Spontaneous Quaker Meeting for Worship
Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them you may be a blessing…
—George Fox, 1656
Like a suddenly-bright sun piercing the ozone-depleted atmosphere, not incinerating islands and other low-lying lands and peoples, but a burst of light crying out for earth justice, this march was a big event on the minor scale, and possibly—but we might have to wait decades to know—on a major scale: the People’s Climate March yesterday [September 21, 2014] in NYC. I marched with Quakers largely, SF and EM more minutely, a little-light-of-mine among the radiance of some 400,000 people. In turn we were one country among some 150 and one march or rally among some 2,600 that stood or marched or spoke or listened or sat for the earth.
An estimated 300-400 Quakers from across the country marched in the interfaith contingent.
Our route thru central Manhattan was less than 3 miles long, which would require less than 1 hour when walking at the usual pace, but we had not marched one step in the first 2 hours, waiting for our contingent, named “The Debate is Over,” to join the main body. We were interfaith, thus Quaker, and scientists. EM and I wore blue sashes, indicative of Quaker affiliation (EM agreed to be an honorary Quaker for the day, even tho her Sisters of the Sacred Heart order were probably not too far from us; SF refused, and might have marched in the interfaith group reluctantly, being such a strong anti-religionist), and we three marched immediately behind the Quaker Earthcare Witness banner. MVB persuaded me to make a group portrait which I will process this morning and send to the Quaker Earthcare Witness head, Shelley Tanenbaum.
Several highlights for me:
Marching in front of a group of boisterous college students, mostly from Princeton and the New School, who loudly chanted resistance to the big powers soon to descend on the UN this week to determine policy—probably more of the same, endangering the earth. A group from Bard MBA’s hanging out of window about 4 stories up shouted encouragement.
The tall, well-muscled, black man who led singing, notably “Down by the Riverside.” Judging from signs carried by people behind him, I surmised he and they were from the famed Riverside Church where Martin Luther King Jr had delivered his Vietnamese War sermon. This leader’s gusty singing and powerful presence stimulated many others to join in song.
Two groups on the border of Central Park that honored us. The first with silent meditation, with their banner, “Earth Vigil;” and a gustier group perched on a rock formation shouting support and waving arms, sometimes in the Black Power Salute.
Because of SF’s walking problems, we three rested a few times. This provided the opportunity to view other elements of the march, which would have been precluded if we had remained with our contingent.
And several disappointments:
Not meeting my daughter Joey and boys even tho Joey and I texted and left phone messages constantly. They were in Bryant Park where the march turned west after marching south and had hoped walk with their school, the East Village School, maybe as part of the “We Can Build the Future” contingent which included schools and elders. They may have left minutes before we arrived; perhaps the boys tired.
Worried about my post surgery condition and after checking with my surgeon, I happily made the 4 hour each way bus ride and walked most of the march distance without incident.
We quit a little early, encouraged by organizers because of the flood of people at the end. I was tired and overloaded with so many people in a relatively small space. Waiting for our bus to leave, I made one last NYC stroll and discovered the Air Pegasus heliport along the Harlem River, a perfect counterpoint to what the march demands: climate justice.
Helicopters are a major polluter with their noise, fuel, and fumes.
I made many photos. Have I expressed the faith of the marchers? Our belief that this symbolic gesture can help turn human beings from ruining the earth to bolstering it? When asked why I walked I answered, for my 3 grandchildren and for the Seventh Generation.