My most famous photo

Well, the photo in question isn’t really famous. And it’s about the only photo of me that’s published somewhere other than on my own sites, so that “most” modifier isn’t really necessary. Oh, and it’s a picture of me but not by me. Other than those minor quibbles, the title of this post is totally accurate. 😉

The picture in question?

OL didicating letters WUMC
photo credit: Patti Cash

That picture, or a version of it, appeared in a guest post I wrote for Bread for the World‘s Bread Blog. It appeared in the print version of that story in Bread’s Newsletter. I’ve used it for a post or two here and it serves as my representative on my About Me page.

Then last month I was interviewed about congregations conducting Offerings of Letters for an article to appear in Bread for the World’s April 2016 newsletter. As part of that interview, I was asked for a photo or two of our OL. I sent six or seven options, but in the end they chose this one. Again. I’m no photographer, but I guess it offers a decent amount of color, a vision of collection plates overflowing with letters, a peak at people praying, the context of the shot with “Dedication of Letters” visible on the screen, and it catches Tim looking at the camera.

Anyway, I love working with Bread for the World. They do a tremendous job combining Christian witness and advocacy through education, political engagement, and coalition-building. I’m proud of the way Woodridge UMC has embraced advocacy as worship. My congregation — and it’s Lead Pastors past and present — are amazing! I’m humbled and grateful to have Bread highlight our efforts. Here’s a taste of the article, Congregations Engage in Offering of Letters:

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…

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…

The letters from Cincinnati and from Woodbridge [sic] 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…

Read the whole thing here.

I admit it makes me a bit uncomfortable to be offered as an example of how to effectively use social media in ministry. Still, thank you, Bread! That’s very kind.

How about you? With what forms of advocacy are you engaging? How can we amplify one another?

 

 

 

 

Vote out hunger, how?

The Midterm Elections are now just a few days away (on Tuesday, November 4). Last week, I pledged to vote in a way that seeks to end hunger and encouraged you to do the same. Which you can still do, by the way.

But it occurred to me that it might not be exactly obvious how to go about voting for “candidates who make hunger a national priority.” Fortunately, Bread for the World has a tool to help with that, too. At least for incumbents in the U.S. Congress. (For challengers in the national elections and for state or local candidates, well, you’re pretty much on your own to research voting records…or better yet, to ask them directly.) Because, of course, incumbents cast votes and votes can be – and are – tracked.

Based on how the member of Congress voted for hunger and poverty related bills and amendments, Bread offers one scorecard for the Senate and one for the House of Representatives. Using those links you can read a description of the bills/amendments/resolutions, Bread’s position on them, and your Congress members’ score (i.e. the percent the member voted with Bread’s position). For instance, here in Illinois, Senator Mark Kirk scored 40% and Senator Dick Durbin 90%. Meanwhile, my Representative, Bill Foster, scored 100%. Which makes it very easy for me to vote for him!

However, if you want to see the particulars behind those scores – exactly how your member voted on each item – you have to download the complete voting record in pdf.

I find the scorecard compelling and excellent, though I realize that this is just one way to evaluate how committed a candidate is to voting out hunger and poverty. What other metrics will you use to determine which candidates can be counted on to make ending hunger a priority?

Bread pledge

Connections. It’s all about connections.

There was a lot to like about last weekend’s Confirmation retreat. No, not everything was peachy. You can’t throw 16 people who aren’t used to spending that much time together into a fairly small space for 26 hours and expect nothing but sunshine and roses 🙂

We played a lot, and we snacked a lot, and we laughed a lot.

I enjoyed watching teamwork, listening, and cooperation develop and grow as the group navigated the multiple challenges of Reynoldswood Camp’s teams course. There was a noticeable difference in how the group treated each other from the first challenge to the last.

Retreat swinging pic

I appreciated the way the group was willing to share in response to The Game of Things questions such as, “things you dream about” or “things that make you cry.”

Pride welled in me as the youth determined together one thing they wanted to change about our congregation and made a plan to affect that change.

Understanding dawned as the Confirmands saw, some for the first time, the thread that runs from Genesis 12, through Micah 6 and Isaiah 58, and into Matthew 25 and Luke 10. The thread that, for us, informs what it means to be followers of God in the Way of Jesus.

It was in the midst of that biblical exploration that my favorite moment from the weekend occurred. One of our young people had an epiphany. I mean, you could practically see the light bulb (eco-friendly CFL, of course) jump to life over this youth’s head! “Wait…it’s all connected! Everything we’ve talked about, everything we’ve watched, everything we’ve read…even some of the games…it’s all connected!”

Yup. It’s a tangled web we weave. 😉

It’s often difficult to see the big picture when you’re 12 or 13 years old. (Or 22 or 33 or 42 or 83 for that matter.) So when that kind of connection happens, when someone – regardless of age – sees, even for a moment, how the story of their life connects with the biblical story and the Methodist story and the story of the Woodridge United Methodist Church – when in that moment they see, however fleetingly, purpose…well, that makes my heart sing and my soul dance.

Find the thread. See the connections. Act with purpose.

Which brings me back to our Offering of Letters. I’m committed to make it more than a one time event. Speaking out with and for hungry people – helping them get food – simply is God’s way in the world.

So here’s a thread to follow:

  • Like it or not, our government plays a vital role in feeding hungry people locally, nationally, and globally. Our government determines how much money goes to programs that feed hungry people.
  • Elections determine our government.
  • We are less than two weeks away from the next election.

I can’t and won’t tell you who to vote for. But I can, and do, encourage you to make ending hunger a priority as you decide how to vote.

We can elect to end hunger.

With Bread for the World, I’ve pledged to do just that:

As a Christian, I want to live in a world where hunger is rare and temporary, not the shared experience of millions. I plan to let our nation’s decision makers know that this is a priority for my family, my community, and my church.

Will you join me? (You can even get a free car magnet, if you want one.)

Bread pledge

Find the thread. See the connections. Act with purpose.

Advocacy at work

Well, that happened fast. I guess sometimes it all comes together.

Lately I’ve used this space, as I often do, to write about the Christian duty to engage in justice advocacy to alleviate hunger, poverty and oppression.

Then Bread for the World picked up a little of what I wrote and asked if they could interview me for their blog. I’ll admit it is pretty fun to see my congregation lifted into a national spotlight! (Ok, and me too. Does that make me a bad guy??)

From the Bread Blog: “Rev. Dave Buerstetta of Woodridge United Methodist Church in Chicago, Ill., recently added his name to a letter asking his senator to protect food aid. We asked him why he thought it was important for the faith community to be part of the conversation on food aid with Congress. Here is what he said:

Loving God with our whole selves and loving our neighbors as ourselves requires seeking justice. Seeking justice requires trying to change the cultural systems that make, and keep, people poor or hungry or oppressed. So seeking justice – transforming systems to better emulate the Reign of God on earth, for which we pray every single week – requires advocacy.

We have some neighbors who are hungry. We have other neighbors who are members of Congress with the power to keep 2 million more neighbors from becoming hungry. Of course we should talk with members of Congress about this! We cannot let ourselves be scared off from the vital work of justice advocacy simply because doing so means engaging in the political process. That’s how systems are changed.

In other words, in addition to being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, we must also seek to be the voice of Jesus in the world, speaking with and for the poor, the hungry, the oppressed. That is why I added my name to the letter; that is why I hope you will too.

(Read the rest.)

Next, on Wednesday of this week, Bread announced an immediate need for calls to Representatives to support the Royce amendment to the Agricultural Appropriations bill. Why? The Royce amendment “provides funding for the USDA Local and Regional Purchase (LRP) program. This would help more people receive U.S. food aid at no additional cost. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.-39), who has been a champion in the House for food-aid reform, led the bipartisan amendment.”

While it is easy – and too often right – to decry politicians and our political process, they and it aren’t all bad. As Bread reminds us, “This vote is the latest in a series showing bipartisan support for food-aid reforms. Late last month, Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), offered an amendment to the Senate version of agricultural appropriations that passed out of committee with an additional $35 million for food-aid reform efforts.” (Read the rest.)

Many people responded and the amendment passed! My Representative, Bill Foster, voted for it, so I tweeted him a thank you. Check and see how your Rep. voted, then offer them a thank you or tell them you’re disappointed.

Advocacy matters because advocacy works. Advocacy helps transform systems; helps make our systems more just, makes them more closely resemble the world God intends for us.

Let’s keep raising our voices!

 

Wanna feed 2 million people – or even 9 million – in less than 10 minutes?

If so, all you have to do is read a little and add your name to a letter. Sometimes advocacy is just that simple.

Illinois residents (along with those of Alaska, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia) have an opportunity – I would even say a duty – to influence legislation currently being considered in the Senate Commerce Committee that, if passed as is, takes away food from 2 million hungry people. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is on that committee. Senator Durbin needs to hear that we, his constituents, want Section 318 out of the final version of The Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014. Why? From Bread for the World:

Section 318 increases shipping restrictions for U.S. food aid, and makes our food aid less efficient, increasing shipping costs by more than $75 million per year. The additional cost would be taken directly out of our nation’s food aid programs—literally out of the mouths of 2 million men, women and children. Both U.S. taxpayers and hungry people would lose from this unjust provision.

Additionally, a bipartisan bill, The Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014, was introduced this week. If passed it could feed up to nine million hungry people by making U.S. food aid more efficient. The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society joined several other organizations supporting this bill, asking for it to be passed quickly.

With help from our friends at Bread for the World, each of us can raise our voice with and for hungry neighbors just by adding our name to a single letter which will be delivered to our Senators and Representatives on June 10. (Full text of the letter is also below.)

Will you join me in signing this letter and thereby work to change food aid systems so they feed more people?

Check out the video below for a great song to accompany some justice advocacy. (H/T to Patti Cash for bringing this song to my attention.)

 


June 2014

Dear Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Mark Kirk, and our respective U.S. representatives:

As religious leaders across Illinois, we answer the call to help our neighbors in need. Our faith communities are globally engaged, and we know U.S. policy plays a critical role in addressing human needs and fostering global development. Our faith compels us to support policy reforms to our nation’s international food aid that would enable us to:

* feed millions more hungry people,
* deliver life-saving food more quickly,
* support vulnerable communities in becoming self-sufficient, and
* better utilize taxpayer dollars.

Reforming U.S. food aid is the right thing to do from both a moral and a fiscal standpoint. It is also in America’s self-interest, as it would do more to foster peace, stability and goodwill toward our nation and would support the development of new trade partners and consumers for U.S. products.

As you debate legislation and cast votes in Congress, we ask you to keep poor and hungry people at the forefront of your heart and mind, and we ask you to support the following reforms to our international food aid:

1. Improve flexibility and efficiency, so we can more effectively respond to hunger.
2. Enhance nutritional quality, so vulnerable populations (such as very young children) receive what they need to thrive.
3. Protect food aid funding, so policy improvements lead to more lives saved.

We specifically ask you to cosponsor the “Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014,” from Sens. Bob Corker and Chris Coons. This bill will make our food aid more efficient, freeing up as much as $440 million annually and thereby allowing us to reach seven to nine million more people, in a substantially shorter amount of time. At a time when our budget is strained and 842 million people in the world are hungry, we must maximize taxpayer dollars by making our food aid as efficient as possible. Supporting the “Food for Peace Reform Act” is the prudent decision—both morally and fiscally—and we ask you to cosponsor this important legislation.

We also ask you to ensure “Section 318” of H.R. 4005, the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014, is not included in the final bill. Section 318, which increases shipping restrictions for U.S. food aid, would make our food aid less efficient, increasing shipping costs by more than $75 million per year. This provision would make our food aid less efficient, increasing shipping costs by more than $75 million per year. The additional cost would be taken directly out of our nation’s food aid programs—literally out of the mouths of 2 million men, women and children. Both U.S. taxpayers and hungry people would lose from this unjust provision, and it must be removed.

We look forward to staying in communication as you consider U.S. food aid, and we are praying for you as you make these and other critical decisions in the months ahead.

With hope,

 

Striving to have eyes that see

My September 29th sermon was, at heart, an attempt to humanize people who receive SNAP benefits – people who are all too often demonized, blamed for needing help, called names like “lazy” or “grifters.” I was trying to demonstrate that the people who receive SNAP benefits are simply that: people. It just happens they are people who need a little help.

My sermon was an attempt to help us learn from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. That is, it was an attempt to help us see the poor and hungry people who are on our doorstep. Something the rich man in the parable was unable to do until it was too late – for both men.

So I offered a bunch of statistics hoping to demonstrate that SNAP recipients could be any of us. SNAP recipients are white, black, and hispanic. Urban, suburban, and rural. Children, adults, and elderly. Married with children, single adults, and single parents. SNAP recipients work at all kinds of jobs, including our military.

However, after worship one member said better in two sentences what I spent twenty minutes trying to get across.

“Pastor, I wanted to stand up in the middle of your sermon and say, ‘It’s me! You’re talking about me! I’m working five jobs and still need help feeding my kids.'”

Yes, I talk and write and preach and post about hunger and poverty – a lot. I do so because both the biblical witness and United Methodist tradition convince me that is the best way to live the faith of Jesus Christ in the world.

But I also do so because experiences like this one on Sunday convince me again and again that in Christ there is no “them”, no “other.” There is only “us.” And we’re all on this journey of faith together. We all need each other. What affects one, affects us all.

That’s not a bug, it is a feature. Thanks be to God for that!

The power of 1000 days

The church.

Christians.

Followers of God in the Way of Jesus.

Living the life of faith.

Being the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus in the world.

If you’ve spent any time around me (or, you know, this blog or my other blog or my twitter feed or my facebook timeline), I would hope it is clear that I believe those are five ways of saying the same thing. More importantly, I hope it comes through that I strive to live that belief.

And yet sometimes I know I need to step back and let other voices be heard. Today seems like one of those days. (Of course, I’m preaching this Sunday so my voice isn’t exactly being muffled.) We’ve talked a lot in church and online about hunger, about poverty, about food assistance for those in need. And with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus as this week’s text, we’re going to talk more about them Sunday.

But for today, I hope you’ll take just one minute and fifty seconds of your day to watch the video below. Fighting hunger matters. Providing nutrition – especially for women and children – makes a real difference in the world. I know that’s a corny, overused phrase. I don’t care. I’m saying it anyway. Watch the video and I bet you will too.

Watched the video and want to read more? Here you go.

Watched the video and want some good, original music that supports this effort? Here you go.

Be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus. Share this voice.