Park Pastors Join the Ministers March for Justice
One Thousand Ministers March for Justice
Reflections from Rev. Sydney Avent, The Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel,
and La Rvda. Jeanette Zaragoza-De León
As followers of Christ Jesus, we are called to stand against oppression and join with those pushing the movements of Justice forward. This past Monday three of our pastors, Rev. Sydney Avent, The Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel, and La Rvda. Jeanette Zaragoza-De León had the opportunity to go to Washington DC and recommit our call as people of “Faith and Conscience” to deconstruct and fight systems of racial oppression n our ministries. This march marks the 54th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech which he delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, so it was fitting that this march take place in that same sacred space. Below are some pictures and reflections from Sydney, Jeanette, and Peter’s time at the march. Please take the time to read their reflections, and pray for all of those who were there in person and in spirit. There is a lot of work to be done, friends. I give thanks for the many ways each of you stand witness to the acts of God’s love in this world and your commitment to Justice that it takes to be followers of Christ Jesus.
In Justice and Peace,
Steps Toward Liberation and Justice for All
by Rev. Sydney Avent
The opportunity to participate in Monday’s Minsters March for Justice was a blessing on multiple levels. On a macro level, the MM4J was rhetorically and oratorically grand, as expected. The messages were challenging and encouraging, as needed. The diverse speakers of the cloth, women and men, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs, boomers and millennials, straight and queer, captured the calls to action for us at such a time as this: We may not have an elected position; but, we have the power. We must not be distracted by reacting to obvious wrongs. We must be forward thinking in using our power and will to proactively pursue right action in making a just and beloved community a reality. Sacrifice is the difference between a moment and a movement. The movement must provide one platform for advocacy on behalf of all intersectionalities – our whole selves– no segmentation, no hierarchies of marginality, and no false dichotomies.
The atmosphere was joyous! It is a joy to walk in the will of God with others who are also answering the call!
On a micro level, I was reminded that there is no randomness or serendipity in God’s plan. Before and after the March, I was reveling in what I first thought were serendipitous interactions with former classmates from Drew Theological School, alums from Abyssinian Baptist Church internships, clergy from my days as a lay leader in Philadelphia, new friends from the Episcopal Diocese of D.C., one of whom I met the evening before at the NIH hospital bedside of a mutual friend who was scheduled for brain surgery, colleagues from The Park, and Brother Carl and Jason Isbell from Manhattan Church of Christ, our partners in the Saturday Lunch Program. But, upon reflection, I must confess that these encounters were not serendipitous, but were God’s intention. As She shapes and molds us to continue the legacy of Jesus Christ, God is (and has been) ordering our steps toward liberation and justice for all!
Deep Diversity in the Multifaith Movement for Justice:
Reflection on the 1000 Ministers’ March
by Rev. Dr. Peter Goodwin Heltzel
On Monday August 28 I joined the “1000 Ministers March for Justice” to call my fellow Americans to join “The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival,” a faith-rooted movement to end poverty, racism, militarism and environmental destruction. Rev. Al Sharpton led faith leaders from around the country to converge on the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. I was proud to “be one in the number” when the saints went marching in to the capital city. Pastor Sydney, Pastor Jeannette and I met at 10 am at the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the National Mall and marched and protested until 3 pm. We stood in solidarity with the poor in America, concerned about continued corruption and injustice that is flowing daily out of President Trump’s White House.
Since the election of President Trump, we have seen the eruption of the flames of hatred burning in cities around America. From the tragic murder of a 32 year-old woman in Charlottesville, Virginia to the escalation of hate crimes against Muslims, Sikhs and people of color, emboldened white supremacists are rolling out of the woodwork. With government helicopters flying overhead and surrounded by officers of the Department of Homeland Security, President Trump tried to intimidate the marchers, but we closed ranks and marched on, sending a strong message to President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the faith community in America stand united as a “soul force” for justice.
During the 2016 Presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, we heard what Ta-Nehisi Coates called “the discontented rumblings of a white working class threatened by the menace of globalization and crony capitalism.” While we hear the cries for Living wages jobs and affordable homes by the white working class, whites who are turning to racially-motivated violence must be confronted by the faith community, when President Trump does not have the moral courage to renounce racism. The backlash of white rage and ethno-nationalism must be met with a wave of non-violent love. While we are witnessing outbreaks of white supremacist violence, faith-rooted resistance is rising in a growing multifaith movement for justice.
In the Trump era we are seeing the limitations of the charismatic male clergy-led activist strategies of the past. The Black Lives Matter Movement is an example of an innovative social movement that has emerged outside of the walls of the church. Led by Blackwomen, the Black Lives Matter movement challenges the multitude to improvisationally innovate new models of grassroots organizing and advocacy.
When viewed through an interfaith womanist lens, the 1000 Minister’ March was projected on the stage as a Black male march, but in reality it was much more diverse in terms of race, religion and gender among the rank-and-file marchers. Most of the speakers at the 1000 Ministers’ March were Black male preachers in Rev. Sharpton’s circle. There was one Muslim speaker and one Sikh speaker, but both where men. Rabbis were well represented at the march. Because of the relationship between anti-Semitism and white supremacy, the Jewish community and Black church are working more closely together in the movement than they have in the past to fight discrimination based on religion and race.
Women speakers were few and far between. Rev. Leslie Copeland Tune courageously called on the crowd to fight for gender justice and better tomorrow for our children, but most of the speakers were male. Male clergy leaders like Rev. Al Sharpton and myself need to be more intentional about inviting women speak on stage, lead the front line of the march, and take interviews from the press. Empowering and supporting the leadership of female faith leaders demands male leaders to use the access and power we have to advocate and lift up our female colleagues. This will include inviting women faith leaders to be involved in the planning, organizing, speaking, marching and debriefing our faith-rooted justice actions like the 1000 Ministers’ March.
Until the faith-rooted movement for justice becomes more intentional and strategic about following the leadership of women faith leaders, we will continue to echo the ‘white masculine’ that is precisely what we are prophetically critiquing in the Trump administration. For the faith-rooted movement to thrive in the days ahead, it will need to be vigilant in embodying the deep diversity that is the heart of democracy in America. Only through the power of revolutionary love will we see the just and sustainable world that we long for become a reality!
 Ta-Nehisi Coates, “My President Was Black: A History of the First African American White House – and what came next” Atlantic Monthly (January/February 2017), 34.
We were “3 in 3,000,” at the Ministers March for Justice 8.28.2017!
by La Rvda. Jeanette Zaragoza-De León
“What do we want?,” “Justice.” “When do we want it?,” “Now.” “No Justice, no peace,” were chants that accompanied our trajectory in the Ministers March for Justice organized by The National Action Network and led by Rev. Al Sharpton in commemoration of the 54th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech by The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rev. Sydney Avent, Rev. Peter Heltzel, and I met at the feet of the MLK memorial to join this important march “for such a time as this.” Quickly, we encountered friends and colleagues in the ministry drawn by the urgency of the “now,” to bring about racial and economic justice to this land. Feelings of joy, hope, peace, resolve, and determination abound among those gathered.Among the speakers, mostly from African American and Jewish organizations, were Sikhs and Muslims, though many represented other ethnicities and faith communities saying “here, presente,” as part of close to 3,000 faith leaders marching to the doors of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., a 1.7-mile march. As it came to the end, I marched off with the following charges: “now is the time,” the words of MLK, 50 years after, call us with “fierce urgency” to stand for lasting well-being and health, and true justice for the least of these; marching today is not enough, the work of “transformational justice” has just begun; let’s continue “to speak truth to power,” knowing that in the “we” there is real power to speak from; and let’s call those perpetuating injustices and bigotry “to repent,” to turn around, because in the way of God’s love, we all win. I was moved by church leaders apologizing publicly to women for being shunned from leadership, and to LGBTQ communities for not being embraced as God’s children. As Bishop Yvette Flunder prophetized, these times “call for a new Pentecost”!