The Faith & Politics Institute leads pilgrimages, in which bi-partisan delegations of congressional members from both houses, staff members and guests travel together and learn about a particular period of our nation’s history and the implications of that period on our lives today. As stated by Sen. Norm Coleman, who has been on a pilgrimage with the Institute, “Travel teaches at a deep level. … We learn through the eyes, ears, thoughts, and hearts of others. We learn in a way that not only lasts but changes us in a very fundamental way. The Faith & Politics Institute plays a crucial role in our lives by creating those kinds of transforming experiences.”
A particularly significant journey is the Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage, in which the delegation travels to Montgomery, Birmingham and Selma, Alabama. Led by Representative John Lewis (D-GA) this journey allows participants to visit not only the sites of the Civil Rights Movement but to hear first-hand many of the compelling stories of hope that emerged from the movement.
The pilgrimage often includes visits to notable museums such as the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute, and the Slavery and Civil War Museum. In addition, the group spends time visiting, reflecting, and worshipping in churches such as the 16th Street Baptist Church, Brown Chapel AME Church and the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, all of which played a vital role in the Civil Rights Movement. Finally, the group celebrates the anniversary of the Voting Rights March across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Along the way, participants explore the implications of their experience for their leadership toward racial justice and healing.
Still, the most moving reflections about the Civil Rights Pilgrimage come from participants themselves …
“[We came] together not as Democrats, not as Republicans, but as Americans, both men and women who believe somehow and some way that we can find a way to create the American community.” Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Congressional Record, March 21, 2000.
Jack Kemp, former House of Representatives and Cabinet Secretary in the first Bush administration urges every House member and every Senator to participate in the Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage and “see first hand the progress that occurred because of black Americans with the help of a few extraordinary and courageous white people who dared to demand justice, dignity, and equality for all Americans without respect to the color of someone’s skin.”