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St. Barnabas Norwich Says “Alleluia!” Through United Valley Interfaith Project

NORWICH, VERMONT – St. Barnabas Episcopal Church is one of 15 faith communities that make up the United Valley Interfaith Project (UVIP). UVIP seeks to “brings good news to the poor” and strengthen the communities it represents by building social and cultural ties between low- and middle-income people; between immigrants and those born in the United States; and between seniors and younger families. A significant portion of UVIP’s work focuses on social justice. To help fund UVIP’s social justice work, The Episcopal Church in Vermont presented St. Barnabas with a $2,500 grant in March 2019 earmarked for the UVIP’s Immigrant Justice, Economic Justice, and Aging with Dignity initiatives.

The Rev. Jennie Anderson said, “St. Barnabas has experienced, through working with UVIP, just how essential the hard work of creating a more just world through our faith and our faith communities is. I am very grateful for the efforts of UVIP.”

To follow is the UVIP 2018 Annual Report, which includes a summary of St. Barnabas’ ongoing activities with the organization. UVIP Lead Organizer Asma Elhuni has also provided photos to share with members and friends of The Episcopal Church in Vermont.

United Valley Interfaith Project (UVIP) 2018 Annual Report
Jane Hooper, St. Barnabas’ UVIP Representative

UVIP is a coalition of 15 faith communities which have come together to work for the common good of our region—the central Connecticut River Valley region of New Hampshire and Vermont. Our goal is to strengthen our region by tackling the systemic issues which contribute to poverty and impede justice in this area.  This is done through building mutual relationships and developing new leaders within those who are affected by these issues.  We see this as a way of living out our faith and values.

Asma Elhuni became UVIP’s Lead Organizer in May, 2018.  She is Muslin, is an American citizen, wears a hijab, and has a strong background in community organizing. Besides working with the UVIP member groups, she has held several public events (“Islam 101”) to give an opportunity for those persons who are interested in having a deeper understanding of Islam and what it means to be Muslin in America. Asma spoke at St. Barnabas in the Oct. “Sharing our Stories” and will be coming to a St. Barnabas service in the near future.  Another staff member that is working for UVIP is Aaron DiBacco, working primarily in the Claremont area.

Our Partners & Coalitions:  UVIP is a strong believer in building coalitions with other like-minded organizations to build collective power for NH and VT. Besides the Granite State Organizing Project (GSOP), our sister organizing group in Manchester, NH alliances include: the “New Hampshire Alliance for a Moral Economy” which organizes with UVIP and GSOP for economic justice issues and the NH “Voices of Faith,” a faith-based advocacy group that helps us frame our social justice work in moral terms. We are also linked to Vermont Interfaith Action (VIA), a group like UVIP and GSOP but across Vermont. UVIP is also part of the Voices of Faith National Network (formerly PICO).

UVIP’s Work is primarily accomplished through three teams:

The Economic Justice (Moral Economy) Team has been actively working with the NH Alliance to protect worker rights and expand worker benefits. We continue to use our collective efforts as the “Raise up New Hampshire” campaign, seeking to raise wages, secure paid sick leave, secure stronger protections for temporary workers, and protect food stamps and Medicaid for low-income families. In Claremont, the EC team is working to organize low-income renters to learn their rights as tenants and to stand up to abusive landlord practices. The team sometimes makes trips to Concord to gain support for legislative proposals related to these topics. Another major accomplishments this year is the work to forge deep partnerships with Listen, The Haven and Good Neighbor Health Clinic to help organize the collective voice and power of their clients as self-advocates for change in their communities.

UVIP’s local Seniors Aging with Dignity team was developed from identifying the needs within many of our own member groups through using round tables. Many seniors wish to remain in their homes and their communities, but may lack the tools, resources, and support to do so. With our allies, we have continued to fight to preserve senior support programs like Meals on Wheels. UVIP has revised the Useful Tools for Aging with Dignity course from 5 weeks to 3 weeks. The course gives seniors tools for organizing key information, staying engaged in their communities, and planning for future medical needs. Successful courses have been offered at the Lebanon Senior Center, a group in Cornish NH; the Meriden Congregational Church; St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, WRJ; and Lebanon United Methodist Church. I would urge St. B. to consider offering the Useful Tools course, possibly asking another congregation to join us. There are always two facilitators, usually from the congregation, to lead the program.  Both Sally McFarlin – whom many of you know – and I have taken the Facilitator Training course.

The Immigrant Justice team, with our partners in the NH Immigrant Support Network, continue to  be  involved as the threats to immigrants without documents, often living peacefully among us, have increased. As they are moved further into the shadows, terrorized by the threat of deportation and the tearing apart of families, GSOP, UVIP and our Coalition partners are moving aggressively to create protections, to educate the public on our broken immigration system and their rights, to visibly show support for immigrants reporting into ICE with interfaith Prayer Vigils. One aspect of this was a four-day, 40-mile Immigrant Solidarity Walk. We alert people to avoid Customs & Border Patrol checkpoint intercepts on I-93 in northern NH; to rapidly deploy people to sites of ICE raids on homes or workplaces; and to stand as observers and reporters of their deeds. Networks of faith communities, including one within the local UVIP region, have been developed to provide support for immigrant families at risk. The Vermont Interfaith Action (VIA) is focusing on the same issues at the Statehouse and ICE offices in Montpelier.

About the Alleluiafund. Because of your generosity in 2017 and 2018, the Alleluiafund exceeded its goal. This means, not only did we meet our predetermined commitments to Rock Point Camp, Rock Point Property, and various local and global outreach ministries, but we were also able to provide additional funding for many more things that make you say, “Alleluia!” The Alleluiafund supports vital ministries that are beyond the capacity of our diocesan budget, and every dollar raised goes directly to selected ministries. Historically, the selected ministries have included Rock Point Camp, Rock Point Commons, and various other outreach ministries agreed upon at each year’s Annual Convention. In 2019, we agreed to focus on Rock Point, Rock Point Camp, and ministries related to the priorities set by our Presiding Bishop and the General Convention, which include reconciliation, evangelism, and creation care.

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