The Voices for Earth Justice Interfaith Prayer Breakfast on the National Day or Prayer (May 2) will serve as the official launch for the 30-day statewide “RISE UP for Justice” campaign.
“People and planet are so tightly tied together,” said VEJ executive director BT Irwin. “When you start talking about one, you end up talking about the other. The way we treat the planet tells us a lot about how we treat people. How we treat people tells us a lot about how we treat the planet. All are in need of justice and you just can’t choose one and ignore the other. That’s why we’re so pleased to launch the ‘RISE UP for Justice’ campaign at the Interfaith Prayer Breakfast on May 2.”
The Rise Up for Justice campaign will call people of faith from across the state to devote the month of May to prayer and action against five “evils” in society:
Statewide leadership for the “RISE UP for Justice” campaign comes from The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. The Poor People’s Campaign traces its roots to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, 1968 campaign of the same name. That campaign sought to mobilize Americans against what Dr. King called “The Three Evils of Society”: Systemic racism, poverty, and the “war economy.”
Organizers of the new Poor People’s Campaign added ecological devastation and distorted morality to the original “Three Evils.”
Participants in Michigan’s “RISE UP for Justice” campaign will coordinate prayer, conversation, and action around each of the five “evils” over five weeks. VEJ will help lead the statewide focus on “ecological devastation.”
“The planet is not separate from us,” said Rev. Cass Charrette, one of the organizers for the “RISE UP for Justice” campaign. “Let us feel ourselves rooted in the planet and reverberate that energy out into the world. Humanity is called to assist God in the co-creation of a new consciousness that is life-sustaining. Each of us is an influencer of this light and play a vital role in the actions it will take to create a responsible, caring, just world.”
At the Voices for Earth Justice Interfaith Prayer Breakfast on May 2, clergy from different faiths will offer prayers for people and planet. Rev. Faith Fowler, a pioneer in urban environmental and social justice work, will offer keynote remarks. Chef Annabel Cohen will serve a breakfast with options for most religious diets. “RISE UP for Justice” organizers will share their plan and vision for the campaign. Proceeds from ticket sales support VEJ’s interfaith environmental education, outreach, and volunteer programs.
Guests may reserve their seats in advance at voices4earth.org/breakfast. While VEJ suggests a donation of $35, guests may reserve their seats for as little or as much as they like. Reservations may also be made over the phone at (313) 355-6042.
We live hectic, emotionally-charged, and situationally complex lives, which means it often takes a conscious effort to remind ourselves that we, as human beings, are residents of Earth’s arms. Earth Day gives us such an opportunity to participate--individually or collectively--in moments, events, and actions that will re-center our energy on creation.
This week, I had the opportunity to help start some seeds for the garden. As I created little crevices in the soil & sprinkled seeds into the ground, my heart settled & my brain eased. Small moments like these remind me of how incredibly connected I am to the soil that squishes between my toes, the breeze that flushes my cheeks, and sun that makes my heart soar and plants grow. They remind me of how richly interdependent we are on each other & all of creation.
Take a breath, and get yourself started on a more mindful, planet-conscious path on Earth Day! Reinvigorate yourself by attending an event, crafting a prayer, or planting a tree on April 22 (or the weekend preceding it). There are several fantastic events taking place in Detroit or the Metro-Detroit area. Our staff has compiled a list of our favorite Earth Day events & activities below.
At Voices for Earth Justice, we work to practice Earth care & connection every day. We have several programs this spring & summer that uptake prayer, education, and action to care for creation. You can check out these programs at our website to carry on your Earth Day renewed energy & spirit in the practice of everyday Earth Justice.
~ MiIPL Earth Day Sermon Contest
Whether you are a seasoned sermon writer or a beginner, you can bring the passion of intersecting faith & earth justice to pen & paper. Submit your words of passion to this contest!
~ Brightmoor Artisans Collective Earth Day Event
Tree planting & socializing are two wonderful ways to take action on Earth Day!
~ Kensington Metropark Earth Day Clean Up
Roll up your sleeves for Earth. Join in for litter pick-up & general park clean-up.
~ Earth Day Event with Keep Growing Detroit
Plant some gorgeous little cuties (plants), and then dine out for lunch.
~Creation Justice Ministries
This link provides a downloadable 2019 Earth Day Resource for Christian Education.
~West Bloomfield Parks Earth Day Celebration
Planting trees, live animal interactions, recycled crafts, & more! This is an awesome family-friendly way to get everyone involved in celebrating Earth Day.
~ Belle Isle Green Day
Earth-friendly crafts, games, storytelling, keeper talks, and exhibits by local conservation groups. Join in on the fun on Belle Isle to celebrate the planet!
VEJ's 2019 Community Meals series sets the table for the first time on Sunday, May 5.
Community Meals will bring together friends of VEJ and neighbors from Detroit's Brightmoor and Old Redford for curated discussion, chef-prepared local food (some from VEJ's garden), and expert presentations on food and sustainability.
"You want to do Earth justice? Start with food," said VEJ executive director BT Irwin. "Nothing, nothing, has a bigger impact on the health of the planet and its peoples than food. So, what better way to talk about that than by bringing people together around a table to share a meal?"
At each Community Meal, chefs will use as much local produce as they can to prepare a delicious dinner. Experts on food justice and food sustainability will give short talks, then lead discussions among those who attend.
Guests may attend for free, but seating is limited to 24 and VEJ will "pass the hat" to help cover the costs of hosting the event.
The first Community Meal features food by Chef Nicole Seals and a talk by Tommie Obioha of Detroit Sustainability Ambassadors. Sign up here.
Find the complete list of 2019 Community Meals here.
Voices for Earth Justice (VEJ) will host its first-ever Interfaith Prayer Breakfast on the National Day of Prayer (May 2) at Congregational Church of Birmingham in Bloomfield Hills. In addition to prayers from interfaith clergy, guests will enjoy remarks from Rev. Faith Fowler of Cass Community Social Services and the food of Chef Annabel Cohen.
Tickets are on sale at https://vejbreakfast.eventbrite.com
Since this is a big, new event for VEJ, voices4earth.org sat down with VEJ executive director BT Irwin to ask him to explain the "why" behind this event.
v4e.org: Where did the idea for an interfaith prayer breakfast come from?
BTI: Well, it's not an original idea at all. I suppose most people who are friends of VEJ have some experience going to interfaith events like this. Groups like the Interfaith Leadership Council of Detroit and WISDOM have been hosting events like this for years.
v4e.org: So, why do you feel like VEJ needs to do one? What about VEJ's interfaith prayer breakfast is going to be different from other events like it?
BTI: VEJ is a little different from other interfaith organizations in southeast Michigan. Whereas interfaith relationships are the focus and the mission of those organizations, VEJ's focus and mission is environmental justice. We believe that people of all faiths have a part to play in that mission and--let's say divine reasons--to play that part. Faith is a powerful force that moves people to live certain lifestyles and make certain choices. Faith communities are powerful influencers on personal lives and on society as a whole. Imagine the impact on our world when faith and faith communities become powerful influencers for environmental justice. So, I'd say that element--environmental justice--is what sets VEJ apart from most other interfaith work happening in southeast Michigan.
v4e.org: And you feel like hosting a prayer breakfast is the best way to do that?
BTI: It's a start. It's been awhile since VEJ has done any of its own programming that focuses on building up the interfaith community in southeast Michigan. That's not to say VEJ hasn't been doing work that brings people of different faiths together. Our volunteer program at Hope House & Gardens brings in people of a lot of different faiths to work side by side. But the garden and the neighborhood are the focus of that work. Our new community dinners and Wonder Walks programs are for people of all faiths and we are seeing a lot of diversity in the people who attend. But, in terms of a program that really lifts up and serves those who are doing interfaith work in southeast Michigan, we haven't had anything like that in awhile. And, since food is our focus right now, a breakfast seemed to make the most sense for bringing people together and serving them.
v4e.org: Why are you charging for the breakfast?
BTI: The short answer is that hosting an event like this costs money and VEJ does not have a lot of money. We have to be able to cover our costs and then some.
The long answer has two parts:
First, we believe we are giving people something of great value--Chef Cohen's food, Rev. Fowler's remarks, fellowship with great people--that is worth a lot more than the price of a ticket. We did our homework and the price we set for tickets is both in line for events like this and fair and reasonable for the people we're inviting to the event. I've been doing events for almost 20 years and people put more into things for which they pay. In the nonprofit sector, we have a bad habit of undervaluing what we offer the world and, as a consequence, the world often undervalues us. VEJ is offering a lot of value and we think that is worthy of people's commitment and financial support.
Second, we're trying to take VEJ from a $70,000 a year operation to a $250,000 a year operation over the next few years. Why? Because that's what it is going to take to be a stable, strong, sustainable mission organization. For most of our history, we've gotten by on a few big gifts or grants that come in once in awhile. The problem is that when those big gifts and grants run out, you have to start all over again. We preach resilience and sustainability at VEJ. So, we need to practice those things as well. That means building a growing community of friends--we think about 500 people over the next few years--who give lots of different kinds of gifts at lots of different levels. For each of them, giving to VEJ is a passionate, personal, purposeful choice--whether its $5 or $50,000.
So, the interfaith prayer breakfast is about growing that new community of friends and practicing mutual giving and sharing together. We are putting together an event that we believe will be inspiring, uplifting, and valuable to everyone who attends. We are asking those who attend to support VEJ so that we can do more programs like this. We're encouraging a community that works together toward a common dream.
v4e.org: Tell us a little more about the program you put together.
BTI: We wanted to put together a program that would fill people with joy. That's the word: "Joy." It starts with the people you will meet when you walk in the room. They may be different from you, but you will also find them to be friends who want many of the same things you want. Who isn't joyful about making new friends in unexpected places? Who doesn't feel more hopeful about the world when that happens?
When you listen to Rev. Fowler's story, I don't think you can walk away feeling cynical and hopeless about the world. We wanted Rev. Fowler because we wanted to remind people of what is possible. What can be more joyful than possibility?
When you eat Chef Cohen's food, you're going to feel joyful. Look, God didn't have to make tastebuds, right? Our bodies seem to be designed to experience beauty and wonder at every point of contact with the world. What is more joyful than eating extraordinary food and knowing the story of where that food comes from?
And, of course, praying together bathes the entire thing in divine blessing. What could be more joyful than that?
v4e.org: Why May 2 instead of Earth Day? Wouldn't Earth Day make more sense for VEJ?
BTI: It would, but Earth Day falls at a time this year that conflicts with some holy days for many of our friends. We couldn't be faithful to our interfaith friends and have the event on or near Earth Day.
So, we picked the National Day of Prayer (May 2) instead. There is an element of protest here. While the National Day of Prayer started in the 1950s, it has become more and more of an evangelical Christian observance. In fact, the foundation that promotes the National Day of Prayer does not hide that it is an evangelical Christian organization with an evangelical Christian political and social agenda. As an evangelical Christian myself, I'm saying you can't have a "national day of prayer" if it's just evangelical Christians praying for their version of America. A true national day of prayer is a day when people of all faiths pray together for something much bigger than themselves--for the people of this world and for the planet itself. So, you could say that we are "taking back" the National Day of Prayer for people of all faiths to pray for all people and places on this planet.
v4e.org: Is there anything else you want people to know about the Interfaith Prayer Breakfast?
BTI: Yes, this is a really, really big deal. It's a big deal for VEJ because it's the biggest event for the most people that we've put on in a long time--maybe ever. It's a big deal for southeast Michigan because it's one of the only public interfaith prayer events taking place on the National Day of Prayer. The relationships that can form at this event can lead to big things for Earth justice down the road.
And it's a big deal for you if you choose to attend. You're saying that entrusting your energy, money, and time to VEJ for one morning is better than anything else you can do with those things at that same time. I believe that, if you come, you'll be very glad you did. And if you're not, I'll personally reimburse you for it.
Early bird tickets to the Voices for Earth Justice Interfaith Prayer Breakfast are $55 through Thursday, April 11. Regular tickets ($65) are on sale through April 26.
You may purchase tickets online at https://vejbreakfast.eventbrite.com
Or, make your check to Voices for Earth Justice and write "breakfast" in the memo line. Send to Voices for Earth Justice, 15894 Greydale Street, Detroit, MI 48223.
Call (313) 355-6042 for questions.