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This story appears in the April 2016 issue of Bread's newsletter
Bread for the World’s annual Offering of Letters campaign engages congregations and other faith communities in writing letters to Congress. There are as many ways to hold an Offering of Letters as there are groups that undertake the activity.
Jon Gromek, a Bread regional organizer, is a lifelong member of the Greek Orthodox Church but calls himself an “honorary Catholic.” After all, his wife is a member of the Catholic Church. Gromek worked with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati to spearhead an advocacy campaign with the Offering of Letters as its vehicle.
The archdiocese invited all of its parishes, schools, and institutions to pen letters urging Congress to renew funding for U.S. child nutrition programs. Letters were then collected at the archdiocese to be blessed.
In September, more than 12,000 letters arrived on Capitol Hill. “We had delegations visiting every member of Congress, personally delivering the letters,” Gromek said. The archdiocese saw this collective effort as an especially powerful way to mark Pope Francis’s address to the U.S. Congress.
Rev. Dave Buerstetta serves as Koinonia pastor for Woodridge United Methodist Church in Woodridge, Ill. He has integrated the Offering of Letters into the life of Woodridge. He uses the power of social media to raise awareness. Buerstetta also writes a personal blog.
Robin Stephenson, Bread’s social media manager, said, “I use Pastor Dave as an example in my Social Media for Pastors training. He uses social media so effectively as part of his ministry.”
Buerstetta praises Bread for the support provided to churches that are planning Offerings of Letters. “Bread develops terrific, detailed information on the issues and how we can help,” he said.
The letters from Cincinnati and from Woodbridge Church were among the more than 200,000 letters sent to Congress in 2015. In January of this year, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed the Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016. This bill would reauthorize child nutrition programs and expand summer and after-school meal programs. The full Senate must now act, but the bipartisan cooperation is a positive sign.
In Southern California, David Gist, another of Bread’s regional organizers, has helped forge an exciting pilot program with four pastors who lead Spanish-speaking evangelical churches. The program’s goal is to launch advocacy ministries in all four churches — including a monthly Offering of Letters.
“These congregations come from conservative backgrounds,” Gist explained. “These four pastors are taking on a new and prophetic voice to honor God and help end hunger.”
Participating churches are Centro de Restauración Familiar (Garden Grove), Primera Asamblea del Condado de Orange (Costa Mesa), Primera Asamblea del Condado de Orange (Santa Ana), and Latino-americana Christian Reformed Church (Anaheim).
Rev. Fernando Tamara of Primera Asamblea, Santa Ana, explained, “The reason we started this strategy was the need for leadership in topics such as hunger, injustice, poverty, humanitarian need, and immigration.” During February, Tamara visited two of the partner churches, taking the pulpit to introduce Bread to the congregants.
Tamara, who is also a professor for the Latin American Theological Seminary, is passionate about Spanish-speaking churches joining the chorus of voices: “Our desire is to ‘awake’ these churches and show them that they have a voice and vote. They need to know that they can change laws and regulate the legislative system.”
Tamara reported that the churches are inviting pastors and ministers to a forum on hunger and poverty, to which they will invite candidates for the California State Senate. The churches will also send 10 people to participate in Bread’s annual Lobby Day on June 7.
These pastors are taking on a new, prophetic voice to honor God and end hunger.
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