What’s Love Got to Do with It?

By Frances Bryant-Lowery

During the United Nation’s 62nd Commission on the Status of Women in New York City (or the Big Apple) this past March, each day’s activities began with an inspiring ecumenical worship service. Early each morning, delegates were invited to gather in the United Methodist Church’s Center for the United Nations to begin our long days with worship. It was a wonderful way to begin the day. During one of our morning gatherings, I was so moved by the following version of the Lord’s Prayer, I not only obtained a copy for my personal use but also included it when I facilitated my adult Sunday School class upon returning to Atlanta. Taken from the New Zealand Prayer Book, I now share it with you.


New Zealand Prayer Book


Eternal Spirit,

Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,

Source of all that is and that shall be,

Father and Mother of us all,

Loving God, in whom is heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!

The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!

Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!

Your commonwealth of peace and freedom

sustain our hope and come on earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.

In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.

In times of temptation and testing, strengthen us.

From trials too great to endure, spare us.

From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,

now and for ever. Amen.


Because God reigns “in the glory of the power that is love,” we find that this prayer speaks directly to the impact of attitudes and behaviors of so many around the world. Therefore, love has everything to do with how we live and interact with others. In Brenda Salter MacNeil’s book Road Map to Reconciliation: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness, and Justice, Dr. Cornel West is quoted as saying, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been quoted as saying, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” As we look at the United Nations Committee on the Status of Women, the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Goals, as well as our own interactions and/or behaviors, would you agree that love is the universal answer?

Rev. Dr. Frances Bryant-Lowery serves as Coordinator for Mission with Women and Girls in American Baptist Women’s Ministries.


UN Sustainable Development Goals: Goal #5 Gender Equality

By Sandra Hasenauer

e_sdg-goals_icons-individual-rgb-05We’ve addressed United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in previous blog posts; this week we’re highlighting SDG #5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

The empowerment of women and girls is key to a multitude of issues such as peace-making, economic development, and health and nutrition. Although there have been improvements in the state of women and girls in many areas—girls’ access to education, rates of child marriage, fewer maternal deaths—there is still a long way to go. This is why the targets of SDG #5 begin with ending “all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere,” and continue on to address eliminating all forms of violence, ending harmful practices such as child marriages and female genital mutilation, recognizing the value of unpaid care and domestic work, ensuring full political participation and participation in decision-making at all levels, ensuring access to health care, addressing rights to land ownership and property as well as other economic resources, enabling use of technology, and developing legislation to ensure gender equality.

Although practices such as child marriages and women’s right to vote can feel “over there” to us living in the United States, we cannot get complacent about our own situations. The 2015 reports of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research indicate that “the status of women in the area of poverty and opportunity has worsened in the majority of states (29) in the last decade.” 43% of single mothers live in poverty compared to less than 24% of single fathers. In another section of the report, it points out that Millennial women (aged 25-34) are more likely than men of the same age range to have bachelor’s degrees or higher, but at the same time are much more likely than their male counterparts to live in poverty. Violence against women still includes alarmingly high statistics and to complicate matters, only 15 states and D.C. have employment rights laws for victims of domestic violence (the right to leave work to seek services and legal aid, for example, or protect victims from employment discrimination), and in most states, victims of domestic violence are not “eligible to receive unemployment benefits if they leave their jobs without ‘good cause,’” such as needing to escape a violent partner. The good news here is that as of July 2014, 32 states and D.C. have now defined ‘good cause’ in such a way that it can include family violence.

abwm_logo_eng_72           American Baptist Women’s Ministries has a history of empowering women and girls from the very moment of our inception as an organization. We continue that engagement today as we read news headlines and attend to our communities and see where women and girls are…and are not…being encouraged and empowered. How can we help every women have the opportunity to support her family? How can we help women and children to feel safe in abwm_logo_esp_72their own homes? How can we help girls feel safe in their schools and secure in their futures?

God calls us to this day, to this hour: “to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and mantel of praise instead of a faint spirit,” (Isaiah 61:3, NRSV).

(For other posts in this series, click on “Sustainable Development Goals” in the category list to the right.)

headshot higherresRev. Sandra Hasenauer is associate executive director of AB Women’s Ministries.

UN Sustainable Development Goals: Goal #4 Quality Education

By Sandra Hasenauer

SDGs_poster_new1School isn’t just about grades. It’s about economic empowerment, delaying marriage and childbirth for girls (which also has an effect on economic empowerment as well as maternal and infant health), and building entire communities. Is it any wonder education is so important?

And yet, significant percentages of girls are still absent from schools the world over. Frankly, significant percentages of children–female and male–are absent from schools, but girls are far more likely to be kept out of school than boys in many parts of the world. Girls are often kept home to help mothers with meals, childcare of younger siblings, and other household duties. Girls stay home due to their menstrual cycles and lack of adequate supplies, missing days out of every month and putting them far behind their male counterparts. Girls are often married very young, and kept out of school to attend to their husbands’ households. Girls are not seen as worth the expense of education. There’s myriad reasons, all with the same end result: Girls are not in school and are therefore most likely trapped in a generational cycle of poverty.

Those of us living in the U.S. or any Western country may feel self-congratulatory. “Well, we don’t have that problem–our girls are in school!” we may say. And, of course, we’d mostly be right. In fact, recent statistics have shown that in many ways, girls are doing marginally better than boys in U.S. schools. That is, they’re doing better until you look at the statistics of teen pregnancies. When a girl gets pregnant, she’s far more likely to drop out of school, subsequently having fewer future employment prospects, higher risk for health and nutrition issues for both her and her child, and we begin to see the cycle of poverty kick into gear again. Happily, statistics for teen pregnancy have been dropping in recent years, although they’re still too high. Additionally, girls are often subject to sexual harrassment and bullying that can keep them underperforming; boys experience the same thing. Addressing sexual harrassment and bullying helps all students.

How can we help? Globally, we can be involved in advocacy efforts and support organizations working on equitable access to education and improving education standards the world over. Spread the word, pay attention, pray for all children’s access to education–especially girls where they experience inequality.

2014-07-26-19-35-45In the U.S., we can continue to encourage girls in their leadership development and navigating life’s challenges. Mentoring, developing girls’ ministries in your faith community, encouraging girls to have leadership in your women’s and congregational ministries–all of these things support girls’ education and girls’ development.

We can also launch or volunteer with organizations supporting teen moms–help them stay in school or get their GEDs, learn good parenting skills and important nutrition and health practices for themselves and their children, feel like they have a future.

And we can pray. Add girls’ education to your prayer list on a regular basis, because we know prayer transforms the world.

headshot higherresRev. Sandra Hasenauer is associate executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries. 

American Baptist Women’s Ministries has posted information on our website about the SDGs and has ideas or other resources available to help you think through how you or your faith community could work on these issues locally as well as globally.

Creation care

by Sandy Hasenauer

This post is related to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals on climate concerns.

Photo Oct 17, 9 29 18 AMI’ve had the good fortune to be able to spend a fair amount of time in my backyard this summer. I’ve been very intentional about wandering out there with my dogs immediately following work as many afternoons as possible. (This is a benefit to working from home–I don’t have to fight any more traffic than the jam created by two dogs trying to go downstairs from my office at the same time as I do.) By doing so, I’ve been able to renew my appreciation in God’s creation.

This appreciation was emphasized for me when I traveled to Boston to be with my DMin classmates for our summer intensive. One of my classmates, a Lutheran pastor, has chosen as her DMin project discovering ways for churches to express their sense of joy and connection with God’s creation. She has a lifetime of engagement in creation care issues, including working for international not-for-profits and a faith-based organization that encourages “green churches.” Her enthusiasm gets me more enthusiastic–her knowledge and experience is invaluable to me.

The science can be confusing, and when politics gets involved it’s hard to know which way is up. But there’s no questioning the fact that God gave us creation, and God has called us to be stewards of that creation, and our health and well-being as God’s servants is inextricably tied with the health and well-being of that creation.

The United Nations may not put a spiritual spin on it, but it has also recognized the critical role that a healthy creation plays in a healthy community. In addition to Goal 13, “Climate Action,” several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are related to that same theme: Goal 6 is “Clean Water and Sanitation,” Goal 7 is “Affordable and Clean Energy,” Goal 11 is “Sustainable Cities and Communities,” Goal 12 is “Responsible Consumption and Production,” Goal 13 is “Life Below Water,” and Goal 15 is “Life on Land.” Out of 17 total SDGs, seven directly reference creation care, although using other terminology. Additionally, other SDGs have tie-ins to climate, such as Goal #2 (ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture).

Did you know that studies have linked climate change to rising violence? An increase in temperature is closely related to increase in rates of acts of violence, including domestic violence and rape. This link again shows how inextricably tied together humanity and creation are.

The National Council of Churches has a website specifically for creation care/creation justice. At www.creationjustice.org you will find news, information, advocacy ideas, and resources for Christian education and worship. They also produce annual resources for Earth Day Sunday, environmental health resources, and other great materials. Check out their “Healthy Spa Workshop” for a great event idea!

My dogs are sitting at my office doorway reminding me that it’s time to finish work and head out to the backyard where tennis balls await. We’ll all be enjoying God’s creation together for awhile this afternoon again, it seems. I hope you’ll join me–touch some leaves, smell some flowers, throw a few tennis balls to your own furry companions. God has given us this beautiful world–we honor God by enjoying it and caring for it well.

headshot higherresRev. Sandra Hasenauer is the associate executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.






For more SDGs_poster_new1information about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, visit www.sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs. For more ideas about how you can address these goals in your ministry, click here.

What does it cost to eat healthy (or to live)?

By Rev. Lisa Harris-Lee

SDGs_poster_new1This post is related to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals #1-3, “No Poverty,” “Zero Hunger,” and “Good Health and Well-Being.” 

In the United States hunger, poverty, malnutrition and food deserts are linked together.  What appears contradictory in our nation is that hunger, poverty and food deserts are also linked to obesity – a contributing factor for many chronic and life-threatening illnesses experienced by both the young and elderly.

Also inconsistent is how the level of poverty and wealth varies in the world.  There are people in the world living somehow on $1.25 a day.  In the United States, that same $1.25 a day would be equal to about $32.54.  To a person living on $1.25, that $32.54 is barely conceivable as a possible daily income.  But for the person living in the United States, that $32.54 means they have to make hard choices about food, shelter, clothing, transportation, hygiene, safety, education and health care – choices that interfere significantly with their mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.  A single adult living on an annual salary of $11,880 or as a family of four living on $24,300 in the United States requires a lot of sacrifice and causes great distress.

As the United Nation has set goals to eradicate poverty and eliminate hunger, there is recognition that filling one’s stomach does not eliminate the problem of hunger if the food is detrimental to health, and being employed does not eradicate poverty if the income for the work is insufficient. To truly end hunger there must be equal access to nutritious options and sustainable agriculture. To truly end poverty there must be better access to basic housing, health and education services and economic resources that are constructive, not predatory.

Food deserts are communities that lack access to nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables because they lack grocery stores or the residents lack the resources to afford or get to the healthy food options. These deserts exist throughout the United States but, thankfully, there are food pantries, churches, and community centers that serve as oases for residents in these communities by intentionally providing good options for unprocessed, fresh, natural food.

In March, 2o16, Edna Martin Christian Center in Indianapolis, IN, hosted Congressman André Carson of Indiana’s 7th District as he introduced Food Desert Bill HR 4833.  He was motivated to introduce this bill because within one year five grocery stores closed in the low-income Indianapolis communities he serves and the loss was significant for those residents.

IMG00423201207111302Edna Martin Christian Center (EMCC), an American Baptist Home Mission Societies Neighborhood Action Program Christian Center, was chosen because they are located in one of those food desert communities. But they were also chosen because they are a community center that provides healthy food options every week to the community residents.  Tysha Sellers, the executive director of EMCC, is grateful for the healthy food EMCC can provide to residents but she is also advocating for grocery stores in the community because, as she says, “Edna Martin Center and food pantries are not a sufficient substitutes for the grocery needs of the community.”

The Food Desert Act through the Department of Agriculture would create new avenues to fund for-profit, non-profit, and municipally-owned grocery stores in underserved communities. It would also encourage the employment of residents of those communities. To learn more about this bill, visit  https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/4833.

There are beneficial and profitable solutions to hunger and poverty in our world. Most of those solutions revolve around an ethic of abundance rather than scarcity (well articulated by Walter Brueggemann and John W. Kinney) and an ethic that values the dignity and well-being of others. God has endowed us with the creativity to resolve hunger and poverty. May God heighten our collective conscience (or consciousness) to work together to do it.

Harris-Lee-Lisa-IMG_1777-X2-FOR-WEBRev. Lisa Harris-Lee is the national coordinator of Justice for Children Initiative and Christian Centers Liaison with American Baptist Home Mission Societies, ABC USA.

For more information on the Sustainable Development Goals, visit www.sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs. For more ideas about how you can address these goals in your ministry, click here.

United Nations “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”


2016-03-15 13.33.28 HDRThe United Nations Commission on the Status of Women is “the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women,” (www.unwomen.org). Each year in the early spring is a two-week colloquium that brings world leaders together to assess progress on targets and goals addressing these issues. During UNCSW, there are parallel events organized by NGOs (non-governmental organizations), free and open to the public, on a wide variety of topics. By attending the parallel events, you gain a deeper understanding of issues with impact on women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, as well as hearing about exciting initiatives and meeting inspiring leaders. Additionally, there are creative, moving ecumenical worship services each morning to bring women of faith together and bathe the experience in prayer.

American Baptist women frequently attend at least part of UNCSW. In 2016, AB Women’s Ministries national coordinator of Mission with Women and Girls, Bonnie Sestito, executive director Virginia Holmstrom, associate executive director Rev. Sandra Hasenauer, and national director of American Baptist Women in Ministry/Transformation Ministries, Rev. Dr. Patricia Hernandez, attended several days of the event. These participants learned about pornography and its connection to sex trafficking and violence against women; the vulnerability of refugee and stateless women to violence and trafficking; how women in disadvantaged communities are working together towards peace and justice; opening doors through interfaith dialogue, and more. Through conversations at the end of the day, they came to the conclusion it was imperative they share what they were learning with the wider audience of American Baptist women.

SDGs_poster_new1In 2015, the United Nations assess the progress that had been made on it’s 15-year Millennium Development Goals initiative begun in 2000. Although significant progress had been made in many areas, there is obviously still more work to be done. Therefore, the UN launched “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” The 2030 agenda has 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all,” (www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/).

Although many of these issues may seem overwhelming and, in some cases, “far away,” there are many ways that congregations or women’s and girls’ ministry groups can become engaged in the betterment of our global neighborhood. To that end, American Baptist Women’s Ministries has posted information on our website about the SDGs and has ideas or other resources available to help you think through how you or your faith community could work on these issues locally as well as globally. (Lose this link? Just go to http://www.abwministries.org and hover your cursor over “Mission Focus.” It’s one of the options in the drop-down list that appears.)

May God bless our efforts to care for our world and all who inhabit it. Amen.