The Bishop's Luncheon
As always, the Bishop’s Luncheon in Santa Fe lifted up the work of the Spirit and inspired us to partner with people who seek a more just society for all. On February 21, at La Fonda, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry honored four legislators, making up for the pandemic years when we didn’t have the luncheon. Each legislator had persisted with bills that didn’t always succeed the first time they were introduced, but what a difference they will make now. Here are the highlights:
- Senator Nancy Rodriquez of Santa Fe championed legislation to secure long-term funding for the New Mexico Housing Trust Fund. The Trust supports the NM Mortgage Finance Authority, helping fund initiatives for affordable housing for low- and moderate-income people and for the weatherization of older homes. Rodriguez also spoke about Linkages, which helps people with mental illnesses access housing and services.
- Senator Moe Maestas of Albuquerque, during his years in the House, championed the passage of HJR1 on early childhood education. It led to a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2022. Maestas mentioned the many long years of work on the resolution, dating back to the days of Ruth Hoffman. Now, early childhood care and education can be supported partly by interest from the Land Grant Permanent. New Mexico families will benefit—including those with limited economic resources.
- Representatives Susan Herrera of Embudo and Joy Garrett of Albuquerque succeeded in capping interest rates on short-term loans at 36%. Before that, high interest rates caught many low-wage borrowers in perpetual repayment cycles. Herrera spoke of initially considering a 66% cap—more likely to pass--but then her husband asked her what she really wanted. She set the 36% cap. Incidentally, she told us, her husband had been part of an organization that worked with Lutherans on immigration in Washington.
All the honorees mentioned Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-NM as a trusted partner in passing their legislation. We did it through Kurt Rager’s faithful public witness at the Roundhouse and through the calls and emails that we send to our senators and representatives.
The day in Santa Fe offered many more highlights: Pastor Paul Schick’s interactive devotions, Pastor Kristin Schultz’s luncheon invocation, briefings from justice workers such as Amber Wallin of New Mexico Voices for Children, and the inspiring words of Bishop Jim Gonia. St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, a long-time LAM-NM partner, received the Chris and John Haaland Advocacy Award. St. Andrew advocates on matters of health security and racial justice. They also hold nonpartisan public forums on critical issues where faith and politics intersect. Finally, one of the brightest aspects of the day was the presence of Hannah Rager, at eleven, our youngest attendee. Hannah helped with logistics and conversed with advocates, fully taking part in one of the best events I know of where faith enters the public square.