By Caleb Hennington
Digital Content Editor
Rebecca Cole, Director of Grassroots Organizing
United Methodists in Arkansas often seek to offer assistance and advocacy for their community, but are many times unsure where to begin or are worried that they do not have the proper resources. A new training event is looking to offer aid to Christians who wish to make real change in their local communities.
The Arkansas Conference Board of Church and Society is hosting a two-day Faith Advocacy Training seminar on Oct. 4 and 5 at First UMC in downtown Little Rock, 723 Center St. The training will focus on teaching participants how advocacy can be rooted in faith, and how they can make their voices heard on the local, state and national levels.
The Rev. Jay Clark, associate pastor at Pulaski Heights UMC and member of the Arkansas Conference Board of Church and Society, said the event came about after the advocacy team for the CBCS realized that although people in churches wanted to make changes in their community, they were ill-equipped to advocate for those changes.
“This gave us a chance to bring in some experts to talk to those interested about what it means to be a United Methodist and stand up for what we believe and work toward positive change,” Clark said.
“We want to look at cultivating change that challenges systems at the root that keep all children of God from thriving,” added the Rev. Haley Jones, deacon at First Church Little Rock. “The General Board of Church and Society is using grassroots organizing as that tool.”
The multi-day event will feature two speakers from the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society, Rebecca Cole and John Hill.
Cole is the Director of Grassroots Organizing for GBCS. According to her bio, Cole “connects, trains, and equips United Methodists all over the world with the tools to organize for justice in their communities.”
She earned her Master of Divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary, and previously worked for the Sacred Heart Community Service in San Jose, California, organizing for immigrant rights, and with the Interfaith Council for Economic Justice to work at improving workers’ lives.
“As we see the ongoing challenges facing God’s people and God’s planet, we are grateful that United Methodists in Arkansas are coming together to learn how to put their faith into action and engage systems and policies that create injustice,” Cole said.
John Hill, Assistant General Secretary for Advocacy and Grassroots Organizing Director of Economic and Environmental Justice for GBCS
Hill is the Assistant General Secretary for Advocacy and Grassroots Organizing Director of Economic and Environmental Justice for GBCS. His focus is on educating and leading others in ways to be better stewards of the Earth through environmental justice, and ensuring that “all God’s children have access to sufficient resources to thrive” through economic justice.
Hill is a graduate of the University of Virginia where he received a degree in international affairs. He has also served as a legislative aide in the U.S. Congress and has worked as a lobbyist in the private sector.
The training is a partnership between the Arkansas Conference’s Board of Church and Society and the United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas, and Clark says UMFA has awarded them a grant to help pay for the event.
“UMFA was a huge help in underwriting this event. Most importantly, it gave us the means to offer scholarships to high school and college students,” Clark said.
Scholarships are available on a first come, first served basis and cover the full registration fee for the event.
Registration for the training is $25 and the fee covers meals, snacks, a T-shirt, and resources for the event. The training will take place from 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 5.
“We all believe in something. For most things, our faith informs what we believe. This training will give us tools we can use in our churches to make a difference in others’ lives for the better.
“Our hope is that you will leave this event with more knowledge about how you can make a difference as a United Methodist Christian,” Clark said.