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While it is true that central to Christian theology is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it would be erroneous to reduce the whole of Christian theology to a set of beliefs. If one surveys the gospels, then a person will find Jesus both expounding upon theology and liberating people. For those who were sick, he cured them of their sickness. For those who were blind, he gave them sight. For those who were saddened, he comforted them. Jesus gave concrete solutions to the problems that people faced in the 1st century and did not merely offer them a set of beliefs.
My first job was as a machine shop shipping clerk. I was probably a little young, but during the summer I was able to earn a few bucks and develop a taste for new and shiny bicycle parts. However, it wasn’t the money or what the money bought me that has lasted. When I think about that time, my friends and the people I worked with were a highlight.
In one month, our country will mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks on our nation on 9/11. Many denominations, faith groups and religious organizations have prepared materials for use in community gatherings and worship services in congregations – click here for links to those resources. You will also find pastoral care materials and age appropriate resources for children.
The Raleigh News & Observer recently featured a front-page story about how students are organizing in support of the Dream Act. Here at the Council, we’re excited to see this generation of young people come out of the shadows and stand against unjust immigration policies that separate families and undermine access to education. At the same time, we know these students are taking huge risks in revealing their status.
NC Council of Churches Executive Director George Reed has received the 2011 Luke Mowbray Ecumenical Award presented by the American Baptist Churches USA. The honor is given to an individual for his or her outstanding contribution to the cause of advancing ecumenism either through sustained performance or special achievement.
Governor Deal believes ex-convicts on Georgia farms can fill 11,000 jobs opened by the state’s new harsh immigration law. The law authorizes all law enforcement to detain immigrants and that has scared away the undocumented workers who attended the fields beforehand. With unemployment hitting a critical high among citizens on probation, it seems the Governor sees the solution as a simple switch. But how many ex-convicts have gone out to the farms looking for work? If the potential workers who are on probation are not presently looking for those jobs, will this group migrate to the farms, because the Governor says so?
Growing up in church, it would be fair for me to say that most sermons I heard were either concerned with A) theology or B) decrying certain practices in our contemporary Western culture. Neither of these is wrong or unimportant, as theology is the bedrock of faith, and there is much to decry in the world. The one thing I rarely heard preached on, however, was issues of social justice. And when preached on, it was through standard channels—witnessing/evangelism, donating food and clothing to our church’s pantry, and giving offerings. These are all well and good, but can we do more than these traditional categories?
The Wild Goose has flown, at least for the 2011 season.
The overwhelming consensus among attendees of the inaugural Wild Goose Festival is that it was quite a successful experiment. People traveled from as far away as Scotland and New Zealand to be part of the event, and presenters ranging from Vincent Harding to Jim Wallis, musicians from Michelle Shocked to Beth Nielsen Chapman—each contributed their own sparks to the thousands of spontaneous and rich conversations that arose between the roughly 1500 people who gathered in Silk Hope, North Carolina this weekend.
If your congregation is looking for a fun, creative way to combat childhood obesity, then the NFL – that’s right, the National Football League – has just the answer for you! The NFL is partnering with schools and community organizations, including churches, across the country to host a FREE skills competition for boys and girls ages 6 to 15 called, “Punt, Pass and Kick” (PPK).
The 2011 session of the General Assembly adjourned around midday on Saturday, June 18. Legislative leaders and the media are trumpeting the efficiency of the session and the fact that this is the earliest adjournment since 1973. But that is misleading since they aren’t really finished with their work. The adjournment resolution calls them back into a special session on July 13. At that time, they will take up the thorny issue of redistricting as well as controversial bills from the just-ended session which remain in conference committees and any bills vetoed by the Governor.
Last weekend I had the honor of participating in the annual conference held by the SouthEast Immigrant Rights Network (SEIRN) in Nashville, TN. SEIRN invited me to co-lead a workshop about connecting faith communities with immigration issues, which is a large part of my daily work with the NC Council of Churches. As I said during my session, one of the biggest obstacles to churches becoming more engaged is that conversations about immigration are often understood as conversations that don’t belong in church.
As a society, we decided 75 years ago that child labor needed very strict guidelines to make sure that education comes first and to prevent abusive conditions. The only problem? Children in agriculture were exempted from these protections, in part because most farms were small family operations that needed everyone’s help. Today, mass-scale agribusiness has replaced family farms. But the exemption allowing child labor on farms has remained, meaning that there’s a good chance that pint of blueberries you’re enjoying was hand-picked by 12- and 13-year olds – legally. These same children are too young to work in any other industry.
The questions surrounding immigration policy have sparked an intense debate across the United States, including in North Carolina, where I live and work. Society remains divided on specific policies, but we also remain divided about some of the even bigger questions. For example, what does it mean to be “American”? Are immigrants generally intruders to be feared or new neighbors to be welcomed? And what values should our immigration policies reflect? This debate, in part, is about who “they” are and who “we” are.
Our friends at the Living Healthy Chronic Disease Self Management Program (CDSMP) would like to invite members of your congregation to take advantage of their FREE online workshop – Better Choices, Better Health™ – which is designed to help individuals self-manage their chronic conditions (e.g., diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, chronic pain, anxiety, etc.). Specifically, the workshop can help you and the people you care about
Building community is the most effective (though perhaps least dramatic) way to resist divisive rhetoric that demonizes the ‘other.’ It is much easier to caricature people we don’t know. It is hard not to challenge stereotypes when one’s own personal experience and relationships contradict them.
Friends of the NC Council of Churches in Western North Carolina will be fasting on Good Friday in solidarity with the poor, and in recognition that budgets are moral documents. They call upon Congressman Shuler to work with his colleagues find a way to balance the federal budget that does not place the burden for doing so on the shoulders of those vulnerable Americans who are least able to bear that burden.
With a $3 billion state budget deficit and high unemployment, you would think that lawmakers would have better things to do than invent meaningless new amendments to the state Constitution. Freshman Representative Kelly Hastings (R-Gaston) has introduced legislation for a constitutional amendment to make English the official language of North Carolina.
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation – in partnership with the North Carolina Council of Churches, Center for Environmental Farming Systems, North Carolina PTA, and North Carolina Recreation and Park Association – is looking for “Community Sparkplugs” to help build a healthier North Carolina. So, what exactly is a Community Sparkplug?
A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to preview a new bilingual book called Listen to the Children: Conversations with Immigrant Families by Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier. It’s a valuable resource for any faith community that works with immigrants. With a practical focus and many examples from daily life, Listen to the Children offers guidance in the midst of troubled times. Here’s an interview I conducted with the author.
On Friday and Saturday last week, about 180 people gathered at the 2011 Come to the Table conference in Winston-Salem. Bringing together pastors, lay leaders, experts in the fields of hunger and sustainable agriculture, entrepreneurs, farmworker advocates, and many others. Conference workshops were held on Friday, with site visits and practical tours on Saturday.
Tomorrow, the NC Council of Churches’ Rural Life Committee will convene our third biennial Come to the Table Conference. With meetings across the state over the next three weeks, the conference offers resources for faith communities working to relieve hunger and support local farms.
We are disturbed by increasing reports of NC landowners who are signing over some of their property rights to energy companies looking for new sources of natural gas. In addition to the environmental damage caused by accessing this natural gas, we are concerned that in many cases landowners are not fully aware of their rights and how these contracts will impact the use of their land in the future.
The following information comes from our friends at Rural Advancement Foundation International. Visit this page for more complete information.
On Wednesday, February 2, Cardinal Roger Mahoney visited UNC-Chapel Hill to highlight the Catholic Church’s position on immigration issues. Cardinal Mahoney, who represents the archdiocese of Los Angeles, delivered a message entitled “For Goodness Sake: Why America Needs Immigration Reform.” In an auditorium filled with about 200 students, professors and fellow Catholics, Cardinal Mahoney urged the audience to consider the contradictory messages contained in our broken immigration system. It is as though the U.S. has two giant billboards at our southern border with Mexico. One sign says “No Trespassing,” while the other says “Help Wanted.”
Partners in Health and Wholeness is offering a yearly certification process to congregations across the state. As of January 1, 2011, congregations can now achieve all three levels of certification – Bronze, Silver and Gold – and receive recognition from the Council and their respective judicatories upon completion of the program.
The celebration of the Council’s 75th anniversary in 2010 was a timely reminder of the rich history behind this organization and an affirmation of the bright future ahead of it. Program associate Chris Liu-Beers has collected some of both in this slideshow that explains beautifully how the NC Council of Churches got its start as well as where it’s going.
Torture conference logoOn March 25 and 26, 2011, the Duke University Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina will be hosting a conference on torture. This two-day event aims to equip participants to understand the arguments against torture and to prepare them for anti-torture advocacy within their own communities, trusting that the greatest protection against the U.S. government’s use of torture is a shared understanding that torture is always wrong.
Today I’m happy to announce the launch of a new project by the Council’s Farmworker Ministry Committee. The Building Hope Project connects volunteer groups with farmworker families to build small chicken coops and greenhouses. These low-cost structures help families save money and supplement their nutrition. A recent study in North Carolina found that nearly half of farmworker families don’t have enough food year-round. The good news is that with a modest commitment of volunteer time and money, your congregation can make all the difference. Jesus said to his followers, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.”
The Historic Thousands on Jones St. (HK on J) rally and march will take place on February 12 in Raleigh. A coalition of nearly a hundred social justice and community development organizations, including the North Carolina Council of Churches, have banded together to promote this event for the last several years.
I hope you had a chance to see NC People this past weekend. I was honored to be invited to be one of Bill Friday’s “people.” It actually started as part of the Council’s 75th anniversary last year, though it didn’t make it to the airwaves (an outdated term, if ever there were one) until now. Bill Friday celebrated his 90th birthday last summer. Even if you are new to the state, the hoopla surrounding his birthday would have made you aware that he is one of the state’s giants. I don’t know that there’s anybody alive today who is more respected or beloved or who has had more impact on the state for a longer period of time.
NC Council of Churches Executive Director George Reed appeared as Bill Friday’s guest on UNC-TV’s NC People on Friday, January 7. The program also aired Sunday, January 9. George spoke with Mr. Friday about the Council’s past as well as its future, discussing the Council’s work for social justice and the role faith communities and people of faith can play.
Stan Kimer, newly elected Council president, was interviewed on WUNC’s The State of Things on January 6. In his conversation with host Frank Stasio, Stan spoke about the Council and its work, including priorities for the upcoming legislative session. Listen to the interview by clicking here.
The MIC @ 50 conference will take place on January 14-16, 2011, on the campus of Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. There is no charge to attend. The purpose of the event is to bring the MIC back into the spotlight as a key factor shaping our society and public life.
Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina – the same group that brought to us the Maintain, Don’t Gain Holiday Challenge – has developed health-related bulletin inserts for the faith community. These inserts provide short, easy-to-read messages on a variety of health topics such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease and stroke.
This Prayer for Unity and monthly prayer calendar include by name the judicatories and congregations that are members of the North Carolina Council of Churches and the names of their current leaders. Your pryers for reconciliation are invited for all Christian bodies in and beyond the state.
NC Policy WatchIn recent days, the Internet has been abuzz with revelations brought to us by “Wikileaks” of comments that were never intended to be public. Meanwhile, George W. Bush is touring to promote his new book, enthusiastically admitting that he violated international and US law. As the US government calls for accountability for Mr. Assange of Wikileaks, it must consider the applicability of its own words to other situations.
The protesters from Kansas have come many miles to spread their hatred at Elizabeth Edwards’ memorial service. Let us be clear: the Bible calls us to kindness and respect for one another, and Jesus Christ preached throughout his life that we should love one another. The protesters’ appalling and repeated violation of the sacred services by which we honor our dead, along with their representation of themselves as messengers of Christ, are offensive and misrepresent Christian faith.
Earlier this year, we were looking for a way to engage North Carolina in a constructive conversation about immigration when we heard about a new documentary film that was being completed by the Durham-based filmmaker Charlie Thompson. This new film, called Brother Towns / Pueblos Hermanos, examines the themes of migration, work and family across thousands of miles. When we talked to Charlie about using the film as part of a statewide series, he was excited about the potential to connect with new audiences in congregations from Asheville to Wilmington.
I strongly encourage people of faith who feel so led to contact your senators and urge them to support ratification of the New START treaty, which will reduce the US and Russian stockpiles by 30% and allow on-the-ground inspections, suspended last year as the START I treaty expired, to resume.
In light of data recently released in the Wikileaks documents regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a group of pastors, priests, theologians and seminarians has issued a call to preachers to address the acts of violence detailed in those documents, and their failure to live up even to the standards of Just War theory.
Congregations across the state are now taking part in the North Carolina Council of Churches’ Partners in Health and Wholeness (PHW) Certification Program, demonstrating that their bodies are God’s temple by eating healthier, being more physically active and reducing the impact of smoking on themselves and their neighbors.
At the most recent Brother Towns event, this past Monday, November 1st, the energy filled the Carolina Theatre. About 270 people from around the Durham area came to the screening. Each person was full of excitement and several large groups were in attendance. I have never seen so many people so happy to watch a documentary. Being my first viewing of the film, I was also very excited to see it.
The Council is delighted to welcome two Duke Divinity School interns who will be working on a variety of projects over the course of the school year. “It is always exciting for us to have Duke Div interns helping with the work of the Council,” said Executive Director George Reed. “Their energy and enthusiasm enhance all that we do.”
The Eastern Carolina District of the Virginia Mennonite Conference of the Mennonite Church USA is the newest member of the North Carolina Council of Churches. The addition of the group brings to 17 the number of denominations who have chosen to work with the Council on issues of social justice and Christian unity.
Dr. Katherine Shea, a physician with expertise in the link between climate change and human health, is the new director of North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light, a project of the North Carolina Council of Churches and a state affiliate of the national Interfaith Power & Light campaign.
I was struck, as I listened to remembrances from the past, that we really are seeing progress on issues of social justice. But it happens over a period of years or even decades. The issues we heard about at the Anniversary are difficult ones. They have produced years of frustration and sometimes what looked like complete failure. And yet . . .
Dr. Terrence Rynne is the founder of the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking. His new book “Gandhi and Jesus, the Saving Power of Nonviolence” examines the intersections between the life of Jesus and the teachings of Gandhi. He has three presentations coming up in North Carolina, in Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh.
News14 Carolina recently featured a peace vigil held in downtown Raleigh in conjunction with the nine-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. The NC Council of Churches co-sponsored the event, and David LaMotte spoke during the vigil. News coverage of the vigil focused on WWII veteran and longtime peace activist Cy King. In 2009, King accepted the Council’s Distinguished Service Award for his many years of gracious and committed activism for peace.
More than 60 people gathered at the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte last night to watch the local premiere of Brother Towns / Pueblos Hermanos – a film about family, faith and immigration. This event, which was featured in one of the Charlotte Observer’s blogs, was the first in a statewide series that the Council is sponsoring.
Last week, comedian Steven Colbert caused a stir by testifying before Congress in support of the AgJOBS bill. Colbert’s larger than life persona brought a record number of cameras to the “Protecting America’s Harvest” hearing held by the U.S. House Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security. While pundits and bloggers disagree about the appropriateness of Colbert’s appearance, very little is being said about the substance of the bill he went to Washington to support: AgJOBS.
Fifty years after “Harvest of Shame,” not much has changed. Farm work remains one of the nation’s most dangerous industries. Here in North Carolina, dangerous conditions in the fields, poverty wages and substandard housing continue to threaten workers’ health and well-being. For example, workers often put in 14-hour days in bad weather – including extreme heat and rain. In North Carolina, 7 farmworkers died of heat stroke in a recent five-year span. They were literally worked to death. And heat stroke isn’t the only problem in the fields.
There have been no shortage of condemnations of the pastor in Florida who threatened to burn Korans. Those condemnations are effectively demolition work. Sometimes dangerous structures need to be torn down, and I’m not necessarily criticizing that. Demolition is most useful, though, when it makes space to build something new and constructive. I heartily celebrate the building of relationships and the expressions of respect and support that have come in response to this.
We’re teaming up with local filmmaker Charlie Thompson to offer screenings of his latest documentary, Brother Towns / Pueblos Hermanos across the state. If you live in one of these cities, please help us promote this event by putting up movie posters around town. We also have bulletin inserts that can be used to encourage your congregation to attend. Thanks for your help!
This week I felt privileged to be one of over 1,500 participants in the NC Latino Coalition’s Statewide Delegates Assembly in Durham calling for comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform. Leaders from religious organizations, organized labor and businesses joined the grassroots audience in making the compelling case for immigration reform now.
The Seminar “Loving God’s Creation: Fully Integrating Creation Care with the Church’s Mission and Ministry” is set for Thursday, October 14, 2010, at the Congregational United Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC. The program for this event has been announced.
More and more North Carolinians are getting involved with community gardens. Through our Come to the Table program, the Council’s Rural Life Committee has been promoting this work for the past few years. We’ve been visiting gardens, leading workshops, sharing best practices, eating delicious local food and making friends across the state.
Over the past year, we’ve been hosting clergy breakfast events on immigration across the state. We’ve met with over 450 faith leaders to talk about how congregations and people of faith can get involved to make our state a better place for our immigrant brothers and sisters. Our work has even drawn the attention of major media outlets. One was highlighted by a local TV station, and more recently we had not just one but two reporters from the Raleigh News & Observer sit in with us at the July 1 breakfast at Fairmont UMC in Raleigh.
The North Carolina Council of Churches’ Partners in Health and Wholeness program held its 2010 Faith and Health Summit in March, drawing together nearly 250 participants to learn about integrating health practices and strategies within faith communities.
In light of concerns about public school resegregation in counties across the state, the North Carolina Council of Churches has begun work to counter this backward step toward increased racial and economic separation. Issues of resegregation have surfaced in the state’s largest school districts, Wake and Charlotte-Mecklenburg counties, as well Wayne and New Hanover counties and elsewhere.
These congregations have demonstrated that, as people of faith, they strive to live an abundant life of health and wholeness by naming a congregational health promoter, serving healthy food and beverage at church meals, and reducing the impact of smoking on themselves and their neighbors.
Do the prophets have anything to say about the opioid crisis? Does the gospel have anything to say about Closing the Medicaid gap Actually, yes, quite a lot. ncchurches.org/2019/… #ncpol #ClosetheGapNC @NCLeg #OpioidCrisis @nchealthaccess
How can people of faith and conscience act to hold local, state and federal officials responsible for their collusion with the rendition and torture of CIA detainees? ncchurches.org/2019/… #ncpol @NCTorture pic.twitter.com/h2pm…
NC Council of Churches Governing Board President Mindy Douglas closing Healing, Hope and Recovery in prayer. pic.twitter.com/xtQs…
Life Around the Table will be offering a three-day training retreat, April 26-28 on nourishing our bodies together. Participants will experience community learning through exploring what it means to be faithful feeders & eaters. Apply today! lifearoundthetable.o… pic.twitter.com/E8L3…
RT @ncchurches “We’re talking about uniting families and children able to grow up with their parents.” - Hyun Namkoong with @nchealthaccess discussing diverting those suffering from the #OpioidCrisis to treatment instead of prison systems. #ClosetheGapNC
RT @CreationCareWNC We're a proud sponsor of @DrKWilkinson's CCx: Luminary talk, coming up soon! Get your tickets before they're gone: bit.ly/CCxKW19 #CCx2019 #ClimateCityExpo #AVLevents #creationcare @MtnTrue @AHSSolarCougars @NCIPL #climatechange pic.twitter.com/eOR7…
RT @NC_Governor "I spent my summers cropping tobacco on our family farm. It taught me responsibility, it showed me hard work, and it gave me a lifetime of respect for those who do this for a living." - Gov. Cooper at Ag Awareness Day. #thankncfarmers pic.twitter.com/ZuhI…
RT @nccleanenergy We were so grateful to be able to celebrate our #cleanenergy champions in the #NCGA last night! We gave awards to Rep. @LarryNCHouse28, @SenatorSawyer, and Sen. @EricaForNC on site and @NCHouseSpeaker earlier in the day. What a great night! pic.twitter.com/MFse…
THIS!!!! 🌲❤️🌳 #Stand4Forests #IntlForestDay #LeadOnClimate @DogwoodAlliance @ClimateReality @dannadogwood @uscan @EnvironmentNC @SierraClub @EnvDefenseFund @foe_us @interfaithpower @NCConservation @NCDEQ @NC_Governor @ncchurches thehill.com/blogs/co…