Hosted by Congregation Etz Chayim, our March 11 Peaceful Presence included wonderful music and prayers as well as contributions from Muslim, Christian and Jewish faith leaders. The theme was Compassion and Justice.
Rabbi Chaim Koritzinsky from Congregation Etz Chayim focused on "March" and turned our attention to the March 25, 1965 "March on Montgomery." He read from a letter by Rabbi Jacob Pressman, a colleague of his who, along with other rabbis across the nation, had responded to Dr. King's call and joined the march. Pressman's impressions are personal, vivid and moving. Click here to download the full text. Some excerpts are particularly relevant for us today:
"At one point we reached a hilltop in the road, and I was able to look back behind me at a solid column of chanting humanity at least a half-mile long. Then I looked down the hill in front of us and again I saw a half-mile of solid humanity, united from everywhere by a common concern for other people, for human decency. I must confess as I stood on that hilltop and saw myself and felt myself surrounded by these decent, caring persons, I burst into tears and never really got my eyes dry for hours afterward. They weren’t tears of sorrow. They weren’t tears of hatred or frustration, but they were tears of pride in the goodness of which man is capable when he tries. ...
Rev. Dr. Eileen Altman from First Congregational Church UCC in Palo Alto and the MVPJ Steering Committee read from Anne Lamott's book, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy. "Mercy, grace, forgiveness and compassion are synonyms, and the approaches we might consider taking when facing a great big mess, especially the great big mess of ourselves - our arrogance, greed, poverty, disease, prejudice. It includes everything out there that just makes us sick and makes us want to turn away, the idea of accepting life as it presents itself and doing goodness anyway. ...
Our Muslim contribution came from Fattin Wekselman. She shared that an acquaintance of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) named Usamah ibn Sharik narrated:
Two highlights from our February 11 Peaceful Presence, hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, were a moving meditation and an inspiring story!
Rev. Yushi Mukojima from the Mountain View Buddhist Temple led our meditation, which included these words:
There is a saying in Buddhism: Let us cease from wrath and refrain from angry looks. Nor let us be resentful when others differ from us. For all men have hearts, and each heart has its own leanings. Their right is our wrong, and our right is their wrong. We are not unquestionably sages, nor are they unquestionably fools. Both of us are simply ordinary men.
Therefore, our spirit of justice should always be based on wisdom, compassion, and loving kindness, without anger and hatred. Even if we are upset with or even hate another person, we should not dwell on our differences, but just try to let them go. It may be very hard, but do not give into hatred. Hatred can never create anything constructive.
To read the full meditation scroll down or click "Read More" below.
We were also inspired with a reading of the story Kamala and Maya's Big Idea. The book is written by Meena Harris, and illustrated by Ana Ramirez Gonzalez. Craig Wiesner and Derrick Kikuchi, long time participants with Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice and owners of the independent bookstore Reach and Teach, read the story to us. To purchase the book visit the Reach and Teach website.
On January 11th 2021, MVPJ hosted a Peaceful Presence.
Click here and use the passcode X9ZwZ@^d
Let Us Heal
It is hard to unsee after having seen
Families being separated and shaken
Hearing their calls for help and screams
They were left with no choice but to give in
I remember the day that led to today
With a vicious stroke of a powerful pen
That is what led to our nation's heartbreak
They were left with no choice but to give in
MLK's dream had long been shattered
The departed souls leaving behind sadness
I walked with hundreds at a rally and cried
They were left with no choice but to give in
As we stand here today, closing one door
Let us start this new year hand in hand
On May 26, 2020, with the encouragement of Multifaith Voices for Peace & Justice working with Menlo Park peace activist Judy Adams, Cecelia Taylor, the mayor of Menlo Park, signed a proclamation supporting a call for the federal government to take five specific steps to reduce the risk of nuclear war.
Then, on November 18, 2020, through the efforts of MVPJ and two Atherton peace advocates (Les DeWitt and former Mayor Malcolm Dudley), Atherton joined Menlo Park in supporting the call.
Entitled "Back from the Brink," this call was created by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Physicians for Social Responsibility, and has been endorsed by 250 organizations including the California State Legislature. Menlo Park and Atherton joined Los Angeles and seven other California cities to become the seventh and tenth California cities, respectively, to endorse 'The Call.'
Click here to download a PDF of the Op-Ed (July 31, 2020 in The Almanac) "Stepping Back from the Brink: Steps to reduce the risk of nuclear war" written by Richard Duda (of MVPJ) and Judy Adams about the call and Menlo Park action.
Click here to download a PDF of the Menlo Park Proclamation and the Atherton Proclamation.
If you are a resident of a city that has not signed the Back from the Brink call and would like to work with MVPJ on the best way to approach your city council, please contact us at email@example.com.
Peaceful Presence: Multifaith Prayers for Peace and Strength for the Journey
"Peace and Struggle" remarks by Rev. Amy Morgenstern and inspired by Frederick Douglas. Click here to download and read.
"Hearts of Stones" remarks were shared by Quaker Eric Sabelman from Palo Alto Friends Meeting. Click here to download and read.
Jewish Reading from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Song - presented by Rabbi Amy Eilberg. Click here to download and read.
A Christian prayer led by Rev. Dr. Diana Gibson and inspired by Pope Paul VI, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and the Poor People's Campaign. Click here to download and read.
A song in memory of Chris Lundin, our beloved MVPJ Steering committee member, "music director," colleague and friend. (Click here to see our memory page for Chris.) "This is my song, O God of all the nations" was sung by Chris French from the Baha'i community. This was one of Chris Lundin's favorite songs.
Chris Lundin: In Loving Memory
With deep sadness we share the news that Chris Lundin, longtime member of the MVPJ Steering Committee, loyal songleader, passionate and faithful advocate for peace and justice, and incredible friend and colleague, died on Jun 4, 2020.
Many of you will recognize the pictures of Chris leading songs with his guitar at MVPJ events, which he has done wonderfully and regularly ever since 2003 when his father, Walt Lundin, asked him to provide music for our 24-hour vigil in front of Palo Alto City Hall on the weekend before the U.S. attacked Iraq. (Walt Lundin was a founding member of MVPJ.) On countless occasions in the past 17 years, Chris' gentle spirit and gift of music invited us all to participate, and enriched almost every gathering we have had.
Shortly after the 2003 event, Chris "inherited" his father's role on our MVPJ Steering Committee. He has been our primary liaison with St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Parish. Chris' commitment to peace strengthened our relationship with the Roman Catholic community both locally and beyond.
In rain or shine (we couldn't find pictures of him with umbrellas, but we have the memories), at dawn, dusk or high noon, on Lytton Plaza or King Plaza or marching on University Ave., in churches, synagogues and mosques, at trainings, teach-ins, protests and vigils, and tenaciously at almost every planning and organizing meeting, Chris was always with us.
At Chris' Memorial Mass, Fr. Matthew Stanley shared this quote from John Denver that fits Chris, and the gifts he gave us, so well.
We lift up prayers of profound gratitude for the gift of his presence among us for so many years.
We commit to keep his spirit alive not only in our hearts, but in our continued work, so terribly needed, for justice and peace.
We will all miss him dearly.
In the midst of the moral and humanitarian crisis we are facing in our nation, this image from the Buddhist Peace Fellowship reminds us of our common humanity. The Buddhist Peace Fellowship acknowledges the depth of the struggle for justice, stating, "We know that the karma of slavery, policing, and anti-Blackness is unbearably heavy in this country. And it is our responsibility to burn through this karma with clarity, compassion and willingness to act."
"Racism is a virus. It infects the spirit." (The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III)
Words and actions from other faith traditions:
The United Church of Christ minister Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III's riveting and challenging sermon, "The Cross and the Lynching Tree: A Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery" was preached Sunday, May 17, 2020. While the sermon was delivered before the killing of George Floyd, the critical need for his words is even more apparent now. On Sunday, May 31, Rev. Moss offered another sermon, "When Is Someday?" suggested as a prelude to the May 17 sermon. Both carry messages we as a nation and as people of faith need to hear.
"As people of faith, we must bear witness to this moment. That means that we must name hard truths, but we must also act," states the first line of the pledge the Unitarian Universalist Association is inviting their members to sign. It continues with a reminder of the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorouly as we condemn the riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?" See full statement, suggested organizations to support, and pledge here.
"The brutal murder of George Floyd is the consequence of a racist system that disproportionally targets people of color for violence, imprisonment, and premature death," said Shanene Herbert, American Friends Service Committee's (Quaker) director of the Healing Justice program in Saint Paul, Minn. Read the full statement here.
The organization T'ruah: the rabbinic call for human rights lifts up the Jewish teaching that, "one who sheds blood is considered as having diminished the divine image." "We say once again: Black Lives Matter. And we commit to creating a country that lives by this statement." Read their full "Statement on the Murder of George Floyd and Violence against Protesters."
"As an organization which advocates for the needs of the most marginalized, we do what our Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) taught us: to firmly confront what is hateful and destructive to life, love and community. Our faith is incompatible with systems of racial hierarchy. We are taught to always promote justice, work to end suffering, and seek abolition of that which is cruel and unjust," states "A Letter of Solidarity in Support of Black Rage" from CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations) San Francisco Bay Area. Read full statement with concrete suggestions for actions here.
The National Council of Churches' statement acknowledges, "Deplorably, while the coronavirus has infected the U.S. and been the cause of death for more than 101,000 people in less than three months, racism has infected this country since its beginning and this virus has seeped into every aspect of American life."
The Christian Science Daily Lift program offers this perspective in a 4 minute podcast by Trudy Palmer, "Our part in responding to injustice."
"Let me say, as I've always said and I will continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. ... But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality and humanity."
Click here to for youtube video of King delivering this excerpt of his speech.
On Saturday, April 11, 2020, Multifaith Voices for Peace & Justice held its first virtual Peaceful Presence gathering. While we missed seeing each other as embodied, real people, the service, hosted by Eric Sabelman of the Palo Alto Friends Meeting, was beautiful! Through images, readings, prayers and music, we found a true Peaceful Presence. The added plus of such an event is that we can (somewhat) share it easily with all of you now.
Click here to download a PDF file with the slides of all of the images we saw and the readings and prayers we heard. At the end you will also find the sources of music Eric played.
Watch for an update with plans for our May 11 Peaceful Presence.
In the meantime, as the final reading reminded us, we can view the empty streets and parks as "the most remarkable act of global solidarity we may ever witness in our lifetime." (These are the words of a West Belfast Community Worker named Tommy Holland. Go to slide #30 in the PDF to read the whole quotation.)