I attended Ecumenical Advocacy Days in DC from April 21-24. This is an annual gathering of progressive Christians from different denominational backgrounds all over the country, joining in an effort to advocate for peace and justice. There were close to 1,000 attendees and many more followed the live-stream on Facebook.
This year's theme was what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the "giant triplets": Racism, Extreme Materialism, and Militarism. It was quite an eye-opener to look at all the issues he named 50 years ago that we still haven't moved forward on significantly. He also pointed out that if the church does not reclaim its prophetic zeal it will become an irrelevant social club without any moral or spiritual authority. (Speech at Riverside Church April 4, 1967 - not quoted verbatim.) OUCH and AMEN!
Tamika Mallory, National Co-Chair of the Women's March on Washington, asked: "What happened to the church? Where is the church?" She encouraged us to discuss political issues with family members instead of avoiding those conversations. "Discomfort is what gets us moving."
We heard some very powerful speeches and sermons about racism and white privilege. Our own General Minister and President Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer was among the speakers. Two African-American women stated they had never heard a white man address the issue of white privilege so openly. Please contact me if you'd like to learn more.
The last day was Lobby Day and we were trained in our respective State groups about how to have conversations with our Senators' and House Representative's staff. These visits were the most informative for me.
We learned that we have work to do locally:
Have conversations about controversial issues in our towns, even our churches, and not just with those we know agree with us. Educate people about healthcare, housing, public education, systemic racism, etc. Attend town hall meetings and rallies. Representatives come back energized and encouraged if these events have a good turnout and show support to them.
Also, phone calls are a great way of letting them know we are behind them, or that we disagree with them about a particular issue. They tally the calls and take those numbers into the legislation meetings to back up their position.
So make a brief call once a week!
If you are interested in the theological foundation, go to advocacydays.org or Ecumenical Advocacy Days' Facebook page. You can watch the plenary sessions and sermons that shook the house.
Some of the most inspirational quotes for me were, "Pray with your feet and worship with your actions." "Jesus never said, Praise me. He said, Follow me." "Jesus got in trouble. Until the church gets in trouble, nothing will change." "Stop trying to make Jesus fit our visions of church and strive to make our lives fit his." "Congregations can be both spiritual and justice-oriented. They are not mutually exclusive." And my favorite, the most provocative one for those of us who are pastors or church members: "If your church isn't doing social justice work, you need to find another church."
We are not doing partisan politics. We are working towards the kind of community God envisioned for us: Where the rich and powerful look out for the most vulnerable, in Biblical language: the widows and orphans.
This is not being "too political". This is what our faith mandates us to do.
We were also reminded of the power we have as people of faith, if we believe that God is powerful and working through us. And we are powerful as tax payers because the members of the Senate and the House work for us, not the other way around!
While we were meeting with our Representative, others from our group were arrested. I still don't fully understand what for, but they were ready and prepared for it. Apparently, Capitol police consider prayer an act of protest. Read more here.
Those of you that are new to all this but want to get involved in this grassroots movement: subscribe to Jen Hofman's weekly action checklist here.
Rev. Valeria Schmidt
Trinity Church of Northborough
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