Each year, Presbyterians and other denominations gather in the nation’s capital to pray, debate and lobby over specific social justice issues. More than 1,000 people within the ecumenical Christian community are expected to attend Advocacy Training Weekend, which will be held April 15-18 in Washington, D.C. This year’s topic is “Lift Every Voice: Racism, Class and Power.”
The weekend consists of the PC(USA) Compassion, Peace and Justice Training Day (April 15) followed by Ecumenical Advocacy Days (April 15-18).
Five years ago, the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, director of the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness, came up with the idea to integrate all of CPJ ministries into a day-long session at the front end of Ecumenical Advocacy Days. It has grown in attendance each year with approximately 200 Presbyterians attending on average.
“What’s important about this event is it gets at the essence of what it means to be reformed,” said Sara Lisherness, director of Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries. “We’ve always understood that we care for the spiritual life of faith communities, but we are also called to care for the moral life of our communities, nation and world. We are called to work for justice and peace.”
Lisherness adds that this year’s topic is very timely.
“Every day when I open a newspaper, there’s at least one article on the front page of the New York Times that relates to one of these issues,” said Lisherness. “Whether it’s another shooting or has to do with the criminal justice system, ethics of corporations or how they use power. How these all intersect is very timely.”
The Rev. Dr. Mark Lomax, founding pastor of the First Afrikan Presbyterian Church of Lithonia, Ga., will be the keynote speaker at CPJ Day. Lomax also serves as associate professor of homiletics at the Interdenominational Theological Center.
“This is a passionate group of issues but also a very uncomfortable group of issues,” said Lisherness. “It’s hard to get beyond the surface level conversation, especially when it comes to race. People have very strong opinions on the issues of race, class and power.”
In addition to Lomax, Presbyterians will be able to participate in a number of workshops related to the topics. CPJ attendees will then join the larger ecumenical community for the next two days of plenaries, worship and discussion.
The event culminates Monday, April 18 with the annual visit to Capitol Hill where attendees will meet with congressmen. Lisherness says there have been some loyal and dedicated participants who have been coming for years, but she’s most excited about a new group of people who come each year to get involved.
“The mainline churches wring their hands over relevance and impact,” she said. “But the more the church and ecumenical partners are willing to engage with elected officials, the more impact the Presbyterian Church will have as a relevant and reliable source of information to help people called to run our cities, states and nations.”
For more information about the entire Advocacy Training Weekend, including registration, click here.