From the Worldwide Faith News archives

United Methodists join march for peace during King weekend

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Tue, 21 Jan 2003 15:05:13 -0600

Jan. 21, 2003	     News media contact: Joretta Purdue7(202)
546-87227Washington	10-21-71BP{026}

NOTE: Photographs are available with this report.

By Joretta Purdue*

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - The temperature did not climb above 25 degrees, but tens
of thousands of people, including United Methodists from several states,
gathered Jan. 18 on the National Mall to call for peace and walk to the
Washington Navy Yard.

In the three hours before the rally was to begin, the United Methodist
Building at Capitol Hill provided warmth and snacks for rally participants,
some of whom had boarded buses the day before to travel all night from the
Midwest, New England and other parts of the country.

A similar demonstration occurred in San Francisco the same day, and a group
of Florida United Methodists indicated they were headed for a peace rally at
MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa that day. 

At the United Methodist Building in Washington, Bishop Sharon Zimmerman
Rader, secretary of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, offered the
benediction at a prayer service led by Jim Winkler, staff head of the
denomination's Board of Church and Society. Jonathan Meier, the 20-year-old
college student who had walked most of the way from Ames, Iowa, to take part
in the rally, shared his experience in the message portion. Members of other
faiths participated in the service as well.

The hospitality at the building offered an opportunity for making placards as
well as getting refreshments and connecting with others who had come to the
nation's capital to express their feelings about a possible war between the
United States and Iraq.

"War doesn't solve anything," asserted the Rev. Beth Cooper, a campus
minister at San Diego State University. "I don't think we've engaged in full
conversation that would explore other possibilities for peace." Cooper had
been attending a short session at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington
and extended her stay to participate in the weekend activities.

Chett Pritchett, another Wesley Seminary student originally from Parkersburg,
W.Va., said the rally and march offered an opportunity "to show my disdain
for the decision for war." 

"War only supports the rich," he said. It "hurts the poor, homeless, and
women and children in all situations. As Christians, we're following our call
for justice. We need to support 'the least of these,' and that's who war

The crowd milled amiably in the cold, clear day while listening to a number
of speakers, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Actress Tyne Daley told the
demonstrators, "You're in the right place."

Signs were the order of the day. A few of the sentiments expressed included:

7	"Don't Bush Whack Iraq";
7	"Give Peace a Chance";
7	"Money for Jobs, Not for War!"
7	"We Are All Connected";
7	"Dumb Leaders + Smart Bombs = Dead People";
7	"One Global Family";
7	"Pre-emptive Strikes are War Crimes."

A child carried a sign that said, "Don't Start WWIII." An older woman held
aloft a poster proclaiming, "War is Terrorism on Families." A couple with an
infant zipped snuggly in its father's jacket wore a sign that said, "Another
baby for peace."

After more than two hours of speeches, the crowd began its trek past the
Capitol and House office buildings. Moving down Pennsylvania Avenue, the
marchers proceeded about 2.5 miles from the Mall to the Washington Navy Yard.

About midway on the route, Capitol Hill United Methodist Church displayed the
word "peace" in large, bright letters. The pastor and several members stood
in front of the church to show solidarity with the marchers.

"Open hearts, open minds, open doors and - in our case - open bathrooms,"
said member Kevin Anderson.

Almost from the beginning of the more-than-two-hour procession, a few
participants came across a small park to the church with a pressing need. Can
we use your bathroom? they asked. The Rev. Douglas Fox and the members
unlocked all the doors, lit the candles in the sanctuary and turned on the
lights in the parlor.

"It took the march a full two- to two-and-a-half hours to go by the church,
and in that time we had more than 600 people," Anderson said. "They came in;
they got warmed up. Some of them sat in the sanctuary. ... Some folks knelt
and prayed; others just put down their signs and rested. There was a girl
doing yoga in the back. The parlor was full. We opened up all six bathrooms,
and there were long lines at some points." 

If the congregation had expected people to need the church, the members would
have served hot chocolate, Anderson said.

"There was not an age or a race or a human condition that was not represented
in that group," Anderson enthused. "It was just the most wonderful, diverse,
happy, cold, friendly, grateful bunch of people. And it was just a wonderful,
wonderful witness."

Another peace march for youth and students was held the following day,
Sunday, with the White House as its destination, but the demonstrators did
not reach the park across the street before being stopped by police. On
Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, an interfaith service and candlelight
procession honored the late civil rights leader's dedication to peace and

# # #

*Purdue is United Methodist News Service's Washington news director.

United Methodist News Service
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