in our response to the poor and vulnerable?

In the Old Testament God gives various commands about how to live in community with one another. These are not commands to be acted upon haphazardly when we are convicted or feel passion, but rather it outlines the plans for a just and merciful community where all may flourish. In the Israelite community, it was understood that care and protections be given towards those on the margins of their society. These Old Testament commands include insights into equality of opportunity (the year of Jubilee) and opportunities for the poor to provide for themselves (gleaning). Both justice and mercy (or charity in this case) are biblical concepts. As the prophet Micah proclaims: “He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humble with your God.” (Micah 6:8). Part of our walk with the Lord is our dedication to “stop doing wrong and learn to do what is right,” which Isaiah says is to “Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).

Read the full piece