December 19, 2018 under Faith Based Work

Advocacy Is Your Super Power

Faith leaders, it is time to balance the scales of our priorities. We are called, not simply to our congregations, but also to the long-term survival of our communities.

By Min. Yolanda Richard, Faith-based Engagement & Outreach Coordinator

As faith leaders we carry much responsibility on our shoulders. On our busiest days we may struggle to find our voices underneath managing the upkeep of our buildings, wrestling with our budgets, developing charitable projects, meetings, congregants, fixing that leaky roof, and the wheel goes round and round. And we accomplish this with faith, hope, and little resources. Yes, we feel good about the work that we do and realize its necessity for the people we serve. Nevertheless, the needs of our communities continues to grow. We’ve poured out all we have to the people we serve, yet the need continues to grow. But, nevertheless, around this time every year we review our budgets, get ready to press the reset button and figure out what we can do.

Faith leaders, it may be time to advocate. It is no secret that the full weight of a progressive, collective clergy voice has not yet been felt in the New York City political advocacy space. Few are the moments when our eloquent words, prayers, and prophetic moments of speaking truth to power extend beyond the four walls of our temple and the people who sit to listen to us. Few are the moments when we speak boldly our visions of hope, love, peace and justice outside of the pulpits we stand behind and directed to the people who impact our lives daily. The truth is that many are looking to us to show up, to be in the room, to convene, to organize. But, though we know the need for our voices in advocacy spaces, we struggle to find the time to do the work we know so desperately needs to be done. Beyond this, there is an internal cost one considers when entering political fights and becoming public about one’s position, vision, and beliefs. Between limited time, resources, and risk of engaging in foreign spaces, it appears much more manageable to focus on the on-the-ground realities of congregation and community, leaving political fights to politicians.

So, we find ourselves in the inevitable pursuit of solely offering charity when we’d really love to also be transformative. How do we build the courage to not only be effective service providers in our communities, but also to stand as advocates? How do we show up in the midst of our many roles and responsibilities? How do we find the time to attend coalition meetings, organize in our communities, set up appointments with city officials, speak up on critical issues, and go to Albany and City Hall to testify during budget season? How do we ensure that our elected officials are held accountable for the benefits they promised they’d deliver? When voter turnout is low in your district and the people are no longer convinced that change is possible, who will stand in the gap?

Faith leaders, it is time to balance the scales of our priorities. We are called, not simply to our congregations, but also to the long-term survival of our communities.

We are responsible to press for policies, governmental investments, and laws that will ignite communal transformation. We are the keepers of faith and community— faith and justice. Faith leaders committed to affordable housing, social equity, criminal justice, affordable and accessible health care, and a strengthened non-profit sector are needed now more than ever. We at FPWA invite all clergy committed to justice to join us in our fight to eradicate inequity in NYC. We have organized a structure to provide faith leaders of all traditions high quality advocate training, civic engagement opportunities, and direct access to hear from and dialogue with the decision makers that impact our communities. Are you ready for 2019? Let’s get to work!