Katie Sciba reflects on her 2011 experience as a part of Advocacy in Action, an annual CBF-sponsored event in Washington, D.C. Katie is from Victoria, Texas. This week a group of Advocacy in Action participants made the trek to D.C.
It’s tricky equating your faith with politics. I have always avoided this as much as possible. Like a good Baptist, I am a fan of the separation of church and state. After living in Indonesia for several years, I appreciate our freedom of religion here more than I can say. About a year ago, I was challenged that my faith should move me to action and advocacy. I was invited to travel to Washington, DC with other Fellowship folks to see “Advocacy in Action.” It took me a while to get to DC from Victoria, Texas, but I arrived a day early because of flight cost. I love a city I can get around in easily, and I hopped on the train from the airport and rode almost the whole way to our hotel. After checking in at the Morrison Hotel, I decided to do a little touring. I walked over to the National Mall. I toured the National History Museum, the Smithsonian Castle, and ended my tour with the Art Museum. I couldn’t stop staring at a Rembrandt painting of Jesus on the cross. It was lovely, and I went back to the hotel and wrote about it.
The next day, we met for lunch, and I was excited to be with a diverse group of pastors, writers, and CBF staff. After lunch, we went to the Baptist Joint Committee. I finally understood what an important role the people at the Baptist Joint Committee play in advocating for religious liberty in our government. I was impressed by the folks there, Brent Walker and Holly Hollman. They presented themselves intelligent and relevant. We discussed the current issues related to religious liberty at that time, and then we had an open discussion on how to help our churches understand the importance of paying attention to laws that might inhibit freedom in faith.
We had dinner, and then we walked back to the hotel. The next day, we went straight to Bread for the World. Their slogan is “Have Faith. End Hunger.” Bread for the World calls themselves “a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s leaders to end hunger at home and abroad.” They lobby for hungry people all over the world. They are ecumenical. They help churches to advocate to end hunger. I was getting excited. This is exciting, hopeful, focused work. Carter Echols told us about an ecumenical panel they had just held to better focus their work based on biblical passages. Here are the biblical conclusions that the panel came to:
- Love God and each other.
- Respect the dignity of each person.
- God identifies with the vulnerable.
- God provides abundantly.
- God calls us to reconciliation.
- We are called to seek justice in community so all can live in wholeness.
- Listen to God’s voice to be stewards with our own.
- Act on behalf of poor and hungry people.
After we left “Bread” we took the train out to the Baptist World Alliance. It was incredible to me how far reaching this alliance is. They do mission projects. They help in disasters all over the world. They help Baptists in countries where churches are underground. They help educate ministers. They connect believers so we can know we are part of a large God-movement.
The next day we visited Calvary Baptist Church and the National Baptist Church. The church buildings were old, intricate, and beautiful. The most exciting part of these churches are the ministries that they have. They have opened their doors to the community around them, and the people there are listening hard to follow God’s call on their lives. We ended our trip by visiting one of the ministry centers of the Church of the Saviour. Church of the Saviour is a scattered faith community now made up of nine small faith communities. The ministries they have begun are varied and many. At this point in the trip I was pretty overwhelmed by all they were telling me. It is such a different way of doing church. This is what I saw from all of the churches that we visited. They are serious about finding God’s calling on their lives and carrying it out. I wonder if more churches were this focused if more people would be in church.
One of the trip highlights for me (other than the milk shake I drank from Ben’s Chili Bowl) was interacting with the other ministers and writers on the trip while we were experiencing all of this together. I learned a lot from Tommy Justus telling us about his years of ministry with students. Tommy brings his students to inner city Washington D.C. as often as possible. We had many meaningful conversations as Tommy helped us see the city in the evening. Lisa Mason and I had theological discussions about Rob Bell each night. My editor, Devita, became a better friend as we struggled together to get our heads around the ministry concepts of Church of the Saviour.
As I boarded the plane for home, I was full of ideas, excitement, and responsibility. From our small town church, I know that I am part of a larger body of Christ, and it is filled with passionate, purposeful followers who desire the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth. It creates hope and encouragement to see that we are not alone in ministry.
It’s a year later, and I’m still working on all this. My husband has heard it all, and we chew on it together often. I am aware that my faith does call me to advocate for justice. I know that I am called to action. I have learned in faith we have a responsibility to push past the surface politics that is about partisanship and sound bites. In our free country, we are free to live out our faith in Christ. Our God is great, and we can be part of God’s great work. We pray that God will use this experience in both of our lives to further the calling that God has for us and for our church.