Marching into DC: A Reflection from Rev. Susie

Mayflower began its Palm Sunday march on Saturday this year, as 50 of us joined the Twin Cities Gaza Ceasefire Pilgrimage along the Mississippi River on March 23, and then continued our freedom parade the next day into our sanctuary, palms in hand. But we didn’t stop there. Just a week later, a number of Mayflower folks kept marching onward to DC, praising peace and advocating for human dignity.

I arrived in DC on Monday, April 8, and went straight from the airport to the basement of a Brethen church on Capitol Hill where Christian activists from around-the-country had convened for a training. We were organized by Christians for a Free Palestine, a group that takes its inspiration from Jewish Voices for Peace and If Not Now, two faith-inspired Jewish organizations that have been leading direct actions and advocacy for a ceasefire in Gaza since early October. Led by two friends of mine, Palestinian American Jonathan Brenneman and UCC Rev. Naomi Washington-Leaphart, we gathered in worship, singing, community-building, and preparation. The next day, we rose early for worship below the dome of the Capitol. There, we broke bread together, remembering the cost of discipleship on the anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s execution in Germany. Palestinian Rev. Mitri Rahib, in DC from Bethlehem, shared words of encouragement.

We then disrupted lunch in the Senate’s largest cafeteria, declaring those in Congress couldn’t eat until the people of Gaza eat, quoting Jesus: “Woe to you who are full, for you’ll go hungry” (Luke 6:25). As 50+ protestors from our group were arrested, more than 20 of them clergy, we never stopped singing. Some present heckled us, some cheered us, and through it all, our group remained grounded in love and solidarity. I was on “Team Yellow,” which meant I was there for the disruption and singing, helping document the action with photography and video, but I left after the third warning from police, before the arrests began, to support those arrested in gaining their release. Our action in the Senate cafeteria was covered broadly in media – in the Washington Post, New York Times, The Nation, The Hill, Fox News, and beyond. This piece from Religion News Service did a particularly good job capturing the powerful religious dimensions of the action and is worth a read.

The next day, I met up with Mayflower member Thom Haines at the Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) 40th anniversary annual advocacy summit. CMEP is an ecumenical body (the UCC is a founding member) that advocates for a just peace in Israel/Palestine and the broader Middle East. We had a full-day of presentations from folks from the region and DC-based Middle East experts, followed by a training on how to advocate effectively on the Hill. The following day, our small delegation of Minnesotans (joined by Joan Deming from Plymouth Congregational and ELCA clergy Jenny Sung) met with Sen. Tina Smith and Rep. Ihan Omar, as well as their foreign policy staff and those of Sen. Klobuchar and Rep. Phillips. We professed our hopes for US policies in support of a just peace in Israel/Palestine beginning with a permanent ceasefire and resumption of humanitarian aid as famine descends in Gaza, and the release of all hostages and unlaawfully detained. Thom and I ran into Mayflower member Kris Norman, who was in DC lobbying for LGBTQIA+ rights with Human Rights Campaign. We also met with staff of the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministry Office.

The experience in DC was powerful on many levels. As history has shown, advancing justice in this country requires both direct action – disruption and nonviolent resistance – as well as direct engagement and conversation with policymakers. And, Mayflower’s work for justice requires showing up at the State Capitol and the US Capitol, because not only do our commitments transcend borders and boundaries, but the issues we care about – queer rights, climate, just peace, racial justice, housing – are all interconnected. But what made our presence in DC particularly distinctive was its deep spiritual rootedness – in the prayers that sustained us, the symbols we drew upon, the authority we claimed – especially in a town in which religious proclamations can ring hollow – used to offer veneer to violent, exclusionary, imperial interests.

I hope we did you proud, Mayflower. And, I hope this is not the last time we will march straight to the heart of the empire, Washington, DC, following the lead of Jesus.

1 reply
  1. John Fredell
    John Fredell says:

    Susie & Thom,
    Thanks for your energy and work. Although every age proclaims its centricity and importance, we are at a pivotal moment in many respects. What is the truth and how can it be conveyed? Christ said everything is possible for one who believes, Mark 9,23. The response in verse 24 is “I believe, help my unbelief.” The World Economic Forum declared “misinformation and disinformation” to be the greatest threats to the world in the next two years; greater than war, migration and climate change. From the perspective that we cannot manage any of our problems until we manage truth, information and disinformation; perhaps they are correct.

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