“Well, I feel like we just did a good day of God’s work,” cheered Elizabeth Williams, a member of St. David of Wales, Portland, as she summed up her experience at Interfaith Advocacy Day. She and I were among more than 450 people (an event record) gathered in Salem on February 7 to demonstrate that people of faith have things to say about the values and actions of our government.
Hosted by Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon (EMO), the morning opened with prayers from leaders of Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Sikh faith groups. Jan Musgrove Elfers, Executive Director of EMO, exhorted us that this event was not just about the actions of this single day, but part of a bigger movement that supports the dignity of all people and the sacredness of creation.
After a broad-ranging keynote speech by state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, participants moved into workshops covering six different topics: Climate Justice, Gun Violence Prevention, Health Care, Housing, Hunger, and Wage Theft. Learning about current legislations and applying our faith values to determine our support or opposition to these, as well as advocacy training provided during lunch, was key in bolstering the confidence many of us needed for the new experience of speaking directly to our state government representatives throughout the afternoon appointments.
I was proud to see many familiar Episcopal faces as I moved through the workshops and the Capitol building. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry recently wrote, “Real prayer is both contemplative and active. It involves a contemplative conversation with and listening to God, and an active following of the way of Jesus, serving and witnessing in the world in his Name. For those who follow the way of Jesus, the active side of our life of prayer seeks to live out and help our society live out what it means to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” Attending Interfaith Advocacy Day is just one of many steps people throughout the Diocese of Oregon are taking to embody this deepened life of prayer.