Rooted in Values, Growing our Power
As we celebrate 20 years of Faith in Place, we sat down with the organization’s founder and long-time executive director, Rev. Dr. Clare Butterfield, to hear more about the history of Advocacy Day and why people of faith play a key role.
In spring 2007, twelve plucky people woke up before dawn and joined Faith in Place staff members on the Amtrak to Springfield.
As they ate sweets on the train to celebrate the Zoroastrian New Year, they practiced what they were going to say to their elected officials for our first-ever Advocacy Day.
While Faith in Place had been working with faith communities to address environmental issues since 1999, our foray into advocacy arose out of a recognition that we need to change policies and systems to create the world we want with clean air, clean water, and healthy communities.
Fast-forward twelve years, and Advocacy Day is an annual tradition that draws busloads of people from across the state.
Because of our collective advocacy efforts as people of faith, Illinois elected officials have: • Created an Environmental Justice Task Force • Imposed stronger restrictions on hydraulic fracturing • Included provisions for equity and clean energy jobs in the Future Energy Jobs Act • And much more!
Photo: Faithful people wait to speak with their legislators outside the Senate chambers in 2009.
When we first started, legislators didn’t understand or were often surprised that people of faith wanted to talk about the environment.
Now, they understand that issues like air pollution, basement flooding, access to local foods, access to open spaces, are justice issues in their districts.
We have also empowered people of faith to speak out on local issues that affect air, water, and the health of their communities. As the Illinois Affiliate of Interfaith Power & Light, we join people of diverse faiths from across the country in speaking truth to power on environmental issues at the federal level.
Photo: Taking advocacy to the federal level at the People's Climate March in Washington D.C. in 2017.
As we celebrate 20 years of Faith in Place and look towards the future, founder and long-time executive director Rev. Dr. Clare Butterfield, hopes that people of faith will continue to recognize that working on change at the systemic level is critical:
“If anyone still has a resistance to policy as divisive or risking a conflict within a faith community, I really want them to work very hard on finding a loving way through that fear. We can’t stop with individual practice at our faith communities. You don’t fix things one person at a time on this scale. You fix them by passing laws.”
–Rev. Dr. Clare Butterfield
Our advocacy efforts happen in strong collaboration with many other groups across the state. Yet, the faith contingent has a special role because people are rooted in their values and bring a justice lens to the environmental conversation.
“Motivated people who speak from a place of deep value are very hard for politicians to say 'no' to. That's our power and we need to use it because the world depends on it.”
–Rev. Dr. Clare Butterfield
We need to keep growing the momentum from the roots we have put down.
This year, buses are picking people up from 19 stops across the state and we expect over 400 people from Faith in Place and a variety of other organizations to attend.
Want to join the fun and speak from your unique faith perspective? Advocacy Day is on May 9th!