It was hot.
It was exciting.
It was important.
We were making a difference as we marched out of the convention center and onto Washington Street with Alonzo’s beat on the conga urging us on.
Maybe he had even stopped playing, but I heard the drum beat in my head helping to keep us together, arm and arm marching to deliver a gift that said “No!” to a cash bail system that condemns so many to unnecessary prison time.
We marched, we yelled, we cheered, we laughed, we took pictures and called to friends along the way who were unable to march or who were posted to keep us safe. We shared warm bottles of water and one of us even fell on the uneven surface, but we were all aware — some newly aware — that this a way of action and making a statement need not just be a one-time thing. It was a way of standing up and out to be counted for Jesus and for the “kindom” come, especially for those in the “kindom” who would not be heard, or who could not march for themselves.
For me, it was strangely personal and a moment of connection that I had not expected, for in this crowd of marchers at GA #223 were faces who had been with me in other crowds at other times. There was RC, who once stood with me for a picture when I was 15 in a crowd of youthful faces who had traveled from outside of Philadelphia to Camp Ligonier near Pittsburgh for a week of summer fun and learning. There was Ed, who in my 20s dared to join with a crazy, passionate, crowd of people to design and deliver a youth conference especially developed for young people in the Northeast.
There was Dee, who has shared in the crowds around ordinations, installations, family and many experiments in ministry since my early 30s. There was Deb, who I had worked with in the crowd of those risking transformational ministry in Hudson River in the late ’90’s and whose Facebook posts now are a constant reminder to me of our need to step up and be counted. There were others — so many others — including those who are almost always with me in the crowds of these days: Chantal and Mike, beloved colleagues, with Wayne urging us on from the side! And — oh yes — there was Johnnie, passionate Johnnie, single-minded Johnnie, sending us off from from the hall, eyes sparkling with the call to faithful battle — a call that he knows so well.
Here we were — together, marching and listening to words spoken by leaders we knew and some whom we had just met, and it occurred to me as I scanned both our crowd and my history at once, that this way of being crowd in this time and place, with these people, was as important as all the other crowds I had known and lived with friends and colleagues, old and new.
This crowd, in this time and place that cried out “No” to what was injustice and death and “Yes” to what was justice and “kindom” and common good, this crowd was teaching me and challenging me with a way of witnessing to the gospel that has never been my first “go to.”
This crowd, I pray, will be part of what propels me to stand with others anew, and to lift my voice and my gifts for Jesus at a time when each day seems to bring some new kind of declaration or behavior that causes pain or loss to some of God’s own.
To know in my spirit that we are a crowd standing together in witness is encouragement to my soul, and I will carry that picture, those pictures, with me for the next walk or march, where ever it may be. Thank you!