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Lobby Day gets a boost from the Poor People’s Campaign at Ecumenical Advocacy Days

Hill send-off features motivational words from the Rev. Dr. Alvin O’Neal Jackson

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Alvin O’Neal Jackson

LOUISVILLE — As participants in Ecumenical Advocacy Days prepared to head off to meet with their congressional representatives on Thursday, a minister from the Poor People’s Campaign provided a virtual pep talk with a one-word takeaway: “Surely.”

The Rev. Dr. Alvin O’Neal Jackson, a senior strategist for the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, gave the send-off sermon to an audience about to mobilize on Capitol Hill for Lobby Day, a signature event of the three-day EAD conference.

Lobby Day is a time for registered EAD attendees to meet with representatives, or their staff persons, to promote legislation that aligns with EAD’s theme, which for 2023 was “Swords into Plowshares: Achieving Enough for All & Pursuing Peace.”

This year’s Lobby Day was an online affair that took place amid a somewhat troubling backdrop for some. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives had passed the “Limit, Save, Grow Act,” a bill touted by House Republicans as a way to “implement commonsense spending reforms to limit wasteful spending.”

The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness, which helped to organize #EAD2023, maintains that the bill “holds hostage the routine increase of the debt ceiling in exchange for trillions in cuts to federal spending,” according to an Action Alert from OPW on Thursday. “If signed into law, the bill would exacerbate poverty for millions by reducing benefits of vital safety net programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), housing assistance, and Medicaid.”

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) advocacy offices was among religious leaders and service providers who rallied against the debt-ceiling bill earlier this week. (Screenshot)

Also, there would be “onerous work requirements and eligibility restrictions,” according to the Action Alert, which urges Presbyterians to tell their members of Congress to protect social safety-net programs and reduce the Pentagon budget by $100 billion. “To deny the poor and vulnerable the means to meet their basic needs for food, healthcare and shelter in the name of ‘fiscal responsibility,’ yet place no limits on what we as a nation can spend on systems of violence and war that create such insecurity across the world is a gross injustice,” the Alert states.

Both the debt-ceiling bill and the Pentagon budget were on a list of “asks” that were given to EAD participants prior to Lobby Day so that they could discuss them with representatives in their respective states.

In preparation for those meetings, Jackson talked about the importance of good leadership and how it’s sorely needed today.

“A global community desperately cries out for prophetic leadership,” he said. “Bold, determined, visionary, courageous, decisive, imaginative, gracious, generous, big-hearted leadership. Leadership rooted and grounded in moral values. … Authentic leadership. That’s really the great need of our time.”

Jackson went on to use scripture from Habakkuk to paint a picture of a tumultuous time when things were falling apart and institutions were no longer respected by the people. Habakkuk speaks of trouble, strife and violence and wonders how long he should cry for help.

Similarly, violence and anxiety are rampant today, perhaps leading some to wonder if it’s time to give up. People may want to “stop sharing, stop risking, stop reaching out, stop serving, stop giving, stop listening, stop loving, stop trying, stop dreaming, stop believing. Is that what we do, stop?” Jackson asked. “Habakkuk the prophet says no, don’t stop — start something new.”

Jackson said the world can be changed through faith and having God-sized vision that embodies God’s purpose for the world.

“Biblical faith is always in the business of believing that God’s vision of the future will prevail over the death and destruction of the present,” he said. “We walk by faith and not by sight.”

Instead of concentrating on villains, he said, “give voice to the vision.”

He brought his sermon to an end by emphasizing “surely” as a mantra for overcoming struggle.

“It’s a powerful word. I dare (you) to use it,” he said. “Use it when you’re depressed. Use it when it seems to you and others that you’re completely defeated, undone, down and out for the count. One word: Surely.”

Believe that “not even violence can destroy or deny the vision,” he said. “Say it with me. Say it to yourself: Surely.”

Although #EAD2023 has ended, you can take advantage of post-event registration. Virtual tickets can be purchased until May 21 for $35. For more information, go here.

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