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By BJC Staff Reports and BJC Fellow Jaimie Crumley

We are now accepting applications for the 2017 BJC Fellows Program, offering young professionals the chance to deepen their legal, historical and theological understanding of religious liberty. The program includes a seminar in Colonial Williamsburg from July 26-30, 2017, which prepares BJC Fellows for their roles as religious liberty advocates in their communities. There are no religious requirements, but applicants should have six years or less experience in their current profession. The application process and complete details are available on our website at BJConline.org/Fellows.

For insight into the program, we asked 2016 BJC Fellow Jaimie Crumley to share about her experience:

crumley_headshot-sqDuring the Baptist Joint Committee Fellows Seminar this past July, I was astounded by the amount of legislation that has gone into preserving religious liberty in this country. As an ordained American Baptist minister, I am familiar with the historical and theological foundations of religious liberty, but learning about the legal side of the story inspired me.

As religious liberty, especially for our Muslim neighbors, has come under siege in the past several months, I feel empowered knowing that there are great legal minds working to preserve freedom for people of all faiths living in the United States. During the program, I was particularly inspired by the Know Your Neighbor initiative, which works to educate communities about the diversity of religious expression in their midst.

When I returned to Hartford, Connecticut, I assembled a panel of young adult leaders who have different religious backgrounds so that we could freely talk about religious freedom in our communities, especially under the shadow of the 2016 election. The legal director of the Connecticut chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union joined us for a keynote address to kick off the discussion. My Pentecostal, Jewish, Muslim and Humanist panelists and I learned so much from one another about everything from American holidays to social justice to sharing political beliefs in our religious settings. While we all have different ways of approaching faith, we are all striving to find greater meaning in our lives.

I encourage young adults to apply to the BJC Fellows program because we are the people who can teach our communities that religious difference is a gift. In an increasingly pluralistic world, we must remind our communities of our shared humanity and of the importance of preserving religious freedom for people of all faiths.

A graduate of Yale Divinity School, the Rev. Jaimie Crumley is minister of faith formation at First Baptist Church of West Hartford, Connecticut.

From the November/December 2016 edition of Report from the Capital. You can also read the digital version of the magazine or view it as a PDF.