Religious Leaders Call For Change, Solidarity

Holly Quan
June 05, 2020 - 9:59 am

    As cities gear up for another weekend of rallies and protests, religious leaders are looking to use their pulpits for peace and change. 

    When thousands of demonstrators marched through downtown Oakland this week, the bells of the First Presbyterian Church rang out over Broadway and a dozen church members came out with hand bells.

    “It’s a loophole,” says church member Linda Hill Carter, as members of the congregation found a way to come together and support the demonstration despite ongoing restrictions against gatherings. “We’re not allowed to be in church and practice our Sunday services together. We can’t sing. But we’re allowed to congregate and yell on steps of the church.”

    It has been two and a half months since Carter was able to sing and pray in the pews of her church, so the rally also provided an opportunity for fellowship.

    “The bells to me just brought hope. It sounded like - like when World War 2 ended, right? All those church bells were pealing,” she says.

    A church in East Oakland is holding a protest supply drive today to collect first aid kits, granola bars, water, bullhorns and walkie talkies ahead of more rallies expected this weekend.

    Longtime former Oakland City Manager and respected civic leader Henry Gardner attends First Presbyterian and will be leading part of Sunday’s virtual service and he has a message for churches across the country.

    “One of the things that white churches and white people and white civic leaders need to do is look in the mirror. Who are you? Who are we? And we need to have that conversation. We’re not the greatest democracy in the world when we carry on like this,” he says.

    “I would say to the churches, what you need to do right now is call on every white person in America to look in the mirror. Play that tape and say, ‘is this who we are?’ And if it’s not then what do you plan to do to change it? Stop asking me what needs to happen. We’ve been telling you for 157 years what needs to happen.”