Poor People’s Campaign calls for moral revival

Jul 2, 2018 by and

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Members of Mennonite churches in multiple states were arrested in connection to nationwide protests in May and June.

Forty days of protests and nonviolent direct action in at least 30 states were local versions of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. The effort is based on Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 campaign of the same name.

Joanna Shenk, associate pastor of First Mennonite Church of San Francisco, holds a sign May 14 at the Poor People’s Campaign in Sacramento, Calif. — Eric Lawrence

Joanna Shenk, associate pastor of First Mennonite Church of San Francisco, holds a sign May 14 at the Poor People’s Campaign in Sacramento, Calif. — Eric Lawrence

At least one student from Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Rianna Isaak-Krauss, and recent Goshen College graduates Lydia Miller and Kate Brooks were among 14 people arrested May 14 after blocking an intersection in Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis Star reported the group’s goal was to hold Monday protests on issues such as the environment, systemic racism, poverty and challenges facing women, children and the disabled.

Sarah Thompson, who works with the King Center in Atlanta, spoke with a reporter from the newspaper while vehicles were inconvenienced.

“Traffic is bad,” she said, “but poverty is worse. At some point, we must say that business as usual cannot go on because it is dealing death, poverty, violence, starvation and poison to so many communities.”

Mennonite pastors and lay people took part in similar actions in Kansas’ capital over the same five weeks.

Cathy Bitikofer of Manhattan (Kan.) Mennonite Church said at least one member of the congregation was arrested during a “die-in” and actions of civil disobedience May 29 in Topeka. Dave Redmon, a Vietnam War veteran, was arrested for protesting the military economy by blocking a street.

The congregation held presentations to complement the protests with involvement by Pastor Barbara Krehbiel Gehring and Hesston College Bible professor Michele Hershberger.

Tonya Ramer Wenger, pastor of First Mennonite Church in Hutchinson, said about a dozen people from the church took part in a rally June 11 in Topeka but not in other civil disobedience activities.

In California, nearly a dozen attendees from First Mennonite Church of San Francisco attended most weeks’ actions in Sacramento.

Associate pastor Joanna Shenk said the congregation hosted a spiritual grounding event before the campaign began at a synagogue in San Francisco where the congregation also meets for worship. That event incorporated singing, prayer and input from several faith traditions.

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