Thursday, May 05, 2011

Christian Citizenship Seminar connects food and faith.

What does food have to do with faith? How does "our daily bread" become "The Bread of Life?" At Christian Citizenship Seminar 2011, 55 high school youth and adults considered these questions in depth, using scriptures from the Old and New Testaments as guides.

Beginning on March 26 in New York City, participants heard the testimony of two Brethren young adult seminarians, Angela and Nathan Inglis of Brooklyn (N.Y.) Church of the Brethren, who have made radical personal food choices based on their faith. Participants also learned about international hunger relief projects of Church World Service (CWS) from Ann Walle, director of Innovation and Strategic Affairs. Nelly Gyebi, an exchange student from Ghana currently studying in Moundridge, Kan., shared personal experiences of carrying water and of gender discrimination. Prior to touring the United Nations, participants studied the hunger related portions of the Millennium Development Goals through the leadership of Phil Jones, director of refugee resettlement of the CWS affiliate office in State College, Pa.

In Washington, Brethren farmer and sustainable living advocate Tom Benevento challenged the group on a number of issues related to typical US consumption patterns. A highlight of the week was a meeting with Max Finberg, director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Agriculture.

Christian Citizenship Seminar participants typically compose the largest group of Brethren who lobby Congress through personal visits on a single day in any given year. On March 30, the tradition continued as youth and advisors visited their congressional representatives after receiving training from Wendy Matheny, a Brethren young adult who works in Washington as leadership coordinator for the American Association of University Women.

"When you go to Capitol Hill, you realize that the people there are actually people and it’s not just this big government machine. They listen to you--for the most part," reflected CCS participant Kinsey Miller, Black Rock Church of the Brethren, Glenville, Pa.

"I came to CCS because it combines my two favorite things--the Church of the Brethren and politics!" reported CCS participant Evan Leiter-Mason of Glade Valley Church of the Brethren, Walkersville, Md.

Considering the theme, it was fitting that the gathered community shared communion during worship on the final evening. "CCS is about identifying and reinforcing connections between the faith we speak and the lives we live. This year, I wanted participants to tackle a topic that is both universal and also very personal. Food is one of the most basic elements of life, and we have complicated relationships with it. I hope participants discovered a new appreciation for the complex justice issues surrounding food and for the questions those issues ask us as faith-filled people," said Becky Ullom, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Church of the Brethren.

Ullom, who provided this report, coordinated the event with Jordan Blevins, advocacy officer, and Mandy Garcia, coordinator of donor invitation. Christian Citizenship Seminar is sponsored by the Church of the Brethren, and takes place each spring.

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