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Saturday, December 13, 2014

#godcantbereathe: clergy die in at city hall

12/7

We began our action with worship and prayer at St.Paul's Chapel

Church. Session meeting. Finally out of collar after wearing it all day. Exhausted.
Spent the day with faith leader colleagues in an action related to the Eric Garner decision. Congressman Charlie Rangel had wondered where we were. We finally showed up.

Began with a worship service at St.Paul’s Chapel. Near Ground Zero.  Where President Washington came to pray when New York was the US capital. Vounteer command center during the days after 9-11. Over 150 there. Not counting groups of tourists moving in and out. Around and through. Never before at a service breathing was a liturgical act. (Outside of Buddhist meditations…)The one thing we all share, someone said. (Well, there are more, but….)   A reading from Genesis, another from Ezekiel. We end by taking 11 breaths together, the number of times Eric Garner told us he could not breathe.

Half of us march silently, two by two, to City Hall. Carriage drivers in top hats waiting to enter to protest the mayor’s proposed ban on horse drawn carriages in the city. Inside the gates, Marc Greenberg and the Interfaith Assembly are with other housing activists demanding affordable housing for veterans.
Demanding affordable housing for veterans
As we enter, the Black and Latino council members are leaving. To die in the street, We go with them. And shut down Broadway.

Back inside, security is troubled by our number. Peter Heltzel of the Micah Institute negotiates twenty of us entering with him. He prays a strong prayer. Then Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito  speaks ending with I can’t breathe. Eleven times.

We circle the rotunda. Marching. Singing. Freedom Songs and spirituals. This little light of mine. Ain’t nobody gonna turn me around. Oh freedom. And then we lay down and die. Right there. And we lie still. For eleven minutes. And then rise, hold hands. Sing We shall overcome. The sounds echoing off the chamber walls. And then quietly exit.

It was a good action. A strong action.

Notes:
1.      We are an interfaith group. 
Rev. Steve Phelps, Rabbi Michael Feinberg
Christians, Muslims, Jews. Our songs are mainly from the African – America tradition. Sometimes it feels a bit triumphalisitc. We need some new songs. Some more Pete Seeker songs. Arab American director, Muslim and Palestinian Linda Sarsour says I know all those Christian songs. How many times have I sung Hallelujah? New songs for a new day.
2.     But singing was a good thing. As one friend pointed out, chants are inherently aggressive. Singing is invitational. Singing our songs changed the City Hall atmosphere. The mayor heard us from his office.
3.     The council members were inspired by our presence. Felt supported. They are in their own place of discernment, not sure what to do next. Our action was a form of pastoral witness.

It was a long day.  Session takes care of its business. Construction about to begin.














Pastor Bob Brashear, Pastor Heidi and Russ Jennings

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