Posted by: smstrouse | November 25, 2016

Don’t Agonize; Organize!


Everyone who is anyone was there: the mayor, the police chief, the fire chief, members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, out-going and in-coming state senators, the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, as well as leaders and members of every religious tradition – including us! Once again, First United Lutheran Church and Middle Circle occupied a table at the San Francisco Interfaith Council‘s annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer Breakfast.

This year the theme was “The Soul of the City: Faith and Social Justice in San Francisco” (who knew how timely that theme was going to be?!).

1620819_1280x720For the sold-out crowd of 500 in the ballroom of the Kabuki Hotel it was like a social justice revival meeting. Bishop Marc Andrus, who had recently returned from Standing Rock and the Marrakech Climate Change Conference, got us up out of our seats to join in a chant of “We’re still in” as he recited a litany of issues which will continue to command our attention.

Nancy Pelosi preached it: “We are gathered here at a sad time in our country . . . a time that we have to have our faith and courage from the heart.” And channeling the late African-American activist,  Florynce Kennedy, she gave us our rallying cry, “Don’t agonize. Organize.”

She described a time in the House of representatives when someone made a disparaging remark about “San Francisco values.” Pelosi responded with  “San Francisco Values??? YES!!!” quoting the Prayer of St. Francis, patron saint of our city.

Michael Pappas, executive director of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, reminded us of the words Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed to a crowd staging a protest outside of the Santa Rita Prison on December 14th 1967: “There can be no justice without peace and there can be no peace without Justice!”

martin-luther-king-jr-2Then he also reminded us: “those prophetic words came, not from a politician, but from a pastor, not from a government official, but from a charismatic and courageous faith leader. Dr. King, in every speech, in every sermon, reminded his listeners that his courage to speak truth to power was rooted, not in himself, but inspired by his God and that timeless tradition of fearless people of faith who have led every civil rights and social justice movement in history.”


And then he addressed the civic officials gathered there: “To our civic leaders let me say this… In the wake of over a year and a half of contentious national campaigning, with its unprecedented, painful and divisive rhetoric, and in these post-election days, when basic human and civil rights have never been more threatened and at risk, we the leaders in San Francisco’s communities of faith, intend and pledge to exert our moral authority, reclaim our prophetic voice and fearlessly stand at the forefront of the movement to protect, advocate for and advance human rights, social justice and equality for all!

“Many months back, when we selected this year’s breakfast theme of social justice, I must confess, I never imagined the profound challenge before us, nor the time-sensitive call for unity, to stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable residents of our City and nation. On behalf of our rich constituency of over 800 congregations, their respective judicatories, religiously founded educational and healthcare institutions, as well as the faith-based social service agencies that provide the social safety net for our most vulnerable residents, we pledge to you this morning, that we will neither shrink from, nor abdicate the critical role we are being called to play at this fragile time in our nation’s history.”

Between this event and the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving service yesterday, I’m feeling more energized and hopeful than I’ve been since the election. We are the people with San Francisco values. And our rallying cry will be “Don’t agonize. Organize!”2016-11-24-11-09-37




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