N.H. Church Leaders Navigate Questions Of Faith And Politics Ahead Of Election | New Hampshire Public Radio

N.H. Church Leaders Navigate Questions Of Faith And Politics Ahead Of Election

Oct 27, 2020

Ahead of this year’s election, many New Hampshire churches say they're carefully treading the line between faith and politics.

 

While many religious leaders said they encourage members of their congregations to cast their own ballots, the heated political climate can make conversations about this year's election particularly touchy. 

 

Rev. Celestyne Bragg of New Hope Baptist Church in Portsmouth said she never tries to sway members on how to vote. But, she wants them to know their vote matters.

“We do not try to force-feed them with an opinion that isn't there,” Bragg said. “So overall, just saying that it is important. That we all need to get out there and let our voices be heard by a vote.”

While conversations touching on politics can often be difficult, Jason Wells, executive director of the New Hampshire Council of Churches, said the first step is asking members if they have a plan to vote.

 “There’s often a lot of silence about voting in churches,” Wells said. “People don’t want to broach a political subject. They don’t want to create division between congregants. It’s a lighter way for two people to say, ‘it's important to me that I have a plan. Have you made a plan yet? I think you should.’ "

Rev. Jeffrey McIlwain heads North Star AME Zion Church in Newington. He said issues like COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and the economy are all coming up for members. 

 “It’s no different than the rest of the country,” McIIwain said. “Even in my church, the conversations that we have -- people have strong feelings.”

While many of his members disagree when it comes to these matters, he said they’re all heading to the polls. And some are even willing to help others get there. 

Woullard Lett, a leader in the Unitarian Universalist Church covering parts of New Hampshire, his fellow congregants value diversity and social justice - values that aren’t always reflected in political campaigns. 

 “It causes us anxiety,” Lett said. “So one of the things we say to our congregations is that you have the chance to impact the tone and center of the political arena by being involved.”