Church joins One path to aid poor

Glenwood parish takes global view

February 19, 2007|By Chris Emery | Chris Emery,Sun reporter

During morning services at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Glenwood yesterday, parishioners received a new accessory: white plastic bracelets inscribed with the word "One."

Like the yellow cancer-awareness bracelets popularized by bicyclist Lance Armstrong, the white bracelets are a marketing device. They are symbolic of the One Campaign, an effort to end global poverty that's spearheaded by Bono, frontman of the rock band U2.

The U.S. Episcopal Church joined Bono's campaign last summer, and St. Andrew's parishioners got a taste yesterday of what it means to be a "One Congregation" - from signing petitions concerning proposed legislation in Congress to attending church services accompanied by rock music.

"We are all being called, each one of us, to make a difference," the Rev. Mary Jayne Ledgerwood told her congregation, after ushers distributed brochures explaining the church's participation in the One Campaign.

In addition to ending extreme poverty, the campaign has adopted the Millennium Development Goals, a blueprint established by the United Nations for improving the lives of people in developing countries by 2015. The goals, which have been endorsed by 190 countries including the United States, also include halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, empowering women, providing universal primary education and reducing child mortality.

Unlike traditional outreach efforts by the church that focused on directly collecting and distributing money and resources to the needy, the One Campaign aims to leverage public opinion to change American foreign aid policy. (The name of the campaign comes from its goal of having 1 percent of the yearly U.S. national income go to poverty-related development aid.)

"We as Christians need to think of other ways to make a difference," Thomas Hart, an Episcopalian and spokesman for the One Campaign, told St. Andrew's parishioners in a presentation after the morning service. "The policies that our government adopts can really help."

Hart, who is deputy director of Debt AIDS Trade Africa, a nonprofit organization founded by Bono, said policy analysts from the organization would study U.S. policy and provide guidance to One participants as to how proposed legislation would affect people in developing nations. Based on that information, the participants could then call or write their representatives in Congress to express their opinion on an issue.

Ledgerwood said she had no problem with churches trying to influence politics. "We as churches think we can't be political or use our voice," she said. "But Jesus is an advocate."

Hart said debt relief efforts - often focused on African nations - have already made vast improvements in people's living conditions, such as providing funds for millions more children to attend school and receive immunizations. "But obviously the work is not finished," he said.

During a question-and-answer session after Hart's presentation, one parishioner asked how much of an influence the congregation could have on politicians.

Hart explained that the One Campaign has been widely marketed to people from all walks of life, in part by using the star power of celebrities like George Clooney and Matt Damon.

"We're ganging up on the problem," he said.

Cynthia Develley of Brookeville in Montgomery County said she was inspired by the discussion of the plight of the poor. "I feel like I need to go out and do something," she said.

Her husband, John Develley, said he thought the One Campaign would also play well with younger generations, including the couple's 11-year-old son, Nathan. "He wants to learn to play the guitar," Develley said. "Bono is someone for him to emulate."

Ledgerwood said she plans to leverage some of Bono's cachet herself in a coming service dubbed a "U2charist."

"It's actually a worship service, but the prayers will be about poverty, and Bono's songs will play," she said. "It's a rock service."

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