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Mark your calendar now for Compassion, Peace & Justice Training Days 2021

Three-day virtual event will focus on equipping people to advocate for environmental justice

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People led opening worship at the last in-person CPJ Training Day April 5, 2019. (Photo by Rich Copley)

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — Compassion, Peace & Justice Training Day will be virtual again in 2021, and it will be plural.

Presented each year by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness (OPW) in Washington D.C., the event is expanding to three days, April 7-9, offering attendees chances to hear from leaders in and associates of the church’s Compassion, Peace & Justice (CPJ) ministries.

“Because of the virtual format, we wanted to give people the content they would get in a day-long conference without exacerbating any Zoom fatigue,” said Catherine Gordon, OPW Associate for International Issues.  “So, we split the day up into three days with 90-minute plenaries in the morning and small group discussions in the afternoon or evening.  We hope that this will make the conference both more accessible and more enjoyable.”

Andrew Kang Bartlett of the Presbyterian Hunger Program led an environmental workshop at CPJ Day 2019. (Photo by Rich Copley)

Up until this year, CPJ Training Day was traditionally an all-day event at Washington’s New York Avenue Presbyterian Church the day before Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Arlington, Virginia. Like most everything else after February this year, the live CPJ Day was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

CPJ leaders quickly pulled together an afternoon online event the day the live event was supposed to have taken place, addressing the original theme of environmental justice as well as the pandemic. But given time to plan, they wanted to do more with the upcoming CPJ Day.

The three days will be comprised of worship, plenary talks, and panel discussions starting at 11 a.m. Eastern Time each day and small group sessions in the afternoon and evening, depending on the participant’s preference. With a focus still on environmental justice, the days will have past, present, and future emphases, with the aim to equip participants to address environmental justice issues in their communities.

Musician, author and activist David LaMotte was the keynote speaker at CPJ Training Day 2019. (Photo by Rich Copley)

“Each day will open with a theological and spiritual grounding followed by a focus on the different aspects of environmental justice with a particular emphasis on hearing voices from the communities who are most impacted,” Gordon said. “The small groups in the afternoons and evenings will give people a chance to process the information in community as well as discuss possible avenues for change.

“By dividing the days up into past, present and future, we hope to address our history and complicity in colonialism, the present danger and the negative impact of unfettered capitalism and exploitation of our Earth, and finally how can we imagine a way forward to a just and sustainable world. We hope that this format will help people get their head around a very broad and many-faceted issue.”

Specifics in terms of speakers and online logistics are still being worked out. OPW expects to release registration information early in 2021 but hopes people will go ahead and mark those dates, April 7-9, 2021, on their calendars now.

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