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Albuquerque Hosts Circle of Protection Vigil

Praying for poor and hungry people

December 2011

About 45 people gathered on the smooth steps of Albuquerque’s Immanuel Presbyterian Church in October to offer prayer and advocacy for hungry and poor people—particularly in light of the cuts Congress is considering to programs for vulnerable people in the United States and abroad.
Presbyterian minister Kay Huggins began the vigil, as participants took turns lighting each other’s candles around the circle. “We are gathered in this space as people of faith to contemplate hunger and poverty and our response as people of faith,” she said. Accompanied by flute and guitar, participants sang, read scripture, and prayed before liturgical dancer Diane Martinez-Hursh led the group into the chapel for the remainder of the service.

Carlos Navarro, a Bread board member and volunteer coordinator for New Mexico, started planning the event—called “Joining Hands in Circle of Protection”—in August. With Huggins and others, including 2010 Hunger Justice Leader Debbie Ruiz, the group planned a service that joined pastors and anti-hunger advocates from a variety of organizations and denominations—including Episcopal, Presbyterian, Catholic, and Lutheran. Ruiz’s Hunger Justice Leader classmate Alicia Sedillo had a role in the service, as did representatives from Catholic Charities, Sojourners, and other members of the Circle of Protection coalition.

“This service came together very easily,” said Navarro. “The circle of protection is something a lot of people are concerned about. The challenge is taking how it touches us and doing something with it. That’s where advocacy comes in.”

After the vigil, participants stayed for a supper of rice, beans, and tortillas—and advocacy. They signed letters Navarro wrote for five candidates who are running for the open seat in the first congressional district. “We ask that if you’re elected to Congress,” the letters read, “you consider joining us in forming a circle of protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry people at home and abroad.”

About 25 people signed each letter by the end of supper. Navarro and others will take the letters to other meetings to get additional signatures. After they get about 100, they’ll visit the candidates personally to deliver the letters.

“We have to work at systemic change,” said Mike Shawver, director of social outreach for Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in downtown Albuquerque. “I don’t think people really realize the scope of the problem—you can cut a budget and it really hurts.”

His church hosts a weekly meal program for homeless people. “Every Sunday we open up the church to anyone who wants and provide a hot, home-cooked meal, and try to refer people to other services,” he said. “We have limited resources, but we do what we can.”

“It’s important for us to let people know what’s happening—especially here in New Mexico,” Shawver continued. “Our [representatives] are pretty accessible, so we can really have an influence.

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