What is a Town Hall Meeting?
Members of Congress hold town hall meetings in order to hear from their constituents and share information on what is going on in Washington DC. Town halls are usually free and open to the public, and are a great way to have your voice heard. This year hopefully all will be virtual. This will make them easier to attend and no less important. We’ve gathered some tips and resources on this page to help you get to your next town hall and bring the faith-based message of care for Creation.
Finding Dates and Locations
The Town Hall Project has created a comprehensive and easy-to-use guide to town hall meetings happening around the country. To find a schedule of the ones nearest you, simply enter your zip code (NOTE: these are updated regularly so you may need to check back to find additional opportunities). You can also go to your Member’s website, join their email list, or call their office for event updates. Not sure who represents you in Congress? You can find your Members of Congress in the House of Representatives and the Senate here.
- Get in touch with your state IPL affiliate. Our state affiliates have a wealth of information on the environmental issues in your area, and are a great resource to both help you prepare for a town hall meeting, or to get you involved with groups that are already planning on attending.
- Research your Member of Congress. How have they voted in the past on climate and environmental legislation? Are they a person of faith? Who funds your Members? Do these organizations share your values? Being informed will allow you to question a poor voting record, or to reach them in a focused and effective way.
- Be informed on the issues, and ask questions. This summer IPL and many partner organizations are prioritizing a Green Stimulus and Equitable Economic Recovery package. Investing in clean energy jobs is the best way to protect communities health and create jobs. The $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill (HR2), called the Moving Forward Act, passed the House of Representatives and contains many of our priorities. Now it must pass the Senate. Ask your representative and/or Senators if they support it, and what they are doing to ensure that the next stimulus or recovery package reduces pollution, protects health, corrects inequities that put low income communities and people of color at greater risk, and invests in clean energy and conservation. Click here for some talking points and sample questions to ask.
- Prepare your questions in advance.
- Don’t: Ask a yes or no question.
- Do: Speak from your experience and let them know you are a person of faith.
- Do: Ask a question about a specific piece of legislation.
- If you ask about a piece of legislation be prepared to quickly explain what it is; Members of Congress read thousands of bills.
- Do: Ask a question about a political action.
- Asking about an action, for example: “What have you done and what will you do to support solutions to the climate crisis?” can help you get a specific and unscripted answer from your Member.
- For further suggestions, please contact your IPL state affiliate.
- Invite others to attend the meeting with you! Large groups make a statement. Attend (virtually) with other members of your congregation, members of IPL, friends, and/or family.
- Be Seen — even online! We’ve created several posters that you can print out to further the message of care for Creation.
During the Town Hall Meeting
- Make sure you sign in or list your name in the video chat box.
- Sit up close or near a microphone. If you are on a phone or video virtual meeting, make sure to test your equipment and find a quiet place.
- Briefly introduce yourself. Give your name, where you live, and that you are a member of IPL, a non-profit organizing a religious response to climate change.
- Ask your question and be polite. Your Member of Congress is more likely to listen to you if you are respectful. Even if you disagree with them, try to phrase your question respectfully and tactfully.
Once It’s Over
- Network with other attendees. This is a great time to make connections to other climate activists or to tell interested people about IPL and the connection between faith and environmental protection. If this is a virtual event that may mean just noting others who ask questions related to climate solutions.
- Get the message out. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or post to your social media to tell others what your Member said and to encourage others to attend town halls.
- Don’t make it your last! Your Member of Congress will be more likely to listen if they see your persistence and passion.
What if there is no (virtual) Town Hall to attend?
If your member of Congress is not hosting a Town Hall, you have a couple options. You could set up a phone call or virtual meeting with the in-district office, organize a call-in/letter-writing campaign, pen a Letter to the Editor or Op-Ed, or organize your own virtual Town Hall.
- Set up a virtual in-district meeting. The August recess is an opportunity to meet with your member of Congress while they’re in their home district. Find the phone number for the in-district office on your Congressperson’s website and call to set up a meeting.
- Organize a call-in/letter-writing campaign. Using the talking points above, create a letter or phone script addressed to your Congressperson and recruit people to write letters or call the office.
- Pen a Letter to the Editor or Op-Ed. Adapt the talking points above into a Letter to the Editor or Op-Ed and submit to your local newspaper.
- Organize a Town Hall. Feeling ambitious? Organize a virtual Town Hall in a local congregation. Use this guide from our friends at the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism. You will need to adjust it for a virtual meeting, but that may be bring more people who couldn’t attend in person.