New WISDOM President – Sandy Milligan
Sandy takes the place of Nancy Holmlund (of Christ Church United Methodist in Racine). Nancy served three years as WISDOM President. She filled for one year when Rev. Jackson moved out of state, and served her own 2-year term. Nancy did a terrific job, and has represented WISDOM well in the state, and at the national level. Nancy is not going anywhere: she continues to be a leader in RIC, and on Transit issues, and she hopes there will be a statewide renewal of interest in issues related to education.
Sandy will be WISDOM’s fifth President. Prior to Nancy Holmlund, Rev. Joe Jackson held the post. Before Rev. Jackson, our president was Lois Glover. Our first President was Rev. Robert L. Harris. We have been blessed with great leadership in that position, and I am confident that Sandy will continue that tradition.
Other officers for the year are: Rev. Willie Brisco and Rev. Marian Boyle, Vice Presidents; Connie Raether, Secretary; Dennis Lowder, Treasurer; Nancy Tarkowski, Financial Secretary
March 14, 2013 – People of Faith United for Justice
A huge moment for WISDOM will come on March 14. On that day, we will have more than 1,000 people at the Capitol for an event called “People of Faith United for Justice.” I believe it will be a pivotal day for the 11x15 campaign. It also has great potential for moving us forward in our work to support Public Transportation in Wisconsin. I also believe that a successful Madison Action Day on March 14 has the potential to move WISDOM to a whole new level.
For the 11x15 campaign, People of Faith United for Justice is essential. We have done a lot of work all around the state. The recent release of the Health Impact Assessment has gotten us a lot of good press, and a lot of accolades. We have met with a lot of public officials and a lot of key people, and they all say the right things, and they all seem to agree with us that we have too many people in our jails and prisons, and that we need more resources for alternatives to incarceration. But… There is still a giant step to be taken between here and $75 million per year in the budget for TAD. There is a need for a sense of URGENCY. Our Governor and Legislature need to hear that half measures will not be good enough, and next year will not be soon enough. There is no need for more studies or more pilot projects; there is a need for action now.
To that end, we have altered the plan a little bit for March 14. The 11x15 Breakout session will be briefer that originally planned, and we are adding in a major rally on the Capitol steps, calling on decisive action NOW, in THIS BUDGET. Our biggest goal is to ensure that our political leaders understand the urgency to our call for reform, and the intensity of the energy of those who support it.
It has been determined that Transit will be another breakout issue on March 14. As we intend to invite all 11x15 allies to join us, so we want to invite anyone who supports public transportation to come along. The key demand from Transit will be that the state budget restores the 10% that was cut from Transit support in the last budget.
The basic outline for People of faith United for justice is:
--8:30 to 9:30 – Arrival, coffee, etc.
--9:30-10:30 – Plenary session, including words from Fr. Bryan Massingale and Ms. Hannah Rosenthal.
--10:30 – Break into Breakout groups for Transit, 11x15, and a yet-to-be-determined issue of Economic Justice.
11x15 will stay at Bethel, and the other two groups will move over to nearby First United Methodist Church. All will have information and discussion about the issue, some training and practice for legislative visits, and lunch during which we will divide up according to the legislators we intend to visit. (The 11x15 group will do all of this somewhat more quickly so we have time to go over to the Capitol for a rally on the steps.)
--2:00 to 4:00 – Visits to Legislative offices.
There is a $20 charge for lunch and materials for people who register through WISDOM organizations. (There is a lower rate available for people who cannot afford the $20.) There will also be buses to the event, coming from Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Eau Claire, Wausau, Green Bay and Appleton. It will be very important that we get people registered ahead of time, so we have the right amount of materials, the right number of lunches, enough seats on buses, etc.
Other co-sponsors for People of Faith United for Justice include: the Wisconsin Council of Churches, Madison-area Urban Ministries, the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, the Lutheran Office on Public Policy, the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, and others.
Results of January 17-18 WISDOM Leadership Retreat:
As in past years, we had our 24-hour WISDOM retreat at the Pilgrim Center on Green Lake. About 50 of us participated, including leaders from MOSES, JOSHUA, NAOMI, JOSHUA, ESTHER, SOPHIA, MICAH, RIC and CUSH. We were also joined by three people from Wisconsin Rapids.
We covered four major areas during the retreat:
Ø We discussed the idea of “power” and what it means for people of faith to work toward being powerful as individuals, as congregations and as organizations. Rev. Dennis Jacobsen led the retreat off with an excellent reflection on power.
Ø We planned for March 14, and our day in Madison. We first talked about the ways that our local organizations might benefit from participation in the day (e.g. it can be a way to introduce new people to our work; we might be able to get local media coverage; it can give our members an energy boost…) We also talked about the turnout goals for each local organization, and members discussed some very creative ways to reach out to potential participants, as well as ways to make it possible for everyone (e.g. by asking for donations in churches from people who cannot attend, so we can pay the transportation and registration for someone with meager means).
Ø On Friday morning, we explored Congregational Development -- some ways in which we are using our participation in congregation-based organizing to enhance our own congregations. That is, through training and through employing the attitudes and disciplines of organizing (e.g. relationship-building, intentionality, team-building, accountability, etc.) many congregations are looking to develop or enhance their ministries. Each local organization did some brainstorming about things we can offer to our member congregations who are looking to become stronger.
Ø On Thursday evening, we had a small tribute to Rev. Joe Ellwanger who is “retiring” from being a staff organizer in WISDOM (but NOT leaving MICAH, or the 11x15 campaign, or the overall struggle for justice). Several people offered sincere words of gratitude to Joe. I was especially struck by the realization that so many people in so many places, amid so many different circumstances, feel themselves to be in partnership with Joe. We also gave him a gift of more than $4,000, collected from about 70 different people, which he is to use to help to promote his soon-to-be-published memoir.
A Couple of Outreach Campaigns
Both MICAH and SOPHIA have some congregations these days that are engaged in significant attempts to build relationships, and do some of the afore-mentioned “Congregational Development.” In Waukesha, a combination of current and not-yet member congregations have had teams of visitors trained over the past couple of weekends. They are planning to use Lent as a time to systematically build new relationships and understandings within their congregations.
In MICAH, four congregations (actually, including one CUSH congregation that snuck in there) recently had teams of one-on-one visitors trained. The interesting thing about that project is that each congregation has a slightly different goal: One intends to build up its Young Adult ministry; one wants to connect better to people in the neighborhood; one wants to strengthen its Church Council and the other is looking to build unity among two different ethnic/language groups in the congregation.
Comprehensive Immigration Reform
There is not a lot to report here right now, except to say that there will be a lot to report very soon. As I am sure you have seen on the news, there is a great deal of openness to comprehensive immigration reform right now. We in Wisconsin are in a position to have some real impact on the issue. Though there seems to be a lot of consensus at the moment, no one believes it will be easy to get real reform done.
One thing I have heard from many places is that the sticking point for immigration reform will likely be in the House of Representatives, especially among Republican members. They will surely not be unanimous, but there will need to be enough to ensure that it comes to a vote. We have members in the districts of five GOP Congressmen. I do not think that Congressman Sensenbrenner is likely to favor comprehensive reform, but we know that Congressmen Ryan, Ribble and Petri all lean toward a plan that would allow undocumented people to get on a path to citizenship. I don’t think we have any idea where Congressman Duffy stands on the issue. It will be very important for these (and all our representatives) to know that many people in their district will support them if they stand on the side of immigrants. In the very near future, we will all have some opportunities to help ensure that the momentum for immigration reform does not falter.
More on 11x15
I mentioned a lot about the 11x15 campaign earlier. I want to add a few more things at this point regarding some of our plans beyond March 14. Here is a brief timeline of what is planned for the next several months for the 11x15 campaign:
One final, very interesting thing related to 11x15: Groundswell This is a sort of internet petition, which circulates primarily among religious people. The RIC people got a petition launched on Groundswell, which is picking up some momentum. The secondary benefit of Groundswell is that it provides us with contact information for the people who have chosen to support 11x15. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can go to:
The next 11x15 conference call will be on Wednesday, Feb. 6. New people are welcome! The call is from 3:00-3:30 pm, at 712-432-1601, access code 423950#
April 24-26 – Gamaliel National Clergy Caucus
I am putting the flyer for the GNCC on the back page of this report. Ask those who have gone in the past; it is always a worthwhile use of a few days to connect with other religious leaders from around the country who share our hopes and who are trying to make a difference for their communities.
Rev. Ellwanger’s “retirement” caused a lot of reflection for me. Since I met him, I have seen him as a role model and a mentor (as well as a co-worker and friend). Many of us strive to be prayerful, faithful people as we work for social justice. For Joe, there is no apparent distinction between his faith and his full-bodied commitment to the work of justice. To be able to hang around with Joe is to be able to watch what God can do through somebody who is really available.
One of the things I am most grateful for is that I have had (and continue to have) so many opportunities to learn from and work with Joe Ellwanger. Of course, I have learned that you can’t be somebody else. I just hope and pray I can be who I am supposed to be as well as Joe is who he was made to be.