By Alyssa Aldape
On March 9 I headed to Washington D.C. for the Advocacy in Action Conference—an event hosted by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, where a group of about 50 Baptist ministers and seminarians made our way to the Hill to speak to our representatives.
To prepare myself for the trip, I finished season two of the West Wing so that I could perfect my political walk and talk.
Needless to say, I was nervous about speaking with politicians. Of course we spoke with their aides, but that did not stop us from talking about predatory lending, comprehensive immigration reform and better practices in the foster care system—issues that are very important to the people who attended the conference.
My final stop on the Hill was to Congressman John Lewis’ office. Jamila, Lewis’ legislative director led us into his office—which doubled as a Civil Rights museum of sorts. The walls were filled with pictures of his friends—the “Big Six”—who fought alongside him in the Civil Rights Movement. My favourite picture on the wall was one of Lewis with Coretta Scott King, sitting on the grass, taking a break while walking to Montgomery. Jamila told me that Lewis and King would lead people in a hymn during these breaks.
Fifty years later, our country celebrates the walk brave men and women took in hopes of a better world. Their path was dangerous, but they walked it anyway. They walked hand-in-hand, stopping for breaks and singing hymns in hopes to encourage one another to keep walking on their pilgrimage.
Advocacy in Action was like a Lenten pilgrimage for me.
During Lent we contemplate our humanity and the reality of injustice in the world. As followers of Jesus, we are called to love all of God’s creation. As ministers, we are charged to lead Christ-followers on the path toward a better Kingdom—and advocacy plays a key role toward a social justice conscious Kingdom.
We are on the verge of Holy Week. On top of pondering mortality and Jesus’ death, Holy Week does not slow down for ministers. We are at the place in Lent where we can just see Easter on the horizon.
What I took from my Washington pilgrimage is: in the shadow of the Ferguson investigation, awaiting news of Kelly Gissendaner’s fate, Georgia SB 129 and ongoing seminary classes or work days, we are called to be advocates for sisters and brothers when we see injustice under the guise of “payday loans.” We are called to be instruments of love for the sojourner seeks refuge. This can only be done when followers of Christ recognize that the meek and mourning are blessed.
After my return from D.C., I feel fired up and excited to tell my church people about the good work we can do as lovers of God and people, and I realize that reform and change is not as easy as organizing. For real change, it takes education, initiative and the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts to be willing to speak up. For a big picture person like myself these details can be a bit overwhelming, but we continue our journey together, singing a hymn, and we walk toward Easter in the hopes of transformation.
My Lenten Pilgrimage reminds me of our humanity, of the world around us and of injustice. My hope is that I continue to be transformed and become a better advocate for the community around me. May we continue our faith journey together toward God’s kingdom.
Alyssa Aldape is a third-year student attending McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University. She serves as Director of Youth Ministries at Northside Drive Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga.