We have nearly met our ambitious goal of raising $965,000, which will enable us to improve upon the spaces in which we worship, cultivate friendships, seek healing, and learn to follow Jesus in our daily lives. Thanks be to God, and thanks be to you for this abundance of support! Tremendous effort, prayer, time, and money are and will make possible a brighter future for this corner of the Jesus Movement. Being a “movement,” our joyful work is far from complete.
We live in a state where the top 1 percent of incomes is growing while everyone else’s is dropping. We live in a country where the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is shrinking. In Connecticut, about 130,000 children are food insecure; nationwide that number is 13 million. 42 million Americans live in households that were food insecure in 2015. These are troubling statistics, indeed, and the reality they represent is fostered by the pernicious influences of racism, greed, and spiritual famine.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to participate fully in the life of our community. That means that we vote not only with the goal of enhancing our own lives but with our eyes on those who need the assistance of the government to be fed, to be healthy, and to provide reasonable living conditions for their families. Participating in the life of our community means escaping our bubbles and meeting our neighbors. It means sticking up for those who need advocates, and it means seeing that when we pray “give us this day our daily bread,” we help to make that daily bread happen for everyone.
It has been suggested that charitable organizations like churches should take responsibility for feeding and caring for the poor from the federal government, never mind that even a church as robust as St. James’s would have to double its budget to do its part. Only one in 20 bags of food assistance comes from a charitable organization in this country; the rest comes from the federal government. We have a role to play in feeding and caring for the poor, and while that role includes the joyful ministries of sandwich making and food collection, our role also includes advocating for the poor and hungry in the public sphere.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has led the charge for the Episcopal Church to partner with the Alliance to End Hunger, Islamic Relief USA, the National African American Clergy Network, Jim Wallis of Sojourners, and many other groups in a call to prayer, fasting, and advocacy that they are calling “For Such a Time as This.” Bob and I are calling on all of you to do the same. Here is what is involved:
- Pray that our country can stay on track and do its part to end hunger by 2030. We will do this on Sundays, but we encourage you to consider the hungry every time you eat and to pray for them and this movement to end hunger.
- Develop a spiritual practice of self-deprivation, or fasting, to prepare for and strengthen advocacy efforts with Congress. On the 21st of every month, SNAP benefits run out for most families. Use that day every month during the 115th Congress through the end of 2018 to fast in a way that is appropriate for you. Drink only water between sunrise and sunset, eat simply, or give up coffee or alcohol—something that will be meaningful for you on your journey.
- Advocate by writing letters and emails, making phone calls, and visiting with our members of Congress. We will have a station set up at coffee hour where you may write letters to our representatives along with cards that tell you who our representatives are, how you can reach them, and what you can say.
- Log on to bread.org to inform yourselves and officially join the movement.
Our youth will help to lead us in this endeavor. In June 2018, our high schoolers will go to Washington, D.C. where they will learn how the Episcopal Church shapes national policy, they will sit down with our congressional representatives in private advocacy meetings, they will worship with The Church of the Epiphany and serve their mostly homeless congregation. Don’t worry, they will take plenty of time to see the sites and have fun, but this will be a youth trip unlike any before.
You will notice that we are paying particular attention to the issues of poverty and hunger in our Christian Formation offerings during the 2017-18 program year. Beth Bye will speak to local efforts to care for and empower the poor and hungry among us, Francis and Cheryl Sharp will teach us about how arts education in Hartford’s North End contributes to the cause, Molly Louden will lead a course on Celtic Spirituality in unison with a monthly service at St. John’s, and many other speakers will contribute to making St. James’s a community that empowers you for ministry in your daily lives.
As our music programs flourish and our buildings are enhanced, we hope that so will our souls be renewed and spirits ignited to be the church in the world: a Jesus Movement, visible and viable, doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God.
Your brothers in Christ,
Bob and Curtis