Lobby Day is 'the coolest'
As a Young Adult Volunteer [a program of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)] in Boston, I have gotten to do a lot of cool things: working with some amazing organizations, nonprofits, and farms; going to movie showings and panel discussions on a regular basis; and learning how to make things like applesauce, noodles, and chicken stock from scratch. Working with Bread for the World and getting to participate in and help with Lobby Day, aka the happiest and most chaotic day of the year for Bread staffers, was probably the coolest.
I flew into D.C. for the National Gathering and Lobby Day, June 9 and 10, along with hundreds of other Christians from all different backgrounds and denominations. I had the opportunity to meet wonderful people from all over the country and made some great connections with fellow Presbyterians.
What sets Bread apart from other nonprofit and social-justice, political-advocacy organizations is faith– it’s the source and reason for their power. There were political analysts and people from Washington who are knowledgeable and have influence, but that’s not who resonated with or moved the crowd. Speakers who shared their powerful testimony of being a young, undocumented American or being a returning citizen trying to get a job or a buy a house after being released from prison really got to the heart of why we do this work of political advocacy. Even when – especially when – the goal of ending hunger and poverty seems daunting and impossible, we are reminded that we are not alone and that we can do these things together in faith.
On Lobby Day, we heard great speeches about the day’s topics – immigration reform and food-aid reform – and why as Christians it’s important to be a voice for the voiceless. I couldn’t decide if it was a political briefing with a lot of Scripture or a sermon with a lot of specific numbers. Then it was game time. We split into regions, then states, then districts to plan the visits with our senators and representatives. I was in charge of the Massachusetts delegation, about ten in total. We planned who was going to say what, grabbed lunch, and got on the shuttle to Capitol Hill. The energy in the room and on the shuttle bus was pretty palpable; everyone was excited, nervous, and ready to go.
As we were riding on the van, it hit me – on streets full of charter buses and tourists, here we are, a group of Christians, all different kinds, from all over the country, coming together because our faith demands that we act when we see injustice, poverty, and hunger in the world, and that’s exactly what we were doing. It felt empowering, exciting, and important. One of or mottoes of the day was, “If you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can move Congress,” and that’s exactly what we were going to do.
We met with aides from Sen. Ed Markey's, Sen. Elizabeth Warren's, and Rep. Katherine Clark’s offices. We had great conversations with them all explaining why food aid and immigration reform are so necessary and why we care so much about the oppressed and the hungry. We even got to speak with Rep. Clark and take a picture with her.
At the end of the long day there was a reception to honor retiring members of Congress who have championed issues of ending hunger and poverty, usually because their faith, rather than political party, demands that they do so. Lobby Day ended with a worship service where people shared where they experienced God during the day and in their lobby visits. People raised up all of the hard work of the staff, the community among the members, the feeling of accomplishment and civic responsibility after meeting with Congresspeople and advocating for people who can’t pay for lobbyists.
I left feeling exhausted but inspired and committed to this work of fighting injustice, and encouraged and grateful to be working with such a wonderful staff and to join my voice with this great cloud of witnesses on Capitol Hill.
Libby McDermott is an intern in the organizing department at Bread for the World and a participant in the Presbyterian young adult volunteer program. This blog post originally appeared in Food and Faith, a blog of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.
Photo: Libby McDermott in front of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., June 10, 2014. (Courtesy of Libby McDermott).
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