Written by Bennett Guess
With boxes piled high, two UCC officers presented the Pastoral Letter on the Iraq War and more than 60,000 signed petitions to both Democratic and Republican leadership offices of Congress on Wednesday (Oct. 10) morning.
"We have seen a groundswell from our churches who wanted to be a part, who wanted to have their voices heard. … We are very concerned about the continuing escalation of the war and violence," said the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister for the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries, speaking to Brendan Daly, communication director for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and to Kriston McIntosh, faith liaison for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who received the boxes of petitions on the grounds just outside the U.S. Capitol at 10 a.m. (ET).
McIntosh said the UCC's effort "speaks volumes" and represents a significant, grassroots effort in opposition to the war.
"You've made your voices heard at the highest levels," said McIntosh, who personally carried away the heavy box of petitions at the close of the meeting. Daly also received copies of the petition signatures for Pelosi's office.
The Rev. John H Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, said the UCC's homegrown action came accompanied with the hope that other churches would "find their own way to demonstrate passion and urgency" about ending the war in Iraq.
In a meeting that followed with David Schnittger, deputy chief of staff for House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), Thomas assured Schnittger that the prayers of the church were for all elected officials.
"We know that everyone yearns for peace and justice, perhaps through difference paths," Thomas said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said no one from his staff was available to receive the petitions, but UCC staff plan to deliver the overstuffed box to his office on Friday, along with a cover letter signed by Thomas and Jaramillo.
During the morning meetings, Thomas and Jaramillo were accompanied by the Rev. William Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, which gathered more than 13,000 signatures for their petition.
"What we in the religious community know is that this war has taken a huge toll on the American spirit," Sinkford said.
At 12:30 p.m (ET), Thomas and Jaramillo were planning to bring the petitions to the White House, where they have said they will risk arrest if someone from the public liaison office doesn't come to receive them.
As of 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday (Oct. 9), the count stood at 60,082, thanks to more than 18,000 signatures that came in during the campaign's final 48 hours.
The UCC's Pastoral Letter on the Iraq War – which calls for an immediate, deliberate and significant withdrawal of troops from Iraq – was first presented by the denomination's five-member Collegium of Officers at the UCC's biennial General Synod in June, attended by nearly 10,000 in Hartford, Conn. The 700-word statement was co-signed by all of the UCC's Conference Ministers and Seminary Presidents.