Assembling at the Assembly

United Methodist Day at the General Assembly was a success! In fact, I heard from several attendees they felt it was the “best one ever”! Many thanks to all the people who helped with planning the day and all who attended. It would not
be a success without you.

For some of us, the event started Wednesday with an orientation for guides led by Joe Brancoli, member of the Conference Legislative Network Committee, followed by recommendations on meeting with legislators led by Kim Bobo,
Executive Director of the Virginia Interfaith Center on Public Policy. Many of our guides have served many years, but we had several new guides this year. For those who have attended United Methodist Day in the last several years know
that the guides help facilitate getting to the various legislators, as well as encouraging discussion with them, providing talking points as needed.

The Pace Center on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University hosted this year’s event. The guides enjoyed a dinner of West African food, catered by several VCU students who are starting their own catering business. We were joined in the evening by early arriving attendees for a discussion by Kim Bobo of various bills working their way through the General Assembly and how we might help support those bills. These included Paid Sick Days, Driver’s Licenses for all Virginians and Comprehensive Predatory Lending Reform.

The morning of Thursday January 30 started early with almost 100 attendees arriving at the Pace Center for breakfast and a brief review of the bills we hoped to address with our legislators. Appointments had been made with every Senator
who had a constituent in attendance. Additionally, attendees had been encouraged to make appointments with their Delegate and most were able to see at least the legislative aide even without an appointment. We had position papers
on all three issues provided by Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, whose positions are compatible with our 4 UMW social action priority areas. Armed with these, we had lively and informative discussions with our legislators.

Our day concluded with lunch at the Pace Center, followed by an interactive session on the Biblical basis for Justice Advocacy, led by Carol Barton, Executive for Community Action for the National Office of United Methodist Women. Why
does it matter that people of faith engage in social action? To that end, she reminded us of the Greatest Commandment, to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39), and Jesus’ proclamation that he was sent to bring Good News to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, release of the oppressed (Luke 4:18). Together we explored what the Kin(g)dom of God would look like were we to live into that.

What do we do next? Begin with bible study and our shared beliefs as United Methodist, including the teachings of John Wesley and the Social Principles. Talk about our Christian calling to serve others. Gently invite others to join us in the
work. Maintain spiritual practices that provide us selfcare and rest for our work.

Recognize people will have diverse concerns and issues. Address the importance of both service and advocacy. In service we can help individuals, in advocacy we can help communities. We need to work together for policy change. Find allies.
And be proud of doing the work for the sake of the Gospel.

My hope is that those of you who were not able to attend would join us next year for another great United Methodist Day at the General Assembly.

Karen McElfish, Lay Leader