What are YOU doing Sept 11?
Make it a day for “God’s work. Our hands. Our voices.”
Below, you’ll find ways to serve, pray, and speak on issues important to your congregation, your community and your neighbors near and far:
Housing and Homelessness
Climate Change/Clean Water
Voting and Elections
Because the policy arena is constantly changing, the best way to begin is to sign up for alerts from LAMPa (state issues), or from ELCA Advocacy (national and international) to be informed and able to act quickly.
If your congregation is interested in serving in these or other ways and would like to broaden your impact with advocacy, please let us know so we can help. Think about inviting your lawmakers to serve with you! (Find your lawmakers and their contact info here.) They will not only come away better informed, but spending a day with people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and make a difference will be good for their spirits, too! Whatever you do, we’d like to hear about it so that we know which lawmakers have already heard from Lutherans about an issue. It helps us do a better job!
As Christians, we pray for daily bread, knowing it is a primary human need. Yet, nearly 800 million people around the world can’t access the food they need to live active, healthy lives. One billion people live in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 per day. That’s 14.5% of the world’s population. At some point in 2014, more than 48 million people in the United States were unsure where their next meal might come from, and 46.7 million Americans were living in poverty. For a family of four, this means their annual household income was below $23,850. To learn more and find resources for teaching about hunger in your congregation, including service and interactive youth projects, connect with ELCA World Hunger.
One in seven Pennsylvanians struggles with hunger. For children, the rate is one in five, or almost 522,000. To map the meal gap in your county, click here. To see how many children in your school district qualify for free or reduced meals and what percentage are participating, click here.
- For many children, school is the only place where they can count on a meal. Start a backpack feeding program to send backpacks of food home with students for the weekend or donate time to an existing program. Contact your school district or click here for a link to Feeding America to learn how to start. Contact LAMPa if you would like to be connected to Lutherans already participating in backpack programs.
- Help out at your local food pantry – or clean and restock your own! Pay careful attention to the availability of healthy options on the shelves.
- Host a community meal.
- Volunteer to do end-of-season harvest and cleanup at your local school or community garden.
- Install a bee hive – or two — in your local community garden or your church property and donate a colony of bees in the spring. See ELCA Good Gifts for the bees! Contact the Pa. Beekeepers Association and the State Department of Agriculture for guidance and training.
- Host a cooking class for those served by your hunger ministry. Feature inexpensive, healthy ingredients (such as one might find in your food pantry), and provide the recipes.
To do now:
- Urge your state lawmakers to invest in the State Food Purchase Program, which enables Pennsylvania’s charitable food providers – including many of our Lutheran hunger ministries — to provide nutritious food to low-income families, children, seniors, and others threatened by hunger. Also ask them to support the Pa. Agricultural Surplus System, (PASS) a gleaning program that enables farmers and food producers to partner with these providers, such as our pantries, to benefit both our most vulnerable citizens and Pennsylvania agriculture.
- Contact your federal lawmakers to urge them to vote against the Child Nutrition Reauthorization in its current form, which rolls back years of progress on improving children’s access to healthy food, necessary for lifelong health and learning. Click here for more information and to send a message to your lawmaker through ELCA Advocacy.
To do Sept. 11:
- Connect with LAMPa to see what legislation is pending closer to that time.
- Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Hungry children can’t concentrate. Look online to see how your school district is performing with the percentage of eligible students receiving school breakfast. If the percentage could be improved, write to your school board and encourage them to take the School Breakfast Challenge. The Challenge and ProjectPA provide consulting and often, links to grants, to help schools run breakfast programs that work for students, teachers and food service staff – without breaking the bank.
- It is possible that the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (see “To Do Now” above) will still be an issue. Check back.
- Write to your local school district and offer to help apply for grants to start a school/community garden and volunteer to tend it during the summer months when school is not in session.
“Because all are created in God’s image, all have equal worth and dignity and should be treated accordingly. This belief stands behind our strong support for our society’s expectation that all young people have equitable access to high-quality schools.” ELCA Social Statement – Our Calling in Education, 2007. As Christians, we believe that the necessity, capacity, love and delight to learn, teach and know come from God, and that those gifts are to be used for living in love with God and others and for caring for the earth on which we all depend. We recognize that persistent poverty and discrimination and lack of access to high-quality schools often go hand and hand and contribute to our society’s failure to educate all young people to develop these gifts – perpetuating a cycle of hopelessness and suffering that diminishes us all. We also recognize that good schools alone cannot break the cycle of generational poverty, but they have an indispensable role in doing so.
Our Commonwealth has the distinction of being one of the most inequitable states in the nation when it comes to funding its schools, and a recent national study ranked Pennsylvania THE most inequitable, with a 33 percent difference in per pupil spending between its wealthiest and its poorest districts. Although some of the poorest districts in the state are rural and majority white, the funding system overall has disproportionately shortchanged children of color. Learn more about the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, of which LAMPa is a founding member.
- Conduct a blessing of backpacks for all students in the congregation AND
- Contact your local school district to find out what supplies are most needed by children whose parents cannot afford to supply or stock their own backpacks. Purchase supplies and fill the backpacks – and bless them, too! – to be delivered to your local schools. Remember to pray for the children who receive those backpacks – and their teachers — all school year!
- Increasingly, schools are running quiet clothing banks for students who cannot afford appropriate clothing. School nurses and teachers will tell you that stigma of not having clean, decent clothing can affect attendance, attitude and ability to concentrate on learning. Contact your school to see what might be needed. Collect new or gently used clothes, sort and deliver.
- Kick off a congregational tutoring program or train to volunteer in one that already exists. Help those in your congregation who may have difficulty navigating the online process to get background clearances.
- Collect and donate supplies to your local tutoring programs such as that run by the York Conference of Lutherans.
To do now:
- Contact your lawmakers and ask them to invest an additional $400 million in basic education funding this year. Click here for a sample letter.
To do Sept. 11:
- Contact LAMPa to get latest update on funding picture. Write letters to lawmakers asking them to find responsible revenue sources to properly fund schools to end the disparities.
HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
“Homelessness concerns people, human beings created in God’s image for a life of dignity in justice. The story of each homeless person is unique. The name, the circumstances, the decisions, the faith, the joys, and sorrows of each belong to precious individuals. … God heard the cry of a homeless people and delivered them out of oppression in Egypt. Jesus, “who [had] nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58), ministered with compassion to the poor and vulnerable. In practicing hospitality, we are promised to encounter the living Lord: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mat 25:35).” From the ELCA Social Message on Homelessness.
Homelessness and lack of safe, affordable housing is a real problem in communities across the Commonwealth — a problem that increasingly involves not only individuals but entire families. On any given day, 16,200 Pennsylvanians are known to be homeless. During one school year, school districts around the state provide services to approximately 13,000 homeless children. The Pa. Joint State Government Commission study on homelessness, for which Lutherans successfully advocated, recently released its report and recommendations.
- Do home repairs or weatherization for those who physically or economically cannot do so themselves. Borrow some ideas from Interfaith Power & Light’s Weatherization First program.
- Connect with your local Habitat for Humanity to volunteer at one of their sites or do other volunteer work for them. Some even have projects for younger children to do off-site, including building planter boxes, raised garden beds, sheds and benches.
- The bipartisan Joint State Government Commission just released a major study with recommendations for ending homelessness in Pennsylvania. Connect with LAMPa after June 15 to see how you can help move the recommendations into policy on Sept. 11.
CLIMATE CHANGE/CLEAN WATER
“This church will seek public policies that allow people to participate fully in decisions affecting their own health and livelihood … . We will insist on an equitable sharing of the costs of maintaining a healthy environment.” – ELCA social statement, “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice” (1993) Called to till and keep God’s creation (Genesis 2:15) and commanded to care for our most vulnerable neighbors (Deuteronomy 15:11), we believe that climate change presents an unprecedented threat to all of creation. We are guided by principles of stewardship, compassion and justice in confronting the moral crisis of our changing climate. Climate change presents a threat to creation, but most particularly to vulnerable populations living in poverty around the globe. Through our faith, we have a moral obligation to consider the needs of others and rise to the challenge of caring for them. We are called to “champion the poor and the needy ” (Deuteronomy 24:14-15). We have an obligation to “till and tend” the earth, as God told humankind in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). God blesses the world and sees it as “good,” even before humankind comes on the scene. All creation, not just humankind, is viewed as “very good” in God’s eyes (Genesis 1:31). As people of faith, we are called to be stewards and protectors of God’s earth.
Pennsylvania is a major contributor to climate change. The Commonwealth contributes 1 percent of the world’s total carbon emissions, and in a ranking of total greenhouse gas emissions our state would rank 19th on a list of COUNTRIES. Climate change is already affecting Pennsylvania’s waterways, agriculture and economy. Learn more about how climate change is affecting Pa.’s natural resources.
Beyond Pennsylvania, climate change is affecting our most vulnerable brothers and sisters around the world. Learn what our global partners are experiencing as a result of climate change.
In addition, Pennsylvania is falling behind on its promise to our neighbors to the south to clean up the pollution we contribute to the Chesapeake Bay. Clean water is not only an environmental issue, but an economic, and hunger and health issue, too. Learn more.
- Plant trees, particularly near waterways, as both riparian buffers to clean the water draining into creeks and rivers, but also as a way to remove pollutants from the air and lower air temperatures. Riparian Forested Buffer Program. The state departments of agriculture, environmental protection and conservation and natural resources are promoting a statewide forested buffer program to reach the Chesapeake Goal for PA of planting 95,000 new acres of forested buffer by 2025. Forested buffers have multiple benefits – shading, nutrient uptake, water protection, temperature cooling, habitat, carbon storage and sequestration, and potentially income production. Contact Rachel Reyna at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for information on participating in the program and grants for trees. For assistance in planting trees in urban areas, check out TreeVitalize. Commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with an Eco-Reformation and take the challenge of planting 500 trees in your synod next year. Learn more. Northeastern Pa. Synod’s Creation Care Task Force has issued the challenge to Lutherans in the rest of Pa.!
- Weatherize your church building or homes of those in the congregation or your neighborhood who may have difficulty doing it themselves. Borrow some ideas from Interfaith Power & Light’s Weatherization First program.
- Switch to clean energy together! Circle up the laptops and use a clean-energy utility guide to make the change to clean energy sources. Use this guide from PA Interfaith Power & Light for guidance in how to shop for clean energy at PAPowerSwitch. Have some in the congregation practice and do this ahead of time so that they can assist others. Share the news via social media. Be sure to Tweet to LAMPa and your synod!
- Take a hike and clean up a trail or a waterway.
- Write your lawmakers to urge them to continue progress toward a clean power plan in Pennsylvania. Read Lutheran testimony on the plan.
- Write to Congress in support of the Green Climate Fund that addresses our moral obligation to our poorest neighbors who are most vulnerable to extreme weather, sea level rise and other climate disruptions and makes in investment in alleviating poverty and ensuring global food security. Learn more.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING/CHILD SEXUAL EXPLOITATION
“ Sexual Exploitation in any situation, either personally or commercially, inside or outside legally contracted marriage, is sinful because it is destructive of God’s good gift [of sexuality] and human integrity.”1 Commercial sexual exploitation is an organized form of this sinful behavior. It is especially demonic when it exploits children and youth. Commercial sexual exploitation is widespread throughout the United States and around the world, and it continues to grow….The (ELCA Church council) urges members, congregations, synods, churchwide units, and affiliated agencies and institutions to renew their care and concern for children and youth, recognizing that there are those who prey upon young persons in their dependency and vulnerability. Love born of faith in Jesus Christ calls us all to attend to, discuss, resist, and change the system of commercial sexual exploitation.” From the ELCA social message on Commercial Sexual Exploitation
More and more, child victims of sex trafficking are being recognized for who they are – victims of rape and sexual assault, not criminals. As jurisdictions throughout the United States come to recognize that sexually exploited children are victims, there has been an increasing realization that sexually exploited children should be granted full-immunity from arrest and prosecution for prostitution and related offenses. Pa. law must clarify that prostituted children are victims of sex trafficking and should be provided “Safe Harbor” from arrest and prosecution that adds to their trauma and creates another stumbling block that makes them vulnerable for the rest of their lives. Learn more.
View a short video “Making of a Girl” to learn more about how a child becomes a victim of sexual exploitation. (Preview before showing to determine appropriateness for audience.)
Read about ELCA Advocacy efforts against human trafficking, and safe harbor legislation in particular, in the June edition of Living Lutheran.
- Soap Project — Educate your congregation about human trafficking — in particular, sex trafficking of youth. Develop relationships with your local hospitality industry and help them be good neighbors by educating them about sex trafficking and offering to donate soap with stickers bearing the number for the Human Trafficking Hotline. Order soap in bulk online, gather to adhere stickers and deliver soap on Sept. 11. Encourage the hotel to continue the practice, and perhaps offer to keep adding the stickers to the soap they purchase in an ongoing partnership. Learn more and read a blog post about how the project started with one survivor.
- Write or visit your lawmaker to urge support for Senate Bill 851, which would protect and not prosecute child victims of sex trafficking, empower state agencies to support child victims, train police to identify and help child victims and establish a fund for victim services and awareness. Learn more and link to SB851. Learn about current law in Pa.
- Urge your members of Congress to uphold the bipartisan commitment to protecting all children as established in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008 and reject proposals that would reduce these protections. For example, the “Protection of Children Act of 2016” (S. 2561) would deny access to legal protections for Central American children by expediting their removal process. Click here to learn more and send a note to your lawmaker through Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services.
- Urge your U.S. Senators and representative to support the International Violence Against Women Act
Pennsylvania has one of the strongest consumer protection laws in the country when it comes to borrowing, but the payday lending industry is constantly trying to open the door here, with attempts to charge interest rates of up to 300 percent, attaching directly to borrower’s bank accounts so that they get any income – even before other bills, including food, are paid. Their products are often masked as attempts to extend credit to the poor, and their tactics often involve attempts to introduce bills and fast-track them through the process at times when larger bills are getting everyone’s attention.
ELCA synods throughout the country have created social policies condemning predatory lending practices and usury. Congregations are taking action to support those caught in predatory loans, including Holy Trinity Lutheran Church’s Exodus Lending, a not-for-profit organization that is “committed to providing trapped payday borrowers a just pathway to financial stability” in Minneapolis.
- Be trained as a volunteer tax preparer or financial counselor with a Lutheran social ministry organization, such as Spiritrust, to help people manage their funds without resorting to desperate measures.
- Host a program on financial health and open it to the community.
- To do now: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) just released proposed rules that, if strengthened, could rein in the worst abuses of payday and car-title lending. As written, however, the rule contains exceptions and loopholes that abusive lenders will use to evade the rule’s protections and continue to trap vulnerable borrowers in unaffordable 300-plus percent interest loans. Lutheran congregations around the country have been fighting the effects of payday lending in their communities, even starting their own lending programs. Help them protect their vulnerable neighbors! A 90-day comment period on the rules has opened. Comment on the proposed rules.
- Sign up with LAMPa to be alerted anytime the payday lending industry attempts to fast-track a harmful bill in Pennsylvania. Read a letter-to-the-editor by former LAMPa director Amy Reumann.