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2024 Eastern Washington Legislative Conference

Faith leaders heartened that faith stirs hope

Gen Heywood-FLLC

In a plenary discussion at the recent Eastern Washington Legislative Conference, five faith leaders offered an overview of avenues for renewing hope for the future.

Gen Heywood of Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscious (FLLC) said there is hope just being in community and being in communication.

"Renewing hope is about attitude," she said.

Gen introduced the image of "putting on the lifejacket of hope with people helping each other put on the lifejacket and zipping it up, so we do not give in to despair," she said.

"When we are desperate, we may hurt ourselves and others," she said. "The next few years will be difficult. We need to be lovers of compassion and justice."

Gen, who is also pastor at Veradale United Church of Christ (UCC), is grateful that Faith Action Network, Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power and Light, and Washington State Catholic Conference inform people about how their lives may be affected by issues coming before the legislature.

"We help each other keep snuggled in lifejackets of hope, knowing others are doing work, especially work different from ours," she said. "We make a difference. They make a difference."

Gen also said that reducing social media and media in general can help build hope, freeing time for people to turn to one another.

"We do not need to do it all. We can support someone else who has a brilliant idea and acts," she said. "We can turn to people who know what to do. We can also help by changing, if the way we are doing things is not the best way.

"We can give and receive help and hope," she said. "The next three years may be bumpy, but we can embrace hope."

Jeremy Press Taylor - Jewish

Jeremy Press Taylor of Congregation Emanu-El and Temple Beth Shalom, finds hope in the solidarity of everyone working together on shared struggles.

He calls for connecting to develop understanding and find similarities by coming together to build a strong group and build a world we want to live in with marginalized groups," he said. "Then we can push the needle on big issues."

He was heartened by the young people talking of their visions for the future. As a youth, he felt it was up to him and other youth to create the world they wanted."

"It's important to support and empower young people to be involved," he said.

The youth talked of feeling isolated and disconnected by COVID and social media, which interrupt the power of being in community in person, he said.

"Stories of our similarities and differences keep me going," Jeremy said. "I am thankful for this opportunity of solidarity and networking."

Karen Stromgren - Muslim

Karen Stromgren of Muslims for Community Action and Service (MCAS) was raised Catholic. Her husband introduced her to Islam, and she became Muslim.

"I know what was at the heart of my early faith values, but my parents were not there for me. I found a sisterhood in the Muslim community that helps me be an example for my children to make them hopeful," she said. "I bring positivity to the table.

"God put us on earth to help one another and support each other," Karen said, adding that she feels a connection with the interfaith group at the conference.

Pat Millen OSF - Catholic

Sr. Pat Millen OSF, said that as a Franciscan woman religious she is "a justice promoter."

"I follow Francis and Clare of Assisi. Francis was a peacemaker concerned about the environment. He also embraced lepers. In his peace prayer, we say, 'Where there is hatred, let me bring love,'" she said.

"How do we embrace and support lepers? Who are they today? The homeless among us are the lepers in our community. How do I touch and support them?" Sr. Pat asked.

"Francis gave us the Canticle of Creation. Pope Francis has given us Laudato Sí, saying we each have a role in caring for our common home, for creation," she continued.

On peacemaking, she asked, "What does a peacemaker need to do today related to Ukraine and Gaza? How can we be peacemakers and support peacemakers?

"We need to be in an ongoing conversation. We need to be ready to change our views," Sr. Pat said. "We need a Franciscan renaissance of embracing lepers and caring for our common home."

Liv Larson Andrews - Lutheran

Liv Larson Andrews, former pastor of Salem Lutheran Church in Spokane, recently became director for evangelical mission with the Northwest Intermountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She works with the synod that covers the Columbia River watershed in Central and Eastern Washington, North Idaho, Wyoming and Oregon.

As she visits Lutheran churches, she finds hope. People may begin in despair about the violence and hate around them, but through honest conversations, they can move to healing by looking at the roots of their faith and their calling.

Liv told of the Lutheran pastor in Bonners County who was on a panel, "Unite Against Hate." As part of the community, she said he sees sacred connections.

"Such efforts are rays of inspiration if we have the eyes to see them," Liv said.

She recommends reading the book Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals, dedicated to those who survived the middle passage and did not drown despite unbearable circumstances.

"When despair rises, we need to go toward the water, like the Spokane River," she suggested.

The EWLC24 videos are available HERE or directly at


Copyright@ The Fig Tree, March 2024