I was really looking forward to November 3rd. For one thing, it’s my birthday. I thought that the election would be over, I would not be receiving about 50 email messages a day asking me to send some candidate, many in other states, money for the election or their re-election. And my biggest wish was that we would have a new President in the White House. I got that wish, but unfortunately for my inbox and the country, it was not that straight forward. We all know what happened in the time between November 3rd and January 20th. Our divided country was becoming more divided.
I first came to Wyoming Interfaith Network (WIN) when it was the Wyoming Association of Churches (WAC). That was in the fall of 2016. I went to the WAC annual meeting at the invitation of another Laramie pastor. I had been in Wyoming for about 6 months at that time. When the secretary of the organization could not attend the meeting, I said I would take notes during the meeting, since I had my laptop with me. Well, here I am, 4+ years later, still the recording secretary!
There was a very intentional time of discernment by the membership, and the board members regarding becoming interfaith in the first couple years I was a member. We looked for examples of other interfaith groups, from local groups like the Cheyenne Interfaith Council to statewide ones like Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, or national ones like the Interfaith Alliance. WIN is now a member of a national Interfaith Alliance who has been helping us with training and sharing best practices with us. We are excited to be part of the group, and they are excited to have us as well.
Our membership is growing, in part because WIN has been doing some pretty good programming. Even with the pandemic raging we have done some zoom informational meetings this past year. Our Executive Director, Jordan Bishop, is doing a great job of keeping us organized and getting people to present programs that seem to be of wide interest among our members and the guests that attend the programs.
One thing that I like about WIN (among many) is that we can (members, guests, board members) listen to each other, we can have real discussions. I only wish that was the case in our country, but we seem to be becoming more and more divided all the time. A sad outcome of that is that hate crimes are going up around the country. Many of these crimes are committed against people because of their religious beliefs.
Organizations like WIN help us to become more tolerant of others. WIN gives us a forum for learning and growing into understanding. In addition to advocating for the end of the death penalty in Wyoming, I would like WIN to continue advocating for equality for all, after all, we live in the Equality State. We need to advocate for hate crimes legislation in WY. Wyoming is a great place to live, but without protections for their employees, companies do not want to come here. And many of our young LGBTQ folks leave the state.
I got one of my wishes for my birthday. We had a new President. But I feel that the divisiveness in the country got worse, just after the election, culminating on January 6, 2021. I still hope to get one more birthday gift, and that is what I wish for our country, a return to civility and treating each person with dignity and respect. Something we should get every day because every day is someone’s birthday.
Rev. Kenneth Ingram is a graduate of Iliff School of Theology. He is a past hospital and hospice chaplain, and currently serves St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Laramie. He is a board member of WIN, Wyoming Equality, and the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Church of Christ. (optional, you decide) : He lives in Laramie with his husband, Don, and their three fur babies, Magenta, Rocky & Brenden.