Public Witness

December 31, 2020

Allison Tanner

January 1, 2021

“A poll chaplain is a person of faith who helps promote transparency and fairness in elections by being a ministry of presence, protection and care at polling sites. They are representatives of faith and defenders of democracy. All people of faith are welcomed, not just clergy.”

Slide from my training

On January 4, I will fly to Georgia to serve as a poll chaplain in its run-off election. I go in response to a call from the New Georgia Project and Faith In Action, two organizations that are doing amazing work to defend democracy and challenge racial injustice. I go to represent Lakeshore’s commitment to justice and equity, to bear witness at this historic event, to do my small part in the larger work of shaping the moral fiber of our country, and to continue the work of so many – from Lakeshore and beyond – who have led the way.

I will go because I can. In these COVID times, I’ve been careful about when and how I go out in public. However, as someone relatively young and healthy, I feel some obligation to show up in public when others cannot. Many people who would otherwise be part of this cannot, so I feel a responsibility to represent when I can. I know there is risk involved, and I will take measures to be as safe as possible.

I will go because I’m needed. I have heard a clear call to stand with those who are directly impacted by voter intimidation and suppression. People in the south respect pastors. Those directly involved assure me my presence, as a clearly identifiable pastor, will make a difference. My presence will help ensure that every voice matters and everyone has the right to vote.

I will go because I have something to offer. I can provide a ministry of presence. I can represent the love, peace and justice of God. I can bear witness to what is happening, whether there be attempts at voter intimidation and/or the ability of individuals to easily access the voting booth. I can record what happens at one poll site during this historic election, and I can respond as needed – as trained – to assist people in exercising their constitutional right to vote.

I will go because it’s that important. The past several years have revealed a resurgence of brazen racism, in addition to the ways racism continues to be intricately woven into every aspect of our nation – from politicians gutting the voting rights act to police brutality without accountability; from racist remarks in public discourse to the rise in hate crimes. These ugly manifestations of white supremacy are antithetical to my faith, my core values, and what I was taught this country stands for. I feel compelled to use my voice to stand against what is happening and do my part in this moment’s iteration of communities of conscience standing against white supremacy.

I have learned that there is power in standing with community in clergy attire, representing something so much bigger than myself and reminding the gathered community that they are not alone. I am grateful to be able to defend democracy and promote justice in this way. I covet your prayers as I travel and engage in public witness.

Pastor Allison