Thanks to CTUCC’s Legislative Advocate, Michele Mudrick, I recently had the opportunity to visit the legislative office building in Hartford for the first time. Not only did Michele serve as a tour guide for the building, showing me places such as where press conferences and public hearings are held, but she was kind enough to allow me to accompany her to some meetings as an observer.
Before our first formal meeting, Michele introduced me to Reverend Dick Allen of the Congregational Church in South Glastonbury, who was joining us for our meeting with Representative Jill Barry. As someone who works closely with his congregation, Dick offered an important perspective for our discussion with Jill, because he has a deep understanding of how social justice issues affect individuals and their families directly. The three of us chatted for a brief while in the cafeteria, a bustling room filled with busy folks working on laptops, having phone calls, and meeting with colleagues, before we headed up to meet Jill.
Jill Barry was a wonderfully kind woman, who was more than welcoming in listening to the opinions of her constituents. The bulk of the conversation revolved around the UCC’s resolution opposing casino expansion and gambling. Jill mentioned that she had not yet heard much from her constituents on either side of the issue, so I was happy to know our voices would be heard loud and clear rather than lost among a sea of others. Michele gave a compelling explanation of our position against casino expansion. Although I had already become familiar with the issue by reading literature, I found it helpful for understanding the urgency of the problem to hear it put into words fueled by Michele’s passion for justice. In addition, Dick referenced his own experiences as a witness to the destructiveness of gambling addiction, which also hit home for me. The meeting was overall a valuable learning experience for me, and I hope it was for Jill too.
After meeting with Jill, we met with more colleagues of Michele’s for a discussion about the process of becoming a Sanctuary Church. We also attended a Senate Democrats Press Conference at the Capitol, which was another first for me. The event felt very informal, with a crowd of people coming and going as several different people took turns speaking about issues on the Democrats’ agenda. There was no seating in the room, which added to the informal feeling, and many 'multi-taskers' used their phones to get work done as they listened to the speakers. I thought it was fascinating to be a part of what is behind the cameras at a press conference because it allowed me to think more about all the energy and coordination that goes on behind the scenes of what the public is typically shown.
Following the press conference, Michele and I finished our day at the legislative office building with a lunch in the cafeteria and then a few visits to other representatives and senators. Since these were unscheduled visits, none of the individuals we had hoped to speak with happened to be available at the time we arrived, but this did not deprive me of the chance to learn a little more about how meetings like these tend to work and to familiarize myself with the building, a relief in such a large and intimidating place.
Overall, I felt this visit was invigorating. Being surrounded by busy energy throughout the building, and meeting and hearing from so many passionate people served as a powerful motivation to do my best in assisting the Connecticut Conference with justice work during my internship. It was thrilling to feel that I was truly starting to be a part of their work and to be out in the community doing it. I will strive to bring this energy into my future involvement with CTUCC with the hope to make the most of my experience.