It was winter of 1977 when I first arrived as an Episcopal priest in the state of Wyoming. I agreed to serve a tiny parish in the even tinier town of Dixon near the Colorado border. For me this was the beginning of an adventure and I yearned to serve not only the Little Snake River Valley but also the entire state of Wyoming. It didn’t take long for my bishop to assign me to a new organization called the Ministry to Impacted Areas, an ecumenical effort to address the aftermath of the energy boom as it settled on the state. This organization soon merged into the existing Wyoming Council of Churches and became known as the Wyoming Church Coalition. Later we would be known as the Wyoming Association of Churches and in 2017 we expanded into being the Wyoming Interfaith Network. Throughout these 43 years I have been actively involved as the Episcopal board member, board chair and from 2004-2009 as the Wyoming Association of Churches Director. Ecumenical and Interfaith work is a part of who I am.
I write today to remind everyone that WIN, in its previous incarnations, has made a significant impact on our state. We are small but mighty. This has all been made possible by some very dedicated people from various denominations and faith traditions. These are folks who believe in a holy calling to bring about social, environmental and economic justice to serve those the Gospel says are, “the least of these”. I have been amazed at what such a small group of believers has accomplished.
I am proud to name a few of our accomplishments. These include opposing the death penalty and working to pass a ballot initiative to establish “life without parole” as an alternative to executions. In 1992 we led the effort to oppose another ballot initiative that would bring big time casino gambling to the state that would have wreaked havoc on our culture as well as be an economic drain on people who could least afford this kind of addiction. We led an effort to oppose establishment of the MX missile here and pointed out this was one of the most immoral symbols of the entire world. Although the MX did arrive they were discontinued and removed in 2016. We were one of the leaders in bringing about the Martin Luther King holiday in Wyoming (one of the last states to proclaim the holiday) and have led efforts to oppose hate groups that occasionally raise their ugly head. I always love to remind folks that we were one of the most persistent advocates for removing the sales tax on groceries that has saved a great deal of money for the state’s poorest people. And most recently we played an integral role in joining with people from the Wind River Indian Reservation in seeing passage of the “Indian Education for All” act that provides education about the reservation to all the state’s school children. All of this and more was made possible by the efforts of a few dedicated people who desire to live out their faith in the public forum.
This brings us to the WIN Annual Meeting where we will celebrate nearly 50 years of our existence. We are still small in number but yet determined to work to make our state the best it can be in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Under the leadership of our new vibrant and well qualified Director, Jordan Bishop, we will continue to look to the future as a voice for several faith traditions and offer hope and spiritual insight to a people looking for something more than the status quo. My hope and prayer is that many more will join us in bringing this about in the days ahead. God constantly calls the people of faith to be a voice for the voiceless. I do believe that WIN is one of those voices. I invite you to join us in this holy endeavor.
The Rev. Warren Murphy has just released his new two part Memoir of this 43 year journey entitled Unique and Different. Much of this memoir talks about the work of WIN and stories about the state’s colorful people. You can check out this publication at UniqueAndDifferent.info website.