Westminster Presbyterian recognized as a Hunger Action Congregation
by Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Westminster Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe, New Mexico is a little church with a big heart. It recently applied for and was recognized as a Hunger Action Congregation by the Presbyterian Hunger Program. One of its hunger advocacy programs, titled “Imagine No Hunger,” approaches the hunger issue in a unique way — by fasting. Church members pledge to fast one meal each week and contribute five dollars to its fund. Since 2009, Westminster has donated more than $56,000 to local, national and international food-related projects as a result of Imagine No Hunger.
In July 2009, the Rev. Chester Topple preached a sermon to the Westminster congregation about hunger based on a 2008 General Assembly challenge. As an act of “worship and humility” he challenged his congregation to skip one meal a week and give the money that would have been spent on that meal to an organization helping to relieve hunger. For a congregation of approximately 80, five dollars a week for two years until the next General Assembly totaled more than $40,000.
Topple’s sermon was the genesis for Imagine No Hunger. For the past eight years, on each fourth Sunday, Westminster has held Agape Fasts following worship where participants share a simple meal of soup and bread and donate to the fund. A speaker interprets one of the projects supported by the program, or speaks about a timely issue related to the overall hunger problem. Half the program’s proceeds support feeding or root cause development work within the Santa Fe area and contiguous U.S., and the other 50 percent supports hunger-related projects outside the U.S. In Santa Fe, the organization Feeding Santa Fe and the Headwaters Food Security project located in the remote mountain village of Mora, New Mexico are two examples of food development programs that Imagine No Hunger supports. The Cuba Feeding Program and the PC(USA) Hunger Program also receive yearly donations.
“Westminster’s hunger ministry and faithful actions help relieve hunger locally and, by sending funds to the Presbyterian Hunger Program, address the root causes underlying hunger through the impact our grantee partners are making around the United States and internationally to transform unjust systems and build positive alternatives,” said Rebecca Barnes, coordinator of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.
Barbara Medina, a Westminster member, credits the John Lennon song “Imagine” for the project’s name and acknowledged the Westminster congregation for eight years of dedication and commitment to the cause.
“It only happened because of our congregation’s impressive generosity,” said Medina, acknowledging the small congregation’s large contribution. “We also fill quart-size Ziploc bags with food and personal care items which our members keep in their cars to give to homeless persons they encounter while driving.”
The Presbyterian Hunger Program announced the Hunger Action Congregation covenant earlier this year to acknowledge and invigorate churches for the work they do to end hunger. The covenant calls on congregations to work in at least one of six areas:
- Hunger alleviation
- Development assistance
- Hunger education
- Lifestyle integrity
- Corporate and Public Policy Witness
Congregations or individuals interested in joining others across the U.S. to highlight the hunger issue can participate in National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week. Held each year the week before Thanksgiving (November 11 – 19, 2017), this event is an opportunity to change the conversation about stereotypes and policy regarding the homeless and hungry population. Visit www.hhweek.org for more information about events near you or to download an organizing manual. The Presbyterian Hunger Program also offers worship resources for Hunger and Homelessness Sunday, November 19, including a bulletin insert, children’s sermon and prayer, and more here.
The Presbyterian Hunger Program is made possible by gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.
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