This is what Democracy Looks Like

Three Pastors walk into the Capitol…

It sounds like a not-so-funny joke.  In reality, it was a great opportunity to be very serious.  While most of the activists at the State Capitol last week were really surprised to see us, several Lutheran and Methodist pastors came to publicly support immigrants, students, families, and the environment.

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Lutherans from SEMI synod, at Michigan United’s Capitol Day, May 2017 

I was really proud to be a part of the efforts that day.  I was the only female pastor there in a clerical shirt.  This made a lot of people turn their heads.  But it was amazing to be one of hundreds of Michigan residents from all around the state come together.

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We asked for increased funding for schools, to support students and teachers.  We asked for a study to determine if we can fund at-home caregivers (parents caring for children and children caring for parents).  We asked for safety for immigrants and their children.  We asked for clean water for Michiganders.

All in all, it was an amazing day of quiet democracy.  I was so proud to be an American.

I got to meet with my own representative about Immigrant Rights.  I asked for statewide recognition of municipal (city or county) IDs, which show residency but not citizenship or driving permission.  I asked for more money for English language classes for immigrants.  I also asked him to work with other legislators to defeat the current anti-sanctuary bills.  He was in favor of all our requests!

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This is a big deal.  While Rep. Zemke is fairly  progressive, he didn’t know everything we presented.  For example, MI’s current ESL funding is so inadequate that it would take 50 years to give every immigrant in our state English classes.  With only 1 million extra dollars, we could give everyone an English class in only 5 years!
Even though Washtenaw County is leading the way in providing a safe space for immigrants (news link) many of the people in our area can’t drive or visit anywhere else in the state, because they can’t get driver’s licenses and their county IDs aren’t accepted in other locations.

BTW:  Rep. Zemke was totally unfazed by my ‘look’.  Which speaks to either his progressive-ism or his professionalism.  🙂

But, the Ann Arbor folks with whom I carpooled were totally shocked by my entire story.

You do WHAT??!! 

None of the other people I met that day went to church or temple.  They didn’t know anyone who did, either.  They weren’t sure what a pastor does at a church.  A few were fairly aware that we did weddings, funerals, and maybe baptisms.  Even more assumed we led something on Sundays.  They were very unsure why anyone would go to church.

Friends.

We are failing our neighbors.

If the only people we talk to about our faith are already at church, how is anyone going to know more about Jesus?  How can we connect with people in other areas of our life – community groups, sports clubs, volunteer organizations, and other things that aren’t work or school?  I don’t mean that we hand out pamphlets on street corners, but how come our neighbors don’t know anything about what we do on Sunday?

I’m not sure how exactly our church can be more relevant, but I hope that participating in democracy is one step in that direction.  The new friends I met that day were intrigued, and wanted to know more about church, and religion, and why we bother.  I am hoping the Holy Spirit uses others in more ways to share the Good News with them.

 

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