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Turbulent Times Offer Outreach Opportunities for WI Churches


JANESVILLE, Wis. -- Progressive Christian clergy are finding new people to connect with as the nation confronts a host of turbulent issues - including in southern Wisconsin.

Rev. Tanya Sadagopan leads the Janesville United Church of Christ, which she said has a long history of activism and outreach. In the past few years, she said, the church has been more outspoken about welcoming immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community. The pandemic and the civil unrest following the death of George Floyd are adding to that outreach, and it isn't only members of their own congregation they're engaging.

"Our church, for instance, draws interest from the millennial, evangelical young people who have young kids right now, who desire to make a difference in our world and have lacked that activism and community engagement, perhaps, in the areas that they've grown up," Sadagopan said.

She added their message has caught the attention of people who identify as politically liberal, which she said isn't surprising, as they're commonly aligned with these causes. But she's even seen interest from people who identify as agnostic. She said the news media often ignores this type of religious activism to focus on the divisive debates spearheaded by some conservative faith leaders. Despite the different tone, Sadagopan said there's still room to work with other churches that aren't as progressive.

"We also partner, for instance, with a local African-American multi-ethnic congregation, the House of God Church," she said "They're much more theologically conservative than us, but we share common goals and interests for racial justice."

She called on leaders at other churches to set a vision, to show how they plan to make a difference for those who've been deeply affected by the many issues at the nation's doorstep.

Mike Moen is the Morning Edition producer and serves as a staff reporter for WNIJ. Every morning, he works with Dan Klefstad to bring listeners the latest Illinois news. He also works with the rest of the news staff on developing and producing in-depth stories. Mike is a Minnesota native who likes movies, history, and baseball. When most people hear his last name, they assume he is 100-percent Scandinavian. But, believe it or not, he is mostly German.