Chelsea Langston-Bombino grew up in a family where politics were discussed at the dinner table every night. “My mother was a Democrat; she was a public school teacher,” she says. “My father was a businessman. He was conservative.” She remembers her family caring deeply about politics and seeking to work toward solutions that were both principled and pragmatic. “It was never impossible to love people with political difference or to build connections with people with political difference,” she says, "because I saw my parents do that every night at the dinner table.”
Langston-Bombino often serves as the staff supervisor for Princeton Theological Seminary students who are completing a summer field education at the Center for Public Justice (CPJ) in Washington, D.C. A nonpartisan Christian think tank, the CPJ has had a partnership with Princeton Seminary’s field education office for the past 20 years.
“Our mission is to equip citizens, develop leaders, and shape policies to help God's transformation happen in every area of life, including in our political life,” she says. As a Christian organization rooted in the Reformed tradition, she says CPJ sees both government and the greater political community as having flaws — as being fallen, because of the brokenness of our world — but also feels called to see the inherent good of these institutions, and believes that, as Christians, we are called to participate in working for the good of these institutions.
Julia Metcalf, an MDiv student who completed a summer field education placement at CPJ, says the role helped her gain practical work experience in a field in which she was significantly interested. During her time there, Metcalf researched and wrote what is called a toolbox – an educational resource for faith-based organizations – on the topic of family supportive workplaces. These toolboxes are just one type of resource offered through Sacred Sector, an organizational learning community run by CPJ.
Faith-based nonprofits and congregations use the toolboxes to further educate themselves on important issues; to learn about the policies surrounding the issue and about advocacy already occurring for the issue; and to explore how they can advocate and establish policies of their own.
Metcalf, who also spent an academic school year at an international field education placement at The American Church of Paris in France, recalls presenting her toolbox to a group of women and men who represented different churches and nonprofits. “It was fulfilling to see my summer’s work materialize and be handed on to others in an effort to teach what I had learned and hopefully equip them to advocate for their communities,” she says.
During her time with CPJ, Metcalf says the staff “showed intelligence, grit, and grace on a daily basis.” As a supervisor, Langston-Bombino “challenged me, while also supporting me, in a way that gave me wonderful space to learn and grow,” she says.
In approaching her work from a Christian perspective, Langston-Bombino sees love of neighbor as a key component. “Our call to love our neighbor is not just about how we serve our neighbor, it's also about the ways in which we’re promoting laws and structures that support our neighbor, as well as ourselves.”
She asks, “How are you loving your neighbor through politics? In voting, how are you voting not just for a ballot initiative that will benefit you?”