by Rev. Diane Weible
I am still reflecting on the events of last Sunday that so many of us participated in. I was so inspired by the number of people who gathered in the sanctuary of First Congregational Church Berkeley. Then, as we started marching, more people joined us. One person asked us where we started from. We told them that we came from FCCB and she told us they had started from All Souls Episcopal Church. But we were not just an ecumenical group but an interfaith group as well. In fact, there were also people marching with us who would not claim any faith.
We sang and we chanted and we looked at all the signs that people were carrying. (My favorite was one that read, “Some of my best friends are white!”) We talked and we laughed and everyone once in a while we would see someone we knew but we hadn’t realized was marching with us. When we got to Martin Luther King, Jr., Civic Center Park we stopped for a while and shared a Holy Meal as we sang “This Little Light of Mine” and other songs. Some of us kept marching.
I know there were news reports about the violence between antifa members and right-wing protestors but we didn’t see that. We saw antifa members marching along side us in peace. The news mentioned there were about 7000 people marching that day, mostly counter protestors and people like us who spoke out against bigotry and hate and violence of all kinds. That, I believe.
At the end, as we were walking back to First Congregational Church Berkeley, I noticed a police officer buying one of the counter protestor shirts. I smiled again. The vast majority of us at the rally that day wanted the same thing—peace and dignity for all people; love and an end to hate.
And then I remembered a comment someone had made earlier in the week when there was concern about the violence in Charlottesville and whether it was a good idea for us to come out at all. She said, “I don’t want to be sitting at home watching this on television and say, ‘I should’ve been there. Silence is not an option.’ “
Yes, those of us who were there were there because we knew we had to be there. We had to make a witness. Silence was not an option. Some people chose not to come (or couldn’t come) but offered to pray for those who were going to be there. Many people were there and shared their witness in a different way—hospitality and respite for the marchers or care and support in the Safe Houses along the route.
The number of emails and Facebook posts I read leading up to that day reminded me just how important it is for us to come together and speak out. To break the silence and be a witness, in whatever way is most comfortable for us. When we feel most helpless (and I know that many of us have felt very helpless for a very long time), coming together to walk, to pray, to sing, to eat is a way to counter that helplessness and remind us that when we are together God truly is in the midst of us.
There will be more opportunities for us to come together going forward. I just learned that tonight at 6 PM there is a Faith Vigil at Frank Ogawa Plaza (14th and Broadway) to stand together in support of those who will be impacted if Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is terminated. (If you plan to come, bring a candle or your phone light!)
Stop Urban Shield will be another opportunity for us to come together and fight to end a program that seeks police militarization. Mark your calendars now for a rally on September 8. More details to come soon.
Yes, we are people of faith and because we are people of faith, silence is not an option.