Conference to address domestic poverty

April 6, 2010

Every day across the United States Episcopalians work in soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, health clinics, daycare centers and in social service capacities, striving for justice and peace among all people and in respect for the dignity of every human being.

Later this month April 28-30, a few hundred Episcopalians and others interested in social service are expected to gather in Newark, New Jersey, for "Called to Serve: The Episcopal Church Responds to Domestic Poverty," a conference designed to explore the nature of domestic poverty and the church's role in addressing it.

The conference is supported by Jubilee Ministries, Episcopal Community Services in America and National Episcopal Health Ministries.

Attendees can expect a wide range of information presented in workshops and plenary addresses. All participants will be encouraged to participate in daily Bible studies and time has been allotted following plenary speakers for directed conversations to allow for conference goers to process and absorb information, said Christy Campbell, an Episcopal Community Services in America board member and conference coordinator.

It is also the first time NEHM has joined with social service organizations, she said.

NEHM promotes health and wellness at the congregational level, which includes everything from providing support for volunteer parish nurses, who conduct simple preventative health screenings, to clothing drives and food pantries.

The conference is an opportunity to share new ideas to better implement and strengthen programming, and to build relationships locally, regionally and nationally, said Matthew Ellis, NEHM's executive director.

"Domestic poverty touches on all areas of Episcopal Church mission," he added.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will give the keynote address on April 28. Later that day Kristen Lewis, co-director of the Social Science Research Council's American Human Development Project, will present The Measure of America report, which provides a snapshot of Americans' well-being by state, congressional district, gender, race and ethnicity.

On April 29 Chuck Fluharty, founding director of the Rural Policy Research Institute, will address domestic poverty from a public policy perspective and talk about the importance of connecting rural and urban communities, he said in a telephone interview.

"The central city and remote areas are most prone to policy changes," Fluharty said.

Continued state and local budget gaps and the country's $350 billion budget deficit will require churches, which still anchor rural and urban communities, to expand services, he said.

On April 30, Wayne Muller, author, minister, therapist and founder of Bread for the Journey, will discuss his most recent book, A Life of Being, Having and Doing Enough.

The Episcopal Church's commitment to addressing domestic poverty comes from its mission, which "is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ," said the Rev. Christopher Johnson, the Episcopal Church's officer of Jubilee Ministries. Johnson also serves on the Board of Directors of Episcopal Community Services in America.

This year conference attendees can expect to work on developing action plans for their own organizations, in addition to networking and integrating themselves into the larger Episcopal community, he said.

For more information or to register for the Called to Serve conference, click here.