By Trisha Johnson
The 48th annual Nebraska Ecumenical Legislative Briefing Day drew approximately 160 participants to Christ United Methodist Church in Lincoln, on Saturday, Feb. 11. This was the first time the event was held in person since 2020, due to COVID-19 restrictions and concerns.
According to the Rev. Ron Roemmich, a retired UMC pastor from Omaha and event co-chair, there was a general feeling of excitement from participants about meeting in person once again.
“This is as much of a reunion as it is an education taking place today,” Roemmich said.
Sheran Cramer from Omaha First UMC has participated in the event numerous times over the years and she echoed Roemmich’s sentiment.
“It’s exciting to be back in person,” said Cramer. “I think the interaction and transfer of ideas between people is an important thing, it just wasn’t the same doing it on Zoom.”
The overarching goal of Ecumenical Legislative Briefing Day is “Working for Justice,” and attendees were offered a total of six topics, from which they could choose two to learn more about from experts in each field. The first session’s topics were racial justice, criminal justice and climate. The second session was broken up into housing, economics and education.
Among those in attendance was a group of 10 Creighton University students. Allison Benjamin is a sophomore majoring in Spanish and Hispanic studies, and is from St. Paul, Minnesota. On track to attend medical school; her main interest lies in justice and health care reform. She attended the sessions on racial justice and economics.
“I’ve become interested in politics and advocacy and really want to learn more about different issues in Nebraska,” said Benjamin. “I thought this would be a great way to do that.”
Event co-chair Judy Reimer of Hastings Grace UMC welcomed everyone in the sanctuary prior to worship, commenting that she was “so glad to not be meeting on Zoom anymore,” and touched upon the event’s roots.
“Back in 1975, Ruby Thelander felt that the United Methodist Women needed to make their voices heard, and so she started Ecumenical Legislative Briefing Day, held here in Lincoln,” said Reimer. “Over the years she would hear from legislators after the event took place, who would say, ‘Ruby’s at it again,’ because of how many calls they were getting from women who took part in it. I think she’d be proud of where we are today!”
The Rev. Morita Truman, senior pastor at Omaha First UMC, shared a quote from the book “Do the Work! An Antiracist Guide.”
She said, “According to the book’s authors, ‘The arc of history bends toward justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own,’ and that’s why we are here today, to do the work.”
The day ended with a special presentation from the Nebraska League of Women Voters. The nonpartisan group aims to get women to actively participate in state government. Rachel Gibson, vice president of action, handed out a comprehensive list of bills being proposed in the legislature this year, including permit-less carry of handguns, voter identification, an anti-transgender bill, an anti-abortion bill, and tax credits for private schools.
Gibson encouraged attendees to sign up for the league’s annual Legislative Day on Feb. 14, at the Nebraska State Capitol, to help make their voices heard. Members and supporters will give testimony on bills they feel strongly about.
She asked the group how many had been to a public hearing, and hands went up all across the room, to which she said, “You’re my kind of people!”
Visit the Nebraska Ecumenical Legislative Briefing Day website at nelegisbrief.org, for information and downloadable materials on each topic. There is also an “Advocacy Why and How-to” video available for viewing on the home page.