Old First along with other UCC churches from across the State of Pennsylvania performed civil disobedience in Harrisburg last Monday!
A group from Old First went to Harrisburg to continue the #MoralTakeover – POWER’s focus on a full, fair funding formula for education along with increased educational funding.
We really didn’t know what was going to happen after we arrived, but we were open and willing to make a statement to support education. With Michael’s lead, we decided on the disobedience and planned the “covert action.”
We made our presence known in the morning by visiting representatives and members of the press, praying, and by singing the words of the song “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” The song’s message filled the halls of the Capitol with heavenly sounds, but we wanted the Pennsylvania representatives to know that we meant business and actually wanted the walls against more funding for education to fall.
The afternoon’s plan was to create more of a stir by entering the House of Representative’s chamber during their 3pm session. We schmoozed with the guard outside before we walked into the gallery. He explained the rules of the House, including rules such as: nobody shall stand up, no pictures or videos once in session, and you must be quiet once the session starts. We nodded appropriately. Little did the guard know that those curious, friendly Old First “tourists” were there to do a #moraltakeover.
Geneva was a critical plant in smuggling the ten foot banner into the gallery. The guard checked her bag and under the guise of Michael’s dirty underwear and various feminine products, there was not a clue that the bag contained a banner. God willing and a few prayers said, the first step was a success. The banners were in the gallery!
Even though the Speaker of the House called the House to order, it was more chaotic than we had anticipated. Honestly, it was rather surprising that anything organized was happening, though you could see the votes taking place via the electronic board on the wall of the House chamber.
At the appointed time, we all stood up. Two banners were unrolled over the railing and the words of “Jericho” filled the hall. Almost as soon as we unfurled the banners, which said, “Our prayer is for you to fully fund our schools” and began singing, the guard came down in the gallery to our row. He made sure we knew that we were not following the House gallery expectations. Immediately he confiscated the banners. Mike W. quickly folded his banner and told the guard that he would take take care of it even though the guard demanded the banner. Despite the quick confiscation of the banners, our message had permeated the House.
Representatives on the floor of the House clapped along with us as we unfurled the banners and sang “Jericho”. It was heartening to know that there were representatives who supported what we were doing and the #moraltakeover.
We walked out feeling confident that our message got through. Job well done! There was not a person who did not feel a sense of accomplishment and empowered to continue our thrust for a #moraltakeover.
It may seem strange that a church, even a progressive church such as Old First, would become involved in civil disobedience. First, there was a feeling, of which some spoke openly about, that one of the ideas which is important is to live your faith. We believe that all students of Pennsylvania deserve a quality education. The fact that all students in Pennsylvania are not receiving a quality education is not only legally wrong, but also morally wrong. Our faith teaches us that we are all God’s children and that all people should be treated with the same dignity and respect and given the same opportunities to succeed. Many black and brown children children are suffering educationally because of a lack of funding. Also, our faith teaches us to work collaboratively to help others – in this case a lack of quality education for all children. It may be considered subjective, but as Christians, we do have a moral responsibility to make sure that God’s people are being helped and treated fairly. Therefore, are we out to conquer the world and make all wrong right? We will choose one battle at a time. We are the David in the David and Goliath story. The politicians are much like Goliath, and Old First along with POWER the David. God’s people are all important, and we believe that all should have the opportunity to obtain a quality education.
Was the afternoon exciting, a definite yes! Overall, the demonstrators openly said that they would do the civil disobedience again. There was a certain aura of excitement and accomplishment in the gallery and chamber that we had been successful. In the end, there was a sense that we had gotten the representatives attention and made a specific statement for the need for increased education funding supporting an appropriate funding formula.
See you in church,
Mike W. & Carrie K.