What we've been reading this weekNick Spencer on the electionContacting election candidatesHow to Show Up Snap Election - How to respond?Thoughts from a Broom CupboardDifficulties getting to the Polling Station?Can’t be bothered to vote? Some reasons why you should….Politics is in need of incarnation, not just demonstration10 Reasons Christians Should Vote in the ElectionsThe election as an opportunityPolitics is dead...When praying for your leaders feels tough...'THOSE WHO SHOW UP' - Every church leader should read this book! If you care about your neighbour, you care about politicsDoes politics really matter?Why the Catholic Church calls us to be "active citizens"Serving God On the Inside and On the OutsideWho would Jesus vote for?5 reasons Christians don't get involved in politicsShifting views on politics from an Ethiopian immigrantOne student's u-turn on politicsTime to get engaged!A call for students to have a go!

The election as an opportunity

Jessica Metheringham, Parliamentary Engagement Officer for Quakers in Britain, explains how a General Election is an opportunity to speak out.

This article was first written prior to the 2015 General Election

Since Christmas, I've been running a number of workshops. At each one I ask everyone to write down the top three issues which they think the election will be about. When people share what they have written, the same three issues keep coming up: the economy, the NHS, and immigration. These are the issues which dominate the mainstream news, pepper the speeches of politicians, and shape the policies of all the parties. But what if it's not all we care about?

In my workshops, I ask a second question: what do we think the election should be about? What are the issues which matter most to you, and which you wish political parties would debate? The answers to this question are not confined to three topics – everyone has a different answer, often deeply rooted in personal experiences. Every time, discussing these has started a vibrant debate. Why don't we hear politicians talking as much about education, the environment, or criminal justice? Is a different message conveyed if we use words like 'the economy' or 'austerity', rather than 'money' or 'poverty'? How much do local circumstances affect what we think are the most important issues for the 2015 election?

We often feel called by our faith to give time or skills to strengthen our local communities. There is a clear sense of purpose in doing something meaningful that has a practical impact on someone's life. But often what precipitates this response is something larger in society and that won’t change unless we ask. Global issues have implications on our individual lives here in the UK. We are affected by the structures of society and when those structures are dominated by narratives that drown out marginalised voices, it is time to speak up and speak out. National politicians have to listen and respond, and we look for a party that best speaks to our idea of a better society.

The election is not a shop window, where we make a choice and then move on. It's lots of small conversations, where we get the chance to ask the questions and to share our views and experiences. Even when it comes to political manifestos, we're not just passive consumers. A manifesto is like a book of recipes, in that the resulting food also depends on the ingredients and the people doing the cooking. If we want to be invited to share the meal, we should be prepared to be involved in the preparation.

The election is an opportunity for us to raise awareness of the issues we care about. Politics isn't just about the economy, the NHS and immigration – it's also about our high streets, childcare, the countryside, housing, local jobs, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, what we do with our money. It's about having these conversations with our local candidates, whether at hustings or by writing to all the candidates. Our faith can call us to speak truth to power, and the election gives us the opportunity.

So, ask a question at a hustings. Invite your parliamentary candidates to come to you. Speak to your neighbours. Vote -  and keep on being involved. Keep on showing up. Politics is far wider than the economy, and faith isn't just about what we do on Sunday mornings.