JUNEAU – While in Alaska for the installation service of Bishop Cedrick D. Bridgeforth, members of the Greater Northwest Area cabinet had the chance to meet and march with individuals seeking peace and care for creation in the Arctic.
On Sunday, cabinet members and guests heard a presentation from Veterans for Peace, who are actively working to prevent nuclear activity in the arctic and have lobbied the Alaska legislature as well as the federal government for recognition of an updated nuclear test ban treaty that would make the arctic to the north of Alaska a nuclear-free zone as well.
“It’s an uphill battle,” said Craig Wilson, president of the local chapter of Veterans for Peace. “Given the fact we are getting more nuclear weapons (in the world) we feel this is important.”
Bishop Bridgeforth agrees with the need for action.
In an interview with KINY News of the North, Bridgeforth – a U.S. Air Force Veteran – spoke of the common cause between the Veterans for Peace and The United Methodist Church: peace and care for creation.
“I believe that many of those who served within our armed forces are there for issues and efforts of peace, not for war-making. It’s really about peacekeeping, not about war-making,” Bridgeforth said.
In addition to learning about the Arctic, cabinet members were also trained in some of the practices of non-violent, direct action by Rev. Osagyefo Sekou of Valley and Mountain UMC in Seattle. While Sekou serves as pastor of theology and arts in Seattle, he has a national reputation for non-violent, militant protest training and has been part of community protests in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Charlottesville when racial violence erupted. Rev. Kristi McGuire, pastor at Aldersgate UMC in Juneau, was one of Sekou’s students and she invited him to come lead a training workshop with the veterans’ group as well as with GNW leadership.
“We are called to be stewards of creation,” McGuire said. “We want to create some visibility for this.”
Sekou was clear with Sunday’s group that he was training them for the worst-case scenarios in protest movements. What the group would be doing on Monday was not a worst-case scenario. Nevertheless, he had the group scooting, sitting, standing, linking arms and ducking for cover while reminding them they do this out of “deep abiding love.”
Their efforts gained attention on Monday as they walked solemnly across the Juneau-Douglas bridge – many in their clerical robes – into downtown Juneau carrying signs like “United Methodists for Peace” and “No Nukes in the Arctic.”
They received honks and waves as they walked to the Whale Project park on the banks of the Gastineau Channel. Once there, they prayed, lamented, lit candles, sang and prayed more.