Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

As the year comes to a close with the celebration of Christmas and the hope for a better year in 2012, we pause to thank you for your interest and participation in the National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative. In a year of severe challenges to the middle class and especially those living below the poverty line, we have organized and advocated for fairness and justice in the affairs of our government. We are profoundly disappointed at the failure of Congress to act decisively to alleviate the suffering of the poor among us. We end the year confident that God will continue to work through us all to share the abundance of the earth with the whole family of humanity. We know our work is unfinished and we resolve to continue to pray and advocate with you in the New Year. If we don’t believe we can end poverty now—we never will.

Here is a look back at a year of intensive advocacy in solidarity with those who struggle the most for a fair share of the abundance of God’s creation. In 2011, the NCC Poverty Initiative:

  • Shared in leadership of the Faithful Budget Campaign of the Washington Inter-religious Staff Community in a Capitol Hill, designed to protect anti-poverty programs in the federal budget and deficit debates in Congress. During the summer, we held daily outdoor public prayer vigils for three weeks attracting from 20 to 200 people. We organized meetings with top congressional leadership in the Senate and House, and 11 faith leaders (Jewish, Christian and Muslim, including the director of the NCC Poverty Initiative) were arrested in a civil disobedience action in the Rotunda of the Capitol. We led a fall revival of the Faithful Budget campaign targeting seven of members of the Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (Super Committee) September –December). The campaign is closely coordinated with and is and a complimentary part of the larger campaign of ecumenical , interreligious denominations and organizations (WISC). The campaign included in-district visits with congressional representatives, local, state, and national call-in days to congress, regular action alerts to constituents, toolkit for organizing local, state and national prayer vigils and a “Super Vigil” on November 20 in Washington DC while groups at the local and national level also held vigils.
  • Developed prayer and education materials, including Prayer Vigil liturgies, how-to guides for prayer vigils, prayers, sermons; a comprehensive faith based resource on poverty “Eradicating Poverty, the Call of the Church;” produced a video on the faithful budget campaign with senior interreligious leaders providing spiritual and prophetic witness to anti-poverty work.
  • Was a founding member of the Circle of Protection: a broad, unprecedented Christian coalition that also made a significant impact on the budget impasse prior to the passage of the legislation to lift the debt ceiling.  The Circle of Protection (www.circleofprotection.us) produced a statement that attracted well over 100 religious leaders and twenty organizations. At last count over 6,000 individuals had signed the statement online and over sixty national religious organizations.  One of our partners generated 23,000 signatures including over five thousands pastors.  The Circle also had a meeting with President Obama during which he agreed with the principle of protecting programs that support the “least among us” from cuts in the legislative resolution of the crisis.
  • Co-chaired the fall mobilization of Fighting Poverty With Faith—Working Together to End Hunger. We challenged individuals in our churches and members of congress to take the Food Stamp Challenge and organized a shopping experience among national faith leaders, congresspersons, members of the administration and food stamp recipients in the District of Columbia. The leadership team enlisted 40 local groups in planning events during the mobilization, most of the events were interfaith.

What a year it has been. Again, I thank you for journeying with the National Council of Churches as we participate in God’s mission to end poverty. I look forward to continuing our work together in 2012.

Grace and Peace

Michael Livingston

Director, National Council of Churches Poverty Initiative

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