Largest Activist Council Gathering & Training Takes Place in Chicago

On April 27-29, over 70 members of the PPF Activist Council gathered in Chicago for training in how to apply nonviolent direct action to three area of PPF focus: Climate Change, Colombia and Preventing Gun Violence. Provided by Sarah Thompson and Sarah Sommers of Christian Peacemaker Teams, the training covered “Undoing Oppression,” with a group process on sexism; “How to be an Ally;” and “How to Organize a Campaign,” with the Montgomery, AL bus boycott as a case study. The keynote address was offered by Jim Atwood, author of Gundamentalism & Where it is Taking America. Worship was coordinated by Jessie Light and Matt Black, with song, art and spirited reflection.

Three small groups convened to plan for next steps in PPF action. The Climate Change group, led by Abby Mohaupt, designed three campaigns to support action for fossil fuel divestment at the 2018 Presbyterian General Assembly: a presence on June 12-13 at the Mission Responsibility through Investment meeting in Grand Rapids and other possible direct actions; a campaign for 50 concurring overtures calling for divestment in 2018; a campaign to enhance the quality of discussion at GA on fossil fuels by encouraging more overtures and more perspectives on the relation between fossil fuels, climate change and peacemaking.

The Colombia team, led by Lora Burge and Linda Eastwood, reflected on the urgent need for accompaniment for Presbyterian Church leaders in Colombia as they now help mediate peace talks with remaining rebel groups. This PPF team will utilize social media and create an Accompaniers Alumni Association to build support for the Accompaniment Program and to seek individuals to serve as accompaniers in the months ahead.

Meeting in the city with the highest level of gun violence in America, the Gun Violence Prevention group received the first copies of the new PPF Gun Violence Prevention Congregational Toolkit. Chair Margery Rossi reviewed how the new Toolkit can support local education and action, including a sample sign for “No Guns in God’s House” for church buildings. A panel of five from the First United Church of Oak Park in Chicago came to share their efforts to raise awareness, provide education and promote action to reduce gun violence.

At the end of the AC gathering, a delegation participated in the Chicago Climate Change March, part of a national day of witness. Now 110 members strong, the next AC gathering will be in Sept. 28-30 in Stony Point, NY.