Thursday, February 15, 2018

Seven Ways Faith Communities can support the New Poor People's campaign

Arkansas is participating, together with groups in 30 states across the country, in a continuation of the campaign first called for by Martin Luther King Jr. before he was assassinated. A Poor People’s Campaign, A National Call for Moral Revival uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality.

You can be part of this campaign, and there are many ways to connect.

1. Like and follow the main social media page for updates on the Arkansas campaign:

2. Learn more about the campaign, and make a personal pledge to join at: The goal is at least 1000 pledges by the beginning of the campaign. If you sign up via the national pledge tool, you will also be connected to the Arkansas campaign, and receive updates on how you can participate at the state level.

3. Use resources in your faith community to amplify the demands of the campaign:
a) end systemic racism
b) end manufactured poverty
c) end the war economy
d) end ecological devastation
e) end false moral narratives

4. Publish an article on your blog or in your church newsletter. Pray for the campaign. Lead a forum on the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival in your congregation, neighborhood group, club, or political party.  Bring knowledge of the campaign to your board, council, state leadership team, or consistory.

5. Commit as a faith leader to be conspicuously present at AR Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival actions as often and consistently as possible. The campaign is particularly calling on clergy and faith leaders to show up wearing the sign of their office.

6. Bring word of the campaign to your faith leader groups, and invite your colleagues and faith family to become part of the campaign. We believe that if individual faith leaders bring an ask to their local ministerial associations and other faith groups, more clergy and faith leaders will actively support the movement.

7. Gain the support of your denominational leaders and other organizations that can support the campaign. We especially seek public letters of support from bishops and denominational leaders.

8. Join the Faith Outreach Subcommittee here in Arkansas, to lend your time and energy to the movement. Drop me a line in the comments and I'll help connect you.
There can be no gainsaying of the fact that a great revolution is taking place in the world today. In a sense it is a triple revolution; that is a technological revolution, with the impact of automation and cybernation; then there is a revolution of weaponry, with the emergence of atomic and nuclear weapon of warfare. Then there is a human rights revolution, with the freedom explosion that is taking place all over the world. Yes, we do live in a period where changes are taking place and there is still the voice crying the vista of time saying, “Behold, I make all things new, former things are passed away”… Now whenever anything new comes into history it brings with it new challenges … and new opportunities … We are coming to Washington in a poor people’s campaign. Yes, we are going to bring the tired, the poor, the huddled masses … We are coming to demand that the government address itself to the problem of poverty. We read one day: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But if a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists … We are coming to ask America to be true to the huge promissory note that is signed years ago. And we are coming to engage in dramatic non-violent action, to call attention to the gulf between promise and fulfillment; to make the invisible visible (Martin Luther King Jr., his last Sunday sermon).

Monday, February 12, 2018

Preparing for Lent

Lent is soon upon us. This powerful, spiritual season is an opportunity to commit (or re-commit) to core Christian practices.

Lent is first of all the forty day journey beginning with Ash Wednesday (February 14th) and concluding with Holy Week and Easter (April 1st). During the forty days, we journey with Jesus through the final weeks of his public ministry, setting our faces with him towards Jerusalem and the cross.

Traditionally, Christians commit to three practices during the season: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Often, this includes using a daily devotional resource for prayer; fasting from certain foods or activities; and almsgiving, that is, giving to the poor.

This Lent at GSLC, we offer the following ways to engage the season. First, we host Wednesday evening services. Ash Wednesday is a special service focused on repentance and meditation on our mortality. The remaining Wednesdays of Lent, we host soup suppers followed by Evening Prayer. This year, we have a special theme (visit Integrating the Inward and Outward Journey) which will be the topic of the Evening Prayer services. There will also be an opportunity for a book discussion after evening prayer services each Wednesday.

Sundays during Lent, we focus on gospel texts appropriate the season, deepening our understanding of faith and Christ’s journey to the cross and resurrection. On Sunday evenings during Lent, we host weekly meals and bible study for newcomers to GSLC preparing for baptism or affirmation of baptism at the Easter Vigil. In between a potluck meal and bible study, we reflect on one portion of the catechism each week.

I especially invite all of us to find ways to fast and give during this season. One way we will model this at GSLC is to fast from coffee and treats on Sunday mornings. At the regular coffee station, in place of coffee and treats, we will have baskets featuring two hunger ministries: ELCA World Hunger, Springdale’s Samaritan Community Center, and the University of Arkansas Food Pantry. Each week, when you would have gotten coffee or eaten a cookie, instead give alms. This practice combines fasting with almsgiving, and it’s something you might also try in your own homes, perhaps donating to a hunger ministry what you otherwise would have spent on meat or dining out.
Finally, the season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and leads to Holy Week. If you are unfamiliar with these special services, I very much encourage you to check them out this year. At Ash Wednesday, we receive a sign of the cross on our foreheads, reminding us of our mortality and one-ness with the dust of the earth. On Holy Week, we host evening services on Thursday in memory of Christ’s last supper, Friday around the cross on which he died, and Saturday with the new fire welcoming new members and celebrating the resurrection light. Then Sunday morning of Easter, we pull out all the stops with celebratory worship and a morning breakfast, a breaking of the fast.

For additional devotional resources and ideas during the Lenten season, I especially encourage praying the daily offices. Take Lent for what it is, an opportunity for introspection and renewal, joining Christ in his faithful journey.

Twentieth-century Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor said, “I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. What -people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”

Faith is the cross. Lent is the season that centers us in this gospel truth.