Going virtual doesn't change the importance of Advocacy DayMissions and Outreach
For many people, political discussions focus solely on the President, United States Senate, and the federal government's actions. However, while those can be interesting enough, the actions that directly impact Floridians' everyday lives happen in Tallahassee's state legislature.
It's where the future of public schools, social programs, voting rights, and other kitchen-table issues are decided.
State lawmakers are halfway through their annual legislative session, which means things are heating up. Normally, volunteers from the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church would travel to Tallahassee to directly meet lawmakers in a tradition known as Florida Advocacy Day.
The pandemic made face-to-face meetings impossible, however.
So, organizers adjusted. They have arranged for the first virtual Advocacy Day, with training scheduled for April 7. The deadline to register for training is Sunday, April 3. Follow this link to register.
Those interested also can contact ConMin@flumc.org with any questions or if they want to be included on the group's mailing list. The event also will be recorded and posted to the Advocacy Day web page.
|In past years, Advocacy Day attracted many volunteers for face-to-face meetings with lawmakers. This year, the pandemic forced the outreach to be virtual.|
"Usually, we have training for a few days and then physically walk to the Capitol and talk directly with the lawmakers. We can't do that this year because of the pandemic," said Nick Quinton of Trinity UMC in Tallahassee.
"Usually, we talk about bills we're either in favor of or in opposition to. We'll still do that, but we can't walk together to the Capitol. So, the question is how we help people advocate from their homes? How can we equip them about the issues?"
It starts with familiarizing everyone with the issues. Approximately 60 volunteers have already raised their hands to participate. This year, these are the main issues.
• Supporting access to school meals for children
• Supporting access to healthcare through Medicaid expansion
• Preserving funding for housing with the Sadowski Coalition
• Promoting criminal justice reform through civil citation
• Defending our right to free speech.
"All the Advocacy Days are important, but now more than ever, we see civil unrest in some areas. We obviously want economic justice for all people. But ultimately for me when it comes to advocating, decisions are being made for people who are not in the room," said Kelli Greene of Florida Impact To End Hunger.
"We're giving them the ability to know and understand the process and how it works."
Knowledge is power when it comes to working with lawmakers. Participants will be trained in tracking the progress of bills going from committees to the House and Senate floor. They'll learn which lawmakers sponsor or sign on to the bills.
Because face-to-face meetings are on hold, participants will be trained in the best ways to contact their legislators – before, during, and especially after the Session ends. Relationships form the essence of politics.
"Without pressure, a diamond never gets formed," said Latricia Scriven of Impact at FAMU Wesley Foundation.
"Change at the deepest level happens with our votes. I don't think people understand how much change can happen on their local level."
Many church members shy away from talking politics, but Scriven said that's a mistake. To emphasize that point, she referenced a quote from theologian Karl Barth.
"I remember having a conversation with a White female clergy sister once, and she said that in her church, talking about politics is something we do not do. In the Black church, that's exactly what we do," she said.
"Karl Barth said in the Black church, pastors preach with a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other."
That approach is more than political – it's biblical.
"When we think about bills that directly impact food programs for children, that's directly from the gospel," Quinton said.
"We are called to protect the most vulnerable, and hungry children have to be up there. How can we not respond to have their material needs?
"We're called to make disciples for the transformation of the world. That's pretty straightforward. To find a way to connect our work to the gospel we profess in our churches and around the Conference, is important. I do sense an imperative in the gospel to do this work."
Joe Henderson is News Content Editor for FLUMC.org
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