By Sandy Sorensen, Director, Washington Office, United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries; CHHSM Board Member
Healing and public policy advocacy go hand-in-hand. That may seem to be a surprising combination to many people, but after years of working as a faith-based public policy advocate for the UCC, I have found it to be a powerful truth. A friend and colleague once described the work of advocacy in this way: “As advocates, we are the go-betweens, the intermediaries, midwives, as people find their voices and give birth to their visions. We move between people, trying to open communication and joint action so that those without much power can be heard and their reality recognized as part of the common good.”
Throughout Scripture, God calls us to order our common life justly, so that we are living in right relationship with our neighbors and all of creation. Passages like Exodus 22 and 23, Deuteronomy 24, Leviticus 25, Matthew 25, and 1 John 3 provide a vision of a fair and just common good in which no one is left behind and the needs of the most vulnerable are at the center, rather than the margins.
What we call politics is, at its essence, the way in which we order our common life. As people of faith, we are compelled to engage in the political process. In fact, we provide a unique and necessary voice in the dialogue about our public policies. We bring a vision of right relationship in human community that transcends any singular political party, ideology or platform. Through thoughtful, committed, nonpartisan political engagement, we can make a difference in the lives of those we serve. We make space for the stories of those most impacted by policies to be heard by decision makers.
I am excited and energized about the possibilities for connecting the life-giving, healing work and ministry of CHHSM agencies and organizations to our UCC advocacy ministry. CHHSM agencies are strongly equipped with a “front-lines” view of how policy decisions on health care, education, housing, education, criminal justice and many other critical areas impact people in their day-to-day lives. We can leverage this first-hand knowledge and experience to bring about just public policy that serves our communities. Equipped with the right advocacy tools and strategies, our CHHSM communities can be a powerful force for meaningful public policy change.
Local, state, and federal decision makers are confronted with a multitude of concerns and proposals from many perspectives and special interests. It is our unique role as faith advocates to amplify the voices of the most vulnerable, and the well-being of the common good, as our “special interest.” We can be a valuable partner and resource in governmental decision making by providing information, insights and stories about how policy decisions impact daily life.
Not only can policy be changed: lives can be changed when individuals — especially those who have been pushed to the margins — find their voice and a sense of agency. There is empowerment and healing that can come from telling our stories and engaging in the debate around decisions that impact our lives. I look forward to the opportunities for working together more intentionally in this powerful way!