While many traditional annual events have had to be cancelled during the COVID 19 pandemic, Lutheran Services in Iowa and the three ELCA Iowa Synods knew that the crucial work of advocacy on behalf of Iowa neighbors must continue. So last Thursday, Iowa Lutherans gathered virtually to hear about the intersections of faith and advocacy, learn about the mechanics of advocacy during a legislative session impacted by COVID, and be updated on Lutheran Services legislative priorities.
We were welcomed by John Twardos, President and CEO, Lutheran Services in Iowa.
Our own interim Bishop Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl gave the opening devotions on seeing Jesus in our neighbor and in our advocacy.
The main speaker was Rev. Sarah Trone-Garriott, Iowa State Senator (District 22) and ELCA pastor. Rev. Trone-Garriott was elected in 2020 and is currently a member at Faith Lutheran in Clive.
For her, running for political office was another way to engage in the issues that mattered. “Laws made on state-level have an impact on our day-to-day life,” she observed.
“Christians are called to feed the hungry and policy that is enacted on a government level can support the individual efforts we make to feed the hungry.”
While she recognizes the tension between religion and politics, she does not believe they can be kept separate. “Government is what we do together. Government is a way to serve our neighbor.”
She does not however, believe it is appropriate to impose her personal faith beliefs through government. “When asked to pray I bring in prayers of my neighbors to give voice to those who don’t always have a voice in the Capital.” (In February she received hate messages after she recited a Muslim prayer written by a Drake University student.)
While Pastor Trone-Garriott does not believe in imposing her faith on others, she noted that faith does inform her positions on issues.
“Caring for the poor, being more equitable when it comes to who has access to resources—these are faith issues.”
During the pandemic, the senator does not recommend anyone come to the Capitol “Because no one is wearing masks.” She has met with many individuals and groups through zoom and says that many legislators are open to meeting through zoom. She also said they don’t get a lot of phone calls, but that is another way to contact your legislator.
We also heard from Amy Campbell, LSI Lobbyist, on how to advocate during the COVID pandemic. She shared several ways to advocate that do not involve face-to-face meetings including:
- Phone calls
- Video testimony
- Virtual Site Tours
You can find more information here: How to Advocate.
The Virtual Day on the Hill concluded with breakout groups with more information on this year’s legislative priorities:
- Sustainable Funding for Iowa’s Children’s Mental Health System
- Investing in a Strong Human Services Workforce
- Reimbursement Parity for Teletherapy Services
- Support for Services that Empower Refugees and Immigrants
Although we missed the “Field Trip” vibe on loading up on buses and traveling to the Capitol in person, the virtual event was interesting and informative as we were reminded that even and especially during a pandemic, our advocacy is still a vital work of our faith