Join ‘Backpack Challenge’ on MLK Day

Save the morning of January 19, 2015 to attend a unique event sponsored by Lutheran-Episcopal Advocacy in Nevada (LEAN).   We all know the Education Initiative, Question 3, failed in the November election. Governor Sandoval has said he has a plan to fund public education, but he has disclosed no details. The LEAN event will give our Legislators an opportunity to do something tangible for education.

Watch Rev. Mike Patterson’s video on this special event here.

All new and returning state Senators and Assembly Members have been invited. Those who attend will assemble backpacks filled with school supplies. The backpacks will go to a Title I (low income) school of the Legislator’s choice, and the backpack will include the name of that Legislator.

We hope this will be a fun exercise that will remind Legislators of the need to seriously address education funding.   We particularly want to highlight the needs of Title I schools, which are chronically without resources. There’s a reason we’re doing a school supplies project in January. Many of our congregations assemble school backpacks in September, but by January, heading into the second half of the school year, most of those supplies have been used. This leaves teachers purchasing basic supplies from their own pockets. So in order to pull off this “challenge to Legislators,” we need your help. Please consider donating five, ten, or twenty dollars to buy the supplies to go in the backpacks. Our Director of Advocacy, Rev. Mike Patterson, has arranged to buy supplies at a huge discount from a local office supply store, so your donation will go a long way. Checks can be sent to LEAN c/o St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, PO Box 737, Sparks NV 89432, or given to your Parish Communicator.

The gathering will feature more than stuffing backpacks. James Hardesty, Chief Justice of the Nevada Supreme Court, will speak. Also on the agenda is a representative from Union of black Episcopalians, and a speaker from the State Board of Education. The event will occur simultaneously at Community Lutheran Church in Las Vegas and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Reno, connected by video conference.   A representative of Northern Nevada Food Bank will speak in Reno, and a representative of Three Squares will speak in Las Vegas.

Members of all Episcopal and Lutheran congregations are urged to attend. The event begins at 10:00 am, and lunch will be provided. Please RSVP to mp4675@att.net.

Do Lutherans Do Revivals?

On October 1, 2014, a press release went out from the ELCA News Service, which is part of the national ELCA.   The release announced a “Prayer Revival” to be held the next day, on the opening day of the annual Conference of Bishops. Since when do Lutherans do revivals? When did you last see a bunch of bishops at a revival? And why now?

The body of the press release explained that the Revival was intended to be a public statement by the church in response to violence generally, but the timing suggests it was mostly a response to the violence in Ferguson, Missouri just a few weeks before. The format was mostly a prayer service, but featured the anointing of hands, as each participant made a commitment to some particular action to enhance peace and justice in his/her own community.

Revival organizers explained that the goals of the event were to “demonstrate that the ELCA is deeply concerned about the violence happening in Chicago and other American cities and the need for improved relations between police and the communities they serve, and to come together as people of faith and pray with each other about these issues.”

The Bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod noted that while the church does not have the power by itself to stop violence, it must take every opportunity to “announce in the public square that we stand in opposition to violence as an acceptable way to resolve human conflict.” He added that collaboration among law enforcement, community organizations, medical and social service providers, political and business leaders and ordinary citizens is essential to address violence.

Advocacy is about making statements in the public square, and ordinary citizens can get involved with just a few clicks of a computer mouse. Although the next Legislative Session doesn’t start until February 2, 2015, individuals can begin to learn about the issues. There is something called a “Bill Draft Request” which is an outline or proposal for new legislation. These “BDRs” are given to the Legislative Counsel Bureau, whose job is to draw up the legal language. Ultimately the bill is introduced into the Legislature. Bill drafts typically are not made public before they’re introduced, but it’s possible to get an idea what a bill is about by its working title.

There are already over 500 bill draft requests, many relating to violence. There are proposals about firearms, bullying, abuse of children and animals, and more. Other subjects for BDRs include education, mental health, economic development, the environment, and even a proposal to allow dogs in bars! A survey by LEAN last spring suggested that our advocacy agenda should focus on education and mental health, but that can change, depending on what we hear from parishioners.

To see the list of Bill Draft Requests, go to www.leg.state.nv.us. This is the home page for the Nevada Legislature. At the top right, under “78th (2015) Session” look for “BDR List.” If you choose “Divided List” you will get a search window where you can put in a topic and get a list of all the BDRs related to that topic. The search tool only looks for words in the BDR title, so scanning the full list will bring in more. The Legislative website has so much information, and it’s quite user-friendly, so anyone who wants to learn how the legislative process works or follow particular issues should definitely spend some time on the website.

LEAN will continue to publish “how to” information as we move through the Session. There are a couple of easy ways to express your views through the website.

LEAN has been working to get the message out that the concerns of individuals and congregations are the foundation of our advocacy agenda. We’ve asked to meet personally with parishioners in order to learn these concerns. So use the website, but please talk to your Parish Communicators as well.

— Sheila Freed

LEAN Joins Nevada Prayer Breakfast

As many are aware, Lutherans and Episcopalians in Nevada recently joined to do social justice advocacy together at the state level. Lutheran-Episcopal Advocacy in Nevada (LEAN) is the first joint venture in the history of the two denominations, and is expected to be a model for similar efforts elsewhere in the country. It builds on strengths of both churches: Lutherans have a centuries-long tradition of advocacy, and have done advocacy at the state level for many years. Episcopalians, through their nationwide Episcopal Public Policy Network, have a sophisticated communication network which makes excellent use of electronic media. The two churches bring these complementary backgrounds and skills together to build an advocacy effort that uses the principles of community organizing to identify and address concerns at the state, as opposed to federal, level.

Lutherans and Episcopalians are connected in another way as well. Both are part of the Nevada Clergy Association. The Association is a non-profit interfaith network of religious and spiritual leaders in Nevada. The Nevada Clergy Association recently hosted its annual Prayer Breakfast. This year’s event focused on recognition of Nevada’s 150th anniversary. (The “Sesquicentennial” celebrates Nevada’s entry as a State of the United States of America in 1864, 150 years ago.)

As part of the recognition, the Nevada Clergy Association presented an oversized quilt to the State of Nevada. The “150 Commission” is the official committee that has organized events around the state, and the Commission has been collecting artifacts which will be displayed around the state and eventually reside in the State Historical Museum. The quilt which the association presented has fifteen unique squares, each representing a different faith tradition. Each was designed and made by members of that tradition. The Lutheran and Episcopal quilt squares are next to each other, perhaps by Divine design.

The quilt symbolizes the work of the Nevada Clergy Association, which is so well expressed in their explanation of the breakfast: “The Nevada Prayer Breakfast is a gathering of citizens—as well as civic, business, and community leaders—who wish to pray on behalf of our State and bring the spiritual resources of the community together to bear on issues that face Nevadans. Although members of the community may believe differently in their approach to the Divine, we gather at the Nevada Prayer Breakfast as equals. Together, we devote our energies to the good of the State of Nevada. Together, we pray.”

The Invocation for this year’s Prayer Breakfast was delivered by Rabbi Ethan Bair of Temple Sinai in Reno. Rabbi Bair’s prayer is a wonderful statement about Advocacy—why we do it, and what we hope to accomplish. He has most graciously allowed us to reproduce his Invocation here:

 

A Prayer for Nevada

Ribbono shel Olam, Master of the Universe, the One God who goes by so many different names and forms, we pray today for the health, well-being and future of our great state of Nevada. May the next 150 years be greater than our first. God, help us to recognize holiness in our own spiritual traditions, and in the religions of others as well. Give us the strength, dear God, to grow, to become better at being human. Give us the capacity to love ever-more deeply, to create ever more healthy habits of the heart in how we treat one another. Teach us again, the simple power of civil discourse. Give us hope and strength that overpowers cynicism and fear.

Help us to be pursuers of peace and wholeness in our communities, the strength to repair our justice system and education system and human systems. Help us to change our wasteful ways when it comes to the Earth. Give us the chutzpa, the holy tenacity, to stand up to the Pharaohs and adversaries in our midst who would put corporate profits before people; special interests before people’s basic needs. And help sustain each of us to become informed and engaged public citizens, people of values and vision. People who live in the present in a way that says, we have a future worth working towards and we know it. God, please inspire the work of our hands, hearts and lips. That we may see a day when the Earth is not prisoner to our greed, but industry and government are protectors of the Earth. We have failed to be good stewards of the precious Earth you have given to our care. We have failed to protect, educate and give our children a world more perfect than we found it. Help us to change course, that our children’s future may be filled with promise, not pollution and peril.

We pray for the politicians of our state, to realign their priorities with a long-term perspective for prosperity, fairness, justice and environmental stewardship. And we ask for Your blessing to give us the peace that comes with a sound direction. May our path lead us to a more sustainable, equitable, and conscious society. May we forever value and spread the light of the diversity and harmony contained within this room. May diversity be our strength as we uproot ignorance, bigotry and hatred in all its forms. And may our fate forever bend toward justice through the depth, the spirit and the wisdom of our shared humanity.

And together we say, Amen.

As we Lutherans and Episcopalians build our joint Advocacy effort, let us strive for the goals set forth in this prayer, and join, whenever possible, with other faiths, to speak out for the least among us.