This past September, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to take part in the 2015 ELCA Advocacy Convening. After a day of training, I was able to visit several legislators in their D.C offices to talk about the needs of people experiencing homelessness in Massachusetts, including homeless veterans. I am blessed to work with two amazing ministries in Northampton, Massachusetts, which draw their passion for social justice from a vantage point of Christian faith. These ministries are the Building Bridges Veterans Initiative, the veterans ministry program of the Episcopal Diocese of Western MA, and Cathedral in the Night, an ecumenical outdoor church in Northampton in the radical tradition of Jesus. I had no idea that these legislative meetings would have such long-lasting effects.
Brauner and ELCA World Hunger Director, Mikka McCracken, meeting with Congressman Joseph Kennedy III (MA-4)
Cathedral in the Night and Building Bridges have become involved in legislative advocacy in the short months since the conference in September. The ELCA Advocacy office provided an opportunity in Washington which began relationships with legislators which we have continued to foster and grow, and these budding relationships are enhancing our ministries in incredible ways!
Too often, people who have experienced poverty of homelessness feel disempowered and voiceless. Our goal is not be a voice for the voiceless, but rather to empower people to speak on their own behalf. Since returning home from the Advocacy Convening, we have begun helping veterans, marginalized people, and those experiencing homelessness to tell their own stories, inviting them to local meetings with legislators to help inform policymakers about the very real way that laws and decision affect people across the country.
Recently, we have even been able to invite local legislators to our weekly lunches that we put on for veterans in Western MA. We have also invited state legislators to Cathedral in the Night’s Sunday service to participate and engage with our community. None of this would have been possible without the help of the ELCA’s Advocacy Office, and it has been such a blessing to see all the unexpected ways that these opportunities have popped up and augmented this important work.
I also hope you’ll consider contributing to Building Bridges this Holiday Season. The work of Building Bridges continues through the creation of intentional communities of veterans, often around food at our free meals! Visit this link below for more information! http://www.buildingbridgeswma.com/