|NBC documentary focuses on poverty, housing|
Snapped pine trees and a ruined roof show the
wind power of Hurricane Katrina in Ocean Springs, Miss. A UMNS file
photo by Mike DuBose.
A UMNS Report by Linda Bloom*
Nov. 8, 2006
For a magnified example of how poverty, housing and a just society are intertwined, take a look at the Gulf Coast.
That's exactly what United Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert has done in
his role as chairperson of the Special Commission for the Just
Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast for the National Council of Churches.
Bishop Melvin G. Talbert
Talbert is one of the religious and political leaders featured in
"Building on Faith: Making Poverty Housing History." The documentary,
from the National Council of Churches, will be shown on NBC-TV affiliate
stations beginning Dec. 10.
Shirley Struchen, a United Methodist who served as executive
producer, is encouraging church members to contact their local NBC
stations and ask them to schedule the documentary for broadcast on a
specific date between Dec. 10 and June 10.
Talbert told United Methodist News Service he has been "highly
frustrated at times" with what has seemed to be the lack of progress,
even a year later, in the region's recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Part
of the problem has been the devastation of homes and livelihoods.
Bad planning - and the lack of planning - also has been a factor.
"People aren't wanting to accept responsibility for the failure on the
part of groups to act," he said. "We need to face up to the fact that we
all blew it at some point."
The real question, he added, is "what are we going to do now?" After
attending an Aug. 19 retreat with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and
religious leaders, Talbert said he realized he was being too impatient
with the process and had to be prepared to "live with the good and the
bad of it."
He's also optimistic because of ongoing conversations with people and
groups in the region. Talbert's brother-in-law, for example, suffered
losses from the hurricane but is back in his renovated house and has
reopened a business.
But many others don't have the knowledge or the networks needed to
achieve affordable housing. That's why needs must be matched with
resources, the bishop said.
A basic right
"Building on Faith: Making Poverty Housing History," narrated by
broadcast journalist Linda Ellerbee, focuses on the idea that having a
safe and secure home is a basic right in a just society.
Among those discussing that issue in the hour-long documentary are
Jonathan Reckford, chief executive of Habitat for Humanity, and former
vice presidential candidates John Edwards and Jack Kemp. Kemp once
served as the secretary of Housing and Development.
At Rising Hope United Methodist Mission
Church, members Marionette Changes and Andy Powell pack bags full of
produce for distribution to the homeless. A UMNS photo by Kathy L.
Various people will share their personal stories about dealing with
the high cost of housing, and several leading experts on the topic of
affordable housing will speak.
Talbert said the documentary is "essential" because it demonstrates
how individuals and families can improve their housing situations and
their lives through assistance from groups, including the church, "that
take seriously the issue of poverty and housing.
"As the church, there is no option for us," he explained. "Our faith
calls us to address the issue of poverty. Closely related to poverty is
housing. We can't be silent on this issue."
Also spotlighted in the documentary is Rising Hope United Methodist
Church in Alexandria, Va., where the Rev. Keary C. Kincannon is pastor.
Rising Hope has a multi-faceted ministry working to solve housing
The church was established in 1996 to bring "spiritual and material
relief" to people who live in the area. About 60 percent of its members
are homeless or have been homeless at some point.
Other religious leaders featured in the documentary include the Rev. Bob
Edgar, a United Methodist and the NCC's chief executive; Jim Wallis,
president and executive director of Sojourners/Call to Renewal; Mark J.
Pelavin, associate director of Religious Action Center of Reformed
Judaism; Sayyid M. Syeed, national interfaith director of the Islamic
Society of North America; Brenda Girton-Mitchell, executive for justice
and advocacy, NCC; Sharon Watkins, general moderator, Christian Church
(Disciples of Christ); and Brad Hewitt, senior vice president of
fraternal operations, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
Mennonite Media is producer of the program for the NCC as part of the
Interfaith Broadcasting Commission's partnership with NBC-TV. Viewers
can visit http://www.interfaithbroadcasting.com/onair.aspx to see which stations have scheduled the program to date.
Those without a local listing can call their NBC station to express
interest in "Building on Faith" or join with other faith groups to
encourage the broadcast or buy time so the station will air the program.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Scenes from "Building on Faith: Making Poverty Housing History"
Virginia churches serve secondary victims
NCC special commission says 'Never again'
Scheduled air times
National Council of Churches
NCC Special Commission
Hunger (UMC.org theme page)