On Friday, May 5, I was among nearly two dozen people who went to the Chase branch on Capitol Hill to pray and express our concern over the bank’s lead role in funding the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Elizabeth Burton of Bet Alef also took part, as did Seattle First Baptist members Harriet Platts and Imogene Williams. We are all part of Interfaith Climate Action – First Hill, a collaboration between Bet Alef and Seattle First Baptist. The pray-in was organized by the multi-congregational Faith Action Climate Team (FACT).
In keeping with the varied faith traditions of the participants (Jewish, Baptist, Quaker, Buddhist, Unitarian, Presbyterian and others), we created a sacred space inside and outside the bank lobby, where we prayed, meditated and sang. We strove to honor “that of God,” as the Quakers would put it, in the bank employees and police officers. From a Jewish perspective, we were practicing tikkun olam, repair of a world that our carbon-based economy has placed at imminent risk. We sent a clear message: that if Chase and other big banks fund the KXL Pipeline, climate chaos will accelerate.
Four of us were arrested, by order of a police lieutenant who later told us, “I really admire what you did.” He couldn’t bring himself to arrest Imogene, a great-grandmother in her 80s – much to her consternation. But for one morning, Imogene had put her body between the financial system and environmental devastation. Three days later, other activists disrupted operations at 13 Chase branches in Seattle.
Direct action is only one tool that Interfaith Climate Action – First Hill members have used on behalf of a climate that will sustain future generations. We have organized educational events, signed petitions, planted trees at Tu B’Shevat, and lobbied our elected representatives. We invite you to our next meeting on Sunday, May 21, at 7 p.m. in the Bet Alef Living Room.