Rev. Katey Zeh is a strategist, author, and speaker who works with nonprofits and faith communities on organizing for social change. She is the interim Executive Director of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. A highly sought thought leader and speaker, Katey has presented on faith and activism at conferences and universities across the United States. The Center for American Progress named her one of their top justice-seeking faith leaders to watch. She is the co-host of the Kindreds podcast and the author of a Women Rise Up: Sacred Stories of Resistance for Today’s Revolution (FAR Press, May 2019), a timely take on the tenacious women of the bible.
Vennly: An area of professional emphasis for you is in working with activists and organizations to help them overcome their challenges. What are some of the key obstacles that these groups face?
Katey: People start a project or organization with a lot of passion–and a big vision–but often struggle with how to get started in a practical way that is sustainable over time. What happens is that they dive into the work without clear, achievable goals and then burn out quickly. My work is to help overwhelmed activists break down their vision for change into a series of small steps that contribute to their overall mission.
Vennly: In your experience, what are the most effective ways for individual activists and groups to measure their success in driving social change?
Katey: Most of the transformation I’ve seen has been through relationships I’ve built with people who share a commitment to social change. Capturing stories of those impacted by your work, whether through training or direct service, is one way to measure impact and share it with others in a meaningful. Numbers and data can show scope, but narratives capture depth.
Vennly: What advice would you offer to individuals that are interested in contributing to a justice movement but that don’t aspire to become full-fledged activists?
Katey: Spend time reflecting on what you would most like to see changed in the world. I guarantee there are wonderful organizations already working to bring about that change that would welcome your time, gifts, or resources. Pick one that you’d like to support, and think about what contribution would be life-giving and joy-filled for you, whether that’s volunteering once a month, making a monthly donation, or even sending the staff a note of encouragement.
Vennly: Your new book celebrates women of the bible through stories of hope and courage. How can readers best apply the lessons and teachings of these stories to their personal and professional lives?
Katey: One of the bits of wisdom I gained from exploring these stories is, “Resist simple answers to life’s complex questions.” Like us, these biblical characters are fully human, in need of both our critique and compassion. I hope my book inspires us all to create more space for complexity in our conversations about life, faith, and justice.
Vennly: In what ways do you believe that Vennly’s spiritual leaders can help propel social change forward through their Perspectives?
Katey: My hope is that by offering diverse perspectives on issues of faith, we will disrupt many of the commonly held assumptions about religion and create space at the table for more dynamic, nuanced conversations about life’s toughest questions.