Vigils for Democracy, held nationwide to mark Jan. 6 insurrection, call for voter protections

As Americans mark the first anniversary of the insurrection at the United States Capitol, people of faith are holding vigils around the country to make sure such an assault on our democracy never happens again.

Fliers, a clipboard and electric votive candles are arrayed on a concrete bench on Cleveland’s Public Square during a vigil on Jan. 6, 2022. Photo by Hans Holznagel.

A number of organizations sponsored “Vigils for Democracy” in 300 communities on Thursday, Jan. 6.

The effort kicked off Wednesday evening, Jan. 5, with a national virtual interfaith service, calling people together to look to the past and to work to face threats to the rights of many going forward.

‘Healing the wound’

More than 1,000 people joined the “Healing the Wound” service on Zoom Jan. 5, sponsored by sponsored by the Franciscan Action Network and Faithful Democracy. United Church of Christ Associate General Minister Traci Blackmon reminded those gathered “that even in the midst of chaos and danger, love breaks forth with a power that cannot be quelled by evil acts of Empire of the chaos of community.”

She spoke on the 21st chapter of the biblical Revelation to John: “Look, I’m making all things new.” She noted that while the U.S. “is often a place of distressing poverty, violence and evil … John’s vision reminds us that this is not God’s intention for humankind … and such destruction and discord in the world … by God’s grace … will someday end and be made new.

The Rev. Traci Blackmon speaks during the Jan. 5 “Healing the Wound” service.

“And when we make room for God … we become co-conspirators with God in a new creation.”

‘When a lie takes hold’

Rabbi Sharon Brous, founder and senior rabbi, IKAR in Los Angeles, spoke about the prophet Yoel, walking through times of struggle, “an ancient wisdom born of suffering.”

“To heal the wound, we must name the wound. We must grieve together. This is the only way through the great darkness,” Brous said, noting that grief is not all the prophet calls us to. He also invites truth telling.

“When a lie takes hold in society, everyone pays the price. An intoxicating lie has swept our nation in our time … a lie more than 21 million Americans are now willing to take up arms to defend. A lie that has political leaders across the country scrambling to mirror in legislation designed to strip the people of their basic right in a democracy, the right to vote.”

Brous called on participants to name the lie that fueled the violence at the Capitol as “terrorism” and “to take decisive, dramatic action to ensure the past won’t be precedent.”

Reflection questions are posed during the Jan. 5 “Healing the Wound” service.

Fasting, prayer, hunger strike

Along with words from Brous, Blackmon and faith leaders of several traditions, the service offered questions for silent reflection to engage those joining virtually.  

Vigil organizers also encouraged participants to see the evening’s service as just the beginning of action and advocacy, inviting all to join in a day of fasting and prayer on Jan. 6, to push for passage of the Freedom to Vote Act. A number of different religious organizations are sponsoring a Season of Fasting and Prayer as a way to journey together in one call to lawmakers to pass the legislation. Many vow to continue until voters’ rights are protected.

On Jan. 6, Blackmon and the Rev. Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity UCC in Chicago, launched a hunger strike for voting rights with two dozen other Black religious leaders, to urge Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act by Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 17.

‘Ensure history isn’t rewritten’

A group of about 100 people braved temperatures in the low 20s for the evening vigil on Cleveland’s Public Square on Jan. 6. They held signs and battery-operated votive candles. Activists and politicians took turns at a portable sound system’s microphone and drew mitten-padded applause. Speakers described current legislative efforts in states that, they said, threaten democracy as much as did the 2021 Capitol insurrection – ranging from unfairly partisan redistricting to bills that make it harder, not easier, to vote.

The Revs. Craig Hoffman (left) and Allen Harris wave signs in support of a speaker at the democracy vigil at Cleveland’s Public Square on Jan. 6, 2022. Photo by Hans Holznagel

Among those in the Cleveland crowd were the Rev. Craig Hoffman, a program assistant with the UCC’s Global H.O.P.E. team, and his husband, the Rev. Allen Harris, regional pastor and president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Ohio.

Hoffman held one sign identifying himself as a UCC minister and another that said, “Speak up, stand up, show up for justice.” “It is vital that we challenge the whitewashing of the account of the violent insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021,” he said. “Lies undermine the foundation of democracy. As the church we must always stand for truth.”

Harris agreed. “People of faith simply have to be involved in protecting democracy,” he said. “I am here to ensure history isn’t rewritten: on Jan. 6, 2021, we witnessed an insurrection against democracy.” He held a sign that said, simply, “It was an insurrection.”

“One year after a terrible, violent breach, we need justice,” Brous said. “We need accountability. And we need audacity – because now is the time for us to dream of the next chapter and then get to work building it.”

Hans Holznagel contributed to this article.

Categories: United Church of Christ News

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