My First Day at the Capital

by Jamil Grimes, KCC field education student


     I should begin this with a confession. I have never been to a state capital before. As a youth, I never took the school field trip to the statehouse; and despite a lengthy career in law enforcement, limited political involvement never led me to sitting across a table from my state representative. Instead, news and popular media have mostly informed my understanding of politics. My visit to the Kentucky State Capital in Frankfort was both corrective and informative.

     Interim Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Peggy Hinds, and I braved the wintry conditions and arrived at the Capitol's annex building, which houses the offices of Senate and House personnel. We located a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, but the bills on the agenda were outside the scope of our visit. We determined that our time would be better spent walking the halls and preparing for a morning meeting with Senator Paul Hornback.

     We went downstairs to the cafeteria, which functions as a meeting place for legislative agents, advocates and the like. It is worth mentioning how any visit to the cafeteria can disclose sudden shifts in the legislative landscape: a nascent bill you should know about, or a position change of a legislator who is no longer firm on casting a critical vote. It may seem trivial, but making yourself available where this information is shared enables you to respond in the moment and be a timely voice for the organization you represent.

     After a brief stay in the cafeteria, Peggy and I entered Senator Hornback's office. The senator seemed genuinely curious about the views of the Kentucky Council of Churches and patiently articulated his own, while honestly acknowledging the differences. The conversation covered a number of important issues: e.g., the death penalty, expungement, immigration and payday lending. To our pleasure, Senator Hornback expressed reservations about the reliability of state-execution and, later, his belief that some persons with felony convictions deserve a second chance at life with a clean record. It was encouraging to see how civil discourse - something often absent from politics - can reveal common ground in unexpected places.

     Peggy and I left Senator Hornback's office and later tried getting meetings with other legislators. Sadly, with the Capitol closed the next day, schedules were full. However, we left knowing more about this session's agenda and pleased to have had the opportunity to speak for the Council.

Here's my one take-away from the visit: 

     Advocacy work at the Capital is done best with a sustained presence. Yes, there are planned appointments and meetings, but there are also many helpful introductions and conversations that happen on the fly. Being able to take advantage of these spontaneous moments often means hanging around until something happens.


     P.S. Before we left the Capital, Peggy and I took a selfie with Kentucky's own President Abraham Lincoln. As a Licolnite, this was definitely a personal highlight. I hope that you've seen it!


Ecumenism, the art of unity between Christian churches, has been around for a long time. The National Council of Churches was founded in 1950. However, ecumenism really took off with the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church in the early 1960's. I was a toddler when the Council took place (1962-65). All I know of it is what I have read in books and learned from others. 

In his memoir, Reflections Over the Long Haul, Robert McAfee Brown wrote about the Council from a Protestant perspective. A primary purpose of the Pope's call for the Council was "an increasing recognition that (a) Christians should not be divided, (b) that even though divided they should not be fighting one another, and (c) an admission that both sides have lived sinfully self-enclosed lives and that they must engage in dialogue." (p. 202) 

My take-away from the event, Brown's synopsis of its purpose, and ecumenical efforts since then is two-fold: 1) We are all one body in Christ Jesus. 2) That divisions and disagreements are a part of who we are as human beings. 

The Apostle Paul described the Church as one body with many parts.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12

Ecumenism is the Church attempting to be one body, even though we are made up of many differing parts. It matters that we make this effort, because it is what Christ wants of us. Walking away, turning away, ignoring, and particularly dismissing one another is not an option if we are to be the true Body of Christ. Ecumenism will be important as long as we hold to differing ways of interpreting Bible and theology, and living out differing expressions of Christian identity. 

The Kentucky Council of Churches, and other ecumenical groups, invite Christians to live as one body as we function as different parts. I offer a few suggestions for what Christians can do to make this a reality:

1. Seek opportunities for ecumenical and interfaith dialogues. Many communities offer such events and activities. If you cannot find a conversation in your area, start one.

2. Work together with other denominations and religions on common issues and mission projects. Faith communities that unite have strength and influence that a lone church or individual does not. Join together to make your community better.

3. Learn about other denominations and faith groups. Take a class, or read many of the resources that are available. Visit places of worship different from your own. 

4. Discuss disagreements with love, patience, integrity, and civility. We will not always agree on everything. Even people in the same church have differing views. We can learn from one another, and the Spirit will work in conversations that are open, honest, and grace-filled. 

5. Be open to the Spirit's movement in ecumenical and interfaith situations. Pray for guidance and an openness to God's leading. 

6. Stay present. Even when you want to walk away, or you think the dialogue will never bear fruit, persevere with patience and determination. The results can be transformative when we are willing to stay at the table and show hospitality to each other. 

7. Join an ecumenical organization in your area. Most states have a Council of Churches, or similar organizations. Many towns and cities have ecumenical and interfaith groups. These groups are excellent resources for engaging and learning. Donate to your state's Council so that this important ecumenical work can continue. 


*Image from