Month June 2014

2013 Houghton Faith and Justice Symposium

What do faith and justice look like when they intersect with poverty and hunger?
Last week, the Houghton College Center for Faith, Justice and Global Engagement invited hundreds to respond to issues of poverty and hunger during its third annual Faith and Justice Symposium. The official theme of the symposium was “Global Poverty & Hunger: Unveiling the Connections, Seeking Solutions”. Those who attended were challenged to use their voices to break the systematic injustice that keeps hungry people trapped in poverty.

The Faith and Justice Symposium began on Wednesday, September 25 as Dr. Calenthia Dowdy addressed those on the Houghton Campus during a chapel session. She challenged those in attendance to take a step further than having compassion for poor people or caring for poor people. We are called to action. We must walk with the poor in the fight against poverty and hunger, ensuring that we do not judge or marginalize them. This theme continued for the duration of the symposium as numerous special speakers addressed the intrinsic link between poverty and hunger. Experts in various fields of study or work, including food security, immigration reform, vulnerable populations, arts, advocacy, and theology, explained the multidimensional aspects of poverty in the world. As attention was placed on the key issues of poverty and hunger, participants were challenged to respond with authentic engagement.

Eugene Cho was featured in a chapel service on Friday, September 27, after giving a short devotional thought to kick of Friday morning. Rachel Woodworth, a junior at Houghton College, expressed gratitude for Eugene Cho’s message:

“He called me out on the gap between love of justice and the actual practice and pursuit of justice…His invitation to join in Christ’s redeeming and restoring work was hard to refuse.”

Over the course of the symposium, a wide range of events were held, appealing to a variety of interests. A few of the highlights include the interactive Hunger Dinner during which participants received a colored card that represented a specific income level. Each income level indicated which meal the participant would receive, the highest income level being a steak dinner, the lowest being a glass of water. There was a time of reflection and debriefing on the experience, focused on how people felt and responded in each context.

Other events included opportunity for artistic expression as participants reflected on hunger. An art exhibit and coffeehouse time, led by Tracy Howe Wispelwey of Restoration Village Arts, was held Thursday night and participants were invited to express their personal reflections on hunger as they painted plates, a project entitled ‘A Full Plate’. These plates will be featured in Houghton’s Ortlip Gallery and down at another art show organized by Houghton Alum, Charlotte Keniston ’07, as part of her Master’s Thesis project. Additionally, representatives from the organization, Bread for the World, compelled participants to engage with world hunger even further as they led a seminar on Friday morning entitled “Hunger 101—Exploring the Basics, Finding our Roots, Acting in Faith”.

The events of the symposium reflected a great need for an active response to hunger at a local level, even as the issue was addressed on a global scale. Representatives from Allegany County, where Houghton is situated, participated in a panel discussion which focused on poverty and hunger in the county. On Friday evening, following a showing of “A Place At the Table”, a film which addressed poverty in the United States, there was a time of collective reflection and response. Then, Saturday morning, the 28th of September, participants were given opportunity for service as they visited a local organization, Wellspring Ministries, for which students had collected a variety of canned food items, pulled from a list they had sent to Houghton.

 Overall, the Faith and Justice Symposium of 2013 received a powerful reaction from the Houghton student body. A senior at Houghton College, Brittany Libby, referred to the symposium as “inspiring” as it provides an “opportunity to create a dialogue between peers at school and to be hands on with issues that are not only in textbooks but are relevant to our community”. Connor Vogan, from the graduating class of 2015, appreciated the symposium as it “served as a great reminder … of the power that exists within the body of Christ worldwide, and ways in which that power can be used to bring about social justice, restoration, and transformation to the marginalized”.

Hunger and poverty impede development as it suppresses the social, psychological, spiritual, and economic wellbeing of millions of people. We are called to an active response. Joining with this call, the Houghton College Center for Faith, Justice and Global Engagement invites all who will listen to engage with poverty and hunger. Join us as we continue the conversation. We will not stop advocating for justice that changes programs, practices and policies, both locally and globally.