THE BLOG
06/02/2016 04:09 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

16 Clergy Arrested for Blocking Pipeline Construction: Here's Why

On Wednesday May 25th I was among 16 interfaith clergy who joined Blockadia , an international movement of people disrupting the business-as-usual practices of fossil fuel extraction that are killing our planet. We joined this movement of protest and resistance in a spirit of prayer, speaking and singing the sacred words of our traditions that call us to care for our Mother Earth. But our main act of worship was to put our bodies in the way of the construction of a controversial natural gas pipeline in West Roxbury, MA. Journalist and author Wen Stephensen was with us and documented the action in an insightful piece, "A Prayer for West Roxbury - and the World." His summary of our message: "Business as usual got us into this fix; business as usual ends here."

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Below is a letter signed by all of the participants in this act of non-violent civil disobedience and resistance to evil, including the 16 interfaith clergy who were arrested as well as organizers and members of our support team. Please read it, comment, and share widely. That's one way to join us in this movement.

Friday, May 27, 2016

There are times when you can no longer be silent, and this is one of those times. On Wednesday, May 25, 2016, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and Unitarian Universalist religious leaders gathered to sing and praise life and pray for an end to our State's support of the fossil fuel industry. Sixteen clergy were arrested on charges of trespassing, and more were present to stand in solidarity. As global temperatures rise, and the world's poorest citizens are being affected, we stand together to demand that our federal, state and local government stop investing in the fossil fuel industry.

Ours are not isolated voices in calling for our country to end investment in fossil fuel infrastructure. Nor are we the first to stand up against Spectra Energy's dangerous and unnecessary West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline, which cuts through soccer fields, private property, and densely populated neighborhoods, and comes out of the ground at a Metering & Regulating station that sits right across from an active blasting quarry. As the world movement to block fossil fuel infrastructure gains strength, there have been 85 arrests locally since the start of Spectra's digging last year. While civil disobedience is not a common method for any of us, we are called by our faith and positions of leadership to take bold, visionary action.

As Dharma Teacher, John Bell, pointed out from the edge of the construction pit where the pipeline was being laid on Wednesday, we gathered because we "love this earth and all its people and creatures. Climate change affects everything. It is not just an environmental issue. It is an immigration issue, it is a food and security issue and a public safety issue... What we do to our mother earth we also do to each other." And, as the Rev. John Gibbons, Unitarian Universalist Minister from Bedford, MA and Chaplain to the Bedford Company of Minutemen pointed out, we gathered and will continue to gather our energy and collective conscience to "sound the alarm for this climate emergency. Just as our forebears shook off the chains of colonialism, so too do we shake off the chains of those who tie us to the corporate greed of the fossil fuel industry... NO GASSIFICATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION."

As people of faith we are full of hope that our legislators and business owners will see the pressing need to invest in renewable resources to meet the energy needs of our future. As we sat beside the pit yesterday we prayed for the construction workers, the Spectra employees, the police officers and the politicians, knowing we will all benefit from this shift from a deathly resource to a more sustainable future. Religious leaders can sign the pledge to join in future peaceful direct action for climate justice at ClergyClimateAction.org.

"The tide is rising and so are we,"
Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman, Assistant Rabbi, Temple Sinai, Brookline
Rabbi Katy Z. Allen, President, Jewish Climate Action Network, Rabbi, Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope
Rev. Dr. Jim Antal, Conference Minister and President, Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ
Rev. Anne Bancroft, Minister, Theodore Parker Unitarian Universalist Church, West Roxbury
John Bell, Buddhist Dharma Teacher, Plum Village Tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, Belmont
Rev. Tricia Brennan, Interim Minister, First Parish Dorchester
Rev. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas, Ph.D., Missioner for Creation Care, Episcopal Diocese of Mass. &
Mass. Conference, United Church of Christ
Rev. Heather Concannon, Assistant Minister of Youth and Families, Unitarian Universalist Area Church at First Parish, Sherborn
Cantor Roy Einhorn, Temple Israel of Boston
Rev. Rebecca Froom, UU Minister, United First Parish Church (Unitarian), Quincy
Rev. John Gibbons, UU Minister of The First Parish in Bedford
Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, Bethel AME Church
Rev. Rob Mark, Pastor Church of the Covenant, PCUSA & UCC, Boston
Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen, UU Minister for Young Adults of Color, UUA Boston
Rabbi David Jaffe, Kirva Institute
Dr. Rajesh Kasturirangan, South Asian Center, Cambridge
Rev. Marla Marcum, Co-founder, Climate Disobedience Center; Organizer, ResistThePipeline
Rev. Dr. Ian Mevorach, Co-founder and Minister of Common Street Spiritual Center in Natick
Rev. Martha Niebanck, UU Minister Emerita, First Church of Brookline
Rev. Fred Small, Minister for Climate Justice, Arlington Street Church, Boston
Rev. Rali Weaver, UU Minister, First Church and Parish in Dedham

This was my first time getting arrested and I don't believe it will be my last. We're fighting for the survival of life on our planet, and we're up against a corporate power structure that does not care about us and has co-opted our government. This is the same corporate power structure that sucks the blood out of the Earth, that imprisons the poor and people of color for profits, and that makes war and builds weapons of mass destruction for the sake of greed. This military-industrial-prison complex does all these misguided and destructive things and many more in the name of maximizing return on investment for millionaires and billionaires who don't need or deserve another penny, but who instead need to learn how to share with everyone else on this planet, including human and non-human forms of life. So let me ask you directly: Are you willing to join us in this movement of protest and resistance? Are you willing to join us in envisioning and manifesting new, life-sustaining ways of life?

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One more personal note: when our feet were dangling in that trench, and construction was halted, I knew in my bones that I was right where God was calling me to be. We were in the Spirit, worshiping not only with words and songs, but with our very bodies and souls. The sun was shining and it was a glorious day to be arrested for a just cause.