This past weekend the Office of Public Witness participated in Ecumenical Advocacy Days, a conference of people of faith from around the country. We worshiped and attended workshops together on the theme of “Lift Every Voice! – Racism, Class & Power.” The weekend began powerfully as Rev. Dr. William Barber implored us to prophesy, to call out injustice in the world, and to demand policies that recognize that God’s image in everyone. That call to unite as a moral voice for justice continued to frame the weekend as we delved more deeply into the issues of voting rights and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. The event concluded on Monday as together we met with our congressional representatives.
OPW’s work sometimes feels isolated, but the expressions of solidarity and love in word, song, and action expressed this weekend left us all feeling revitalized and empowered. As we stood and sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” we knew that we were surrounded by a powerful and determined community. Though we returned to our daily work this week, we have EAD powerfully reminds us that our work represents deep sentiments shared by many throughout the country.
Yet this empowerment brings many challenges. As all of the speakers reminded us, we are called continually to be perturbed by injustice, to wrestle with our faith, and to not stay silent. On Saturday night we had the privilege of meeting with the other Brethren, Mennonite, and Friends in attendance. Members of a Mennonite church in Cleveland, Ohio had many members graciously shared their experiences as a predominately African-American congregation. As we think about how every voice can be lifted on the national level, they called us to begin by considering whose voices are not being heard in our own congregations.
As we consider the importance of lifting every voice, the personal stories such as the one’s shared by our sisters from Cleveland are essential. Everyone is created in the image of God and thus any work for justice must necessarily be personal, connected to the realities of all people’s lives. Perhaps that is the greatest message that we had to bring to our legislators this Monday. Justice is personal; when not all voices can be heard singing its refrains, we are silencing God’s beloved.
“Lift every voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;”
May you too be energized and uplifted for your work and your journey with God.
In Christ’s Peace,
Office of Public Witness
If you are interested in learning more about the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015, defeating the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, or view additional material from the conference, visit advocacydays.org.