Subject: NCC Newsletter: Spiritual Practices, National Vaccine Summit, and the Holy Land

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Spiritual Practices, National Vaccine Summit, and the Holy Land

NCC Newsletter
May 21, 2021
Come to the Summit
Next Wednesday afternoon, Faiths4Vaccine, an ad hoc coalition of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim organizations will hold a National Summit. We are doing so because we love our neighbor and want them to be vaccinated.

I’ve received my second shot, but so far less than half of US adults have done so and, yet, I can see with my own eyes that mask usage is declining rapidly. I want to believe the pandemic is over, but it isn’t. If we’re going to make progress we need for a lot more people to get vaccinated. And that means we need to reach the ones who are reluctant and that means we need to have many more houses of worship be vaccination sites because those are trusted sources.

This summit will provide ‘how to’ information for houses of worship. ‘How to’ partner with health departments and pharmacies. You’ll hear from houses of worship that are vaccination sites. You’ll hear from those who have responded quickly and extensively to alleviate the suffering of their communities.

We have life-saving vaccines that have proven already to be effective. We can prevent further suffering. Our houses of worship are trusted messengers. Let’s build confidence in the vaccine, address hesitancy, make our spaces available to everyone, and save lives.

Grace and peace,

NCC Statement on the Violence in the Holy Land and Hopes for a Lasting Peace
Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call.

-- Psalm 102:1-2 (NRSV)

The Land called Holy by Jews, Christians, and Muslims is once again the scene of armed hostilities, protests, and fighting. In response to a peaceful protest against the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and the displacement of Palestinians from their homes, this time from the Shaikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, Israel’s hostile actions have led to an all-out conflagration. The fact that the initial response took place during Ramadan, and inside the Muslim community’s holy al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, was certain to inflame. This situation again causes us to cry out: “So now, O Lord our God, save us [we] pray you” (2 Kings 19:19, NRSV).

The fear is palpable. Palestinians and Israelis are losing loved ones to the violence, including children. Palestinian homes and neighborhoods, especially in Gaza, are being destroyed with Israeli firepower. Israeli homes and neighborhoods are being shelled with Palestinian rockets fired from Gaza. At the same time, perhaps most lamentably, Jewish and Arab citizens in blended communities within Israel are turning against one another, all this while Israeli Jewish and Arab medical personnel are working side-by-side to save lives. A growing humanitarian crisis among the Palestinians is also deeply concerning.

The violence must stop. We urge Israelis and Palestinians to honor the ceasefire that has been reached, and to end this fighting.

The modern State of Israel was established in the Biblical Jewish homeland in 1948, thereby displacing Palestinians from what had been their own ancient homeland. In that moment, an achievement for the Jewish community, borne of its suffering in the Holocaust, became a catastrophe (Nakba) for the Palestinian community, causing generations of lamentation. Since that time, violence has consistently threatened the fragile existence of all people in the land, and in the region. This threat of violence became entrenched in 1967, when war led to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Since that time, despite the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Israel has systematically appropriated occupied territory for its own in the West Bank and continued its blockade of Gaza. The long simmering anger and expected periodic outbursts have consistently been used to legitimize Israeli oppression of the Palestinian community.

Today’s violence is no different. While Israelis and Palestinians must take the first steps toward ending the violence, the United States and the international community must insist that they do so.

The National Council of Churches calls upon President Biden to bring his Administration’s weight to bear on both Israeli and Palestinian leaders to resume talks that would lead to a peaceful solution that is satisfactory to both sides. In doing so, the U.S. must uphold the condition that current and future aid to Israel – financial, military and otherwise -- is not used to legitimize illegal occupation and to enable acts of aggression. As the region is already flooded by extremely powerful and deadly weapons and the NCC has consistently stood for the redirection of military spending to more peaceful and productive uses, we also demand that the U.S. cease selling arms to all states in the region as this can only lead to more instability and further deteriorate conditions in the Holy Land.

We call upon the Israeli Government to end the cynical use of Palestinian anger and hostility, which is expected as a reaction to occupation and oppression, as a pretext for continued violations against the Palestinian people. We further call upon Prime Minister Netanyahu to stop the use of the current violence to distract from internal Israeli political turmoil.

Finally, we call upon the Palestinian Authority to renounce the hostile actions of destructive elements within its society, namely Hamas, even as we recognize the asymmetry of power. We do not condone violence of any kind, and we condemn terrorism in all its manifestations.

We make these calls with our faith partners in the Holy Land in mind. And we pray alongside faithful Christians, Muslims, and Jews, in Jerusalem and everywhere, for peace.

CMEP Letter to the UN Security Council
NCC President and General Secretary Jim Winkler joined more than 50 other church leaders from North America and Europe to sign a letter calling on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to secure an immediate ceasefire to the current violence in Israel/Palestine. The letter also urged the UNSC "to act immediately to address the continuing underlying causes of injustice that will otherwise remain a constant threat to peace in the Holy Land: occupation, land dispossession, displacement, and the withholding of basic human rights we take for granted."
Faiths4Vaccines National Summit Next Week
As a core member of Faiths4Vaccines, NCC invites you to the largest multi-faith gathering to support equitable and far-reaching vaccine distribution in the United States.

Teach, Train & Traverse Local Contexts to Support Equitable Distribution
Wednesday, May 26th 2021
1:00 to 4:00 PM

Faith leaders and faith-based organizations in attendance will receive training and empowerment to engage their communities to ensure equitable vaccine access and education for all.

Representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Ad Council will share how faith communities can decrease vaccine hesitancy. Among the many invited speakers are: 
  • Jim Winkler, NCC President and General Secretary; 
  • Bishop Teresa E. Jefferson-Snorton, Presiding Bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and NCC Governing Board Vice Chair; 
  • Bishop A. J. Richardson, Presiding Bishop of the 14th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; and 
  • Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, Director of the National Institutes of Health Chairman of the Conference of National Black Churches (CNBC), Senior Pastor of Grace Baptist Church.
If Your House of Worship Was A Vaccination Site, Take This Survey Before Wed., May 26
If your religious institution, house of worship, or faith-based organization has been used as a vaccination site, please take this survey, Faith Communities & Vaccine Administration in the USA. The findings from this survey will be will be shared at Faiths4Vaccines National Summit on May 26 to amplify the critical role and capacities of faith leaders to advance equitable distribution and serve as trusted messengers to decrease vaccine hesitancy.
New Monthly Series: Spiritual Practices to Sustain Our Spirit-Led Work for Justice
Introducing a brand new monthly series: Spiritual Practices to Sustain Our Spirit-Led Work for Justice presented by the NCC Christian Education, Faith Formation, and Leadership Development (CEFFLD) Convening Table

What are the spiritual practices that strengthen you for the long haul in your work for justice? In this series, the CEFFLD Convening Table will share personal stories of practices that have nourished them for the long haul of justice ministries. Faithful action in our communities, regions, countries, and the world, is sustainable when we are spiritually fed by the same Spirit that prompts us to bring Christ's love and justice to bear in our world. Each monthly segment shares a testimony of how a specific practice has been helpful for the faith formation or leadership development of an individual or congregation. The series will share resources (e.g., books, website, articles, videos) that give readers/viewers a chance to learn more about the practice and to use these tools to move forward in faithful efforts toward justice.

Watch the first powerful message from Rev. Sheila Spencer, who had to take time to embody the spiritual practice of rest before producing this message. She serves as Interim President of Disciples Home Missions for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Co-Convener of the Christian Education Faith Formation Leadership Development Table.

We hope this series will show connections across faith traditions that have some similarities in practices, helping to build stronger bridges of understanding around commitments to shaping spiritual lives and communities to be agents of peace and justice in the world.

Registration Deadline for the White Privilege: Let's Talk Dialogue Sessions is Mon., May 24
The NCC and Grace & Race Ministries, Inc. invite you to participate in White Privilege: Let’s Talk dialogue sessions. This 6-session course is designed as a sacred conversation on race and participants are expected to commit to attending all the sessions. The first five sessions are from 7:00 pm - 8:30pmEST each Wednesday in June. The sixth session will be determined by the participants.

The course is intentional in its focus on the history, impact and manifestations of White Privilege. You are welcome to register as an individual and/or as part of a church or community group that desires to engage as a team. The deadline for registration is Monday, May 24, 2021. 

The series has stemmed from the White Privilege: Let's Talk Webinar held on April 28, 2021. To learn more you can watch it here:
From our Partners
Coping With Loss: A Multi-Faith Webinar on Grief & Death
On Wednesday, May 26, 2021, 5-6pm ET, Rev. Dr. Leslie Copeland Tune, NCC Chief Operating Officer, will be speaking on the panel for Coping With Loss: A Multi-faith Webinar on Grief & Death hosted by the American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP) and The Partnership Center

With 580,000 recorded deaths in the U.S. from the COVID-19 pandemic, many have felt the pain of grief and the loss of loved ones in our communities. This important conversation will center on grief and perspectives on death and dying in various faith traditions. Attendees will gain insight into the different ways our faith and/or cultural traditions speak to the topic of grief and loss and provide suggestions for coping and building resilience.
Right to Live Without a Blockade
On Thursday, May 27, 2021, Jim Winkler will participate in a webinar, Right to Live Without a Blockade: The Impact of US Sanctions on the Cuban Population and Women’s Lives. Join Oxfam, the Martin Luther King Memorial Center in Cuba, and the Cuban Association of the UN to hear more about how the economic, commercial and trade embargo imposed by the US against Cuba for nearly 60 years affects the population on the island, with a heavy burden on Cuban women, particularly now in the midst of a global pandemic.

Join in English via Facebook: NewGoodNeighborPolicy or YouTube: Codepinkaction.
Info to Share: Help with Internet Expenses
Accessing the internet at home is essential to attend school 📚, work remotely 💼, connect with our doctors 🩺, and stay updated on health and safety guidelines 😷. Spread the word that, if eligible, members of our congregations can receive:
  • Up to a $50/month discount on your broadband service and associated equipment rentals
  • Up to a $75/month discount if your household is on qualifying Tribal lands
  • A one-time discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer (with a co-payment of more than $10 but less than $50)
#Get Vaccinated

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