Faith-Based Wilderness Advocacy: Examples from Illinois
Cultivating support for wilderness among faith communities is often about scattering seeds in good soil: slide shows, Sunday School lessons, sermons. There isn’t always a clear visible line from the planting to the harvest, but occasionally it happens.
This year in Illinois a regular Congressional cosponsor of “America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act” was expressing new reluctance to support the bill and a desire for more constituent input. The usual resources were applied. SUWA members and other in-state supporters phoned and emailed their opinions to the office. Apparently, it wasn’t enough.
Contact was made with a congregation that had hosted a wilderness sermon the previous year. It so happened that the Women’s Study Group was meeting that day -- they made phone calls. The following Sunday an announcement was made during worship -- more phone calls resulted.
A week later the fruits of months of planning were harvested when another congregation focused their annual Earth Day service on wilderness. A sermon was given and a church member spoke about a formative experience her daughter had had in Utah’s wild lands. A table was arranged during the post-worship “fellowship” time for people to write letters.
Two weeks later the congressman was once again a cosponsor.
Here’s another example from Illinois: When Utah's Zion-Mojave wilderness was threatened by short-sighted legislation in the fall of 2006, several pastors who had visited Utah heard of the problem. With help from SUWA’s Midwest staff person, they began talking. One person spoke to another and the little group grew. So-and-so knew this person and another one knew that one. Phone calls were made. A meeting was arranged with Sen. Obama’s director for “downstate” Illinois. Communication continued and Barack Obama joined the list of U. S. Senators telling then Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid they didn’t want the bill to proceed. Two weeks later, Sen. Bennett withdrew the controversial Washington County Growth and Conservation Act.