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Amber's Day at the Capitol
On a Tuesday last March at 6:15 in the morning, thirty-six folks from the St. Cloud area loaded a bus going to RiverCentre in St. Paul for JRLC's Day on the Hill. One of those intrepid travelers was Amber Christie, who was attending Day on the Hill for the first time. Amber is the Director of Religious Education at Christ Church Newman Center in St. Cloud and wrote the following article for the Social Concerns Newsletter of Catholic Charities, Diocese of St. Cloud. Thank you, Amber, for letting us reprint your thoughts!
"I want to do more of this." That's what I thought walking through the Capitol building at the end of the JRLC (Joint Religious Legislative Coalition) Day On The Hill. For a long time, I have known that social justice is an important part of our faith. It is critical that we work to care for the most vulnerable in our communities. In teaching social justice to middle and high school youth, I have included education on how to be aware of current issues and contact legislators. However, teaching on this topic has challenged me. Not because I don't think it's incredibly important, but because I found the idea of contacting my legislators intimidating. JRLC Day On The Hill changed that.
JRLC Day On The Hill made engaging in the political process very easy - and fun! We gathered with several hundred people of faith to be uplifted and inspired to act on our values. Then we learned about some current issues coming before the Minnesota House and Senate and met with delegates from our district to plan our meetings with Senators and Representatives. Lastly, we went to the Capitol to meet with the people our district elected to represent us at the state level.
I grew increasingly relaxed as the meetings began. I came to realize that these are people - just people - who are doing their best to do what they think is right. They listened to us and our concerns and showed genuine interest. It was thrilling to feel that my voice mattered - to feel so empowered.
In a culture that tends to give politicians quasi-celebrity status, I was reminded of what their job is really about. They are there to represent the people - us. The only way they can truly represent us, is if we communicate with them. We have a role to play in the legislative process. We cannot expect our legislators to be psychic and know what our concerns and priorities are. We have to tell them. I am so grateful to organizations like the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, who follow what is going on at the Capitol and can keep us informed and help us to take action. For anyone who has felt like me, intimidated, or unsure how to get involved, I encourage you to check out jrlc.org and think about going to Day On The Hill in the future. It was an amazingly empowering experience.
Amber's experience is exactly what gives us such great hope and is why we will convene Day on the Hill again next year!
Brian Rusche, executive director