As the opening notes of Ken Medema's piano sounded on the morning of Friday, September 13, more than 500 people listened in rapt attention. The Call to Renewal's "National Forum on Faith and Politics" had begun. Religious leaders, organizers, and activists from all over the country came by car, by bus, and by plane to learn, to share, to pray, and to strategize.
Rev. Yvonne Delk opened with a powerful message of personal and societal renewal: "The social transformation we are seeking for our land will not come without a spiritual transformation."
Panels addressed some of the critical issues of our time-the Christian response to poverty, making commitments to end racism, ethics and morality in Congress, creating a more civil dialogue in the "culture wars," and the contributions of our religious traditions and organizations toward the development of a new political vision.
Sen. Bill Bradley spoke of the importance of restoring a vibrant civil society in order to maintain democracy, then stayed 30 minutes beyond his scheduled time to answer questions from the audience.
In Friday's keynote address, Jim Wallis spoke of the need for a new politics grounded in compassion, community, and civility. Healing the nation requires moving beyond politics-as-usual to a new vision.
A Saturday luncheon featured Marian Wright Edelman, founder and executive director of the Children's Defense Fund. She exhorted the audience to work for the protection of children in the face of the recently passed welfare legislation, and proclaimed, "It's time for the religious community to be the moral locomotive for social change and not the moral caboose."