Committee prepares for General Assembly
By Rebecca Barnes | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – The Presbyterian Hunger Program’s (PHP) Advisory Committee gathered this spring at Stony Point Center in New York to see some of the anti-hunger work taking place there. They toured the gardens and greenhouses and heard about plans for the center to start working additional farm land nearby.
Elected to serve by the General Assembly, PHP Advisory Committee (AC) members gather annually to assess and award grants, learn about partner work and advise PHP and the church on hunger-related issues.
The Rev. Jeff Kackley has served on the committee for the past four years as moderator.
“It’s great to see firsthand how the PC(USA) and our PHP grant partners come together in diverse, intentional communities to do God’s work of loving and caring for one another, our neighbors and a world in need,” he said.
The AC and four PHP staff members also visited Soul Fire Farm to learn about the intersections of racism, hunger, poverty and farming, and they heard from youth at Rural Migrant Ministries’ Youth Arts Group.
“We had the opportunity to do site visits with two partners that we fund. It was an informative and fun hands-on morning with Soul Fire Farm,” said committee member the Rev. Betty Tom. “I, along with the other PHP staff and advisory team members, helped prepare the soil for crops to be planted and harvested.”
Tom says she was moved by the visit with the youth arts group.
“What an amazing group of youth! I was impressed by their commitment to championing social justice issues, such as Raise the Age, The Dreamers Act and LGBTQ rights using the powerful medium of art,” she said. “The youth are strong, well informed, socially conscious and bold! This was one of the most rewarding site visits ever for me!”
One of the AC’s new roles is to share their perspective with the broader church on things that lead to, or worsen, hunger. Grant partners and Presbyterians alike have pointed to wage inequality, racism and climate change as issues that interlock with hunger. Helping people to understand why people are hungry, the AC seeks to lift up partner voices and to share them with the church.
The Rev. Abby Mohaupt felt that the visits were good examples of how systems of oppression are interconnected.
“This is why it’s important to understand the complexity of hunger concerns. Poverty, race and climate change all affect hunger, and that’s why the AC has sought to use our finances to dismantle systems that keep people hungry,” she said. “We must help Presbyterians to act, advocating themselves to address root causes with the money, influence and voice we have as Presbyterians.”
Believing that hunger can also be addressed by changes in policy, the committee spent the long car rides between sites discussing overtures coming to the General Assembly. Committee member Alex Peterson said that the primary overtures that intersect with the AC’s work have to do with climate and environmental concerns.
“These overtures all speak faithfully and cogently to the urgent need to address environmental degradation and injustice, and the actions the PC(USA) is called to take on now as a body of faith,” said Peterson. “The prophetic work of environmental justice and care for our Earth greatly and directly impacts the work of the Presbyterian Hunger Program worldwide. The PHP AC stands with those calling for swift and actionable measures.”
The AC supports the appeal to pastors and leaders to awaken the consciousness of congregations and encourages all members of the Church to find ways to lift up their voices on this issue.
Other overtures that intersect with hunger and poverty concerns include “A Gospel from St. Louis” and one about sustainable development in Madagascar.
“In an age of increasing connectivity and shrinking material denominational resources, we also want to lift up the great work done by congregations, presbyteries, synods and staff in Louisville,” said Kackley. “Those resources include the Earth Care Congregation and Hunger Action Congregation certification programs, as well as the daily-action Lent calendar on treading on the earth lightly, and Earth Day Sunday and Food Week of Action resources.”
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Lucy Janjigian said: “I was a member of the AC for eight wonderful years. The PHP staff is dedicated, knowledgeable, just and caring. It was fun, educational and a pleasure to work with them. During those years I learned about hunger, poverty and related issues from reading domestic and international grant requests. PHP tries to identify the root causes of poverty and hunger and help seek ways for those involved to become self-sufficient. PHP is concerned about climate change, the environment, issues facing daily lives of people worldwide — food production, water, etc. It was my honor and pleasure to be part of this work.”
The Presbyterian Hunger Program is made possible by gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.
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