A week ago, I sat listening and praying in Ebenezer United Methodist Church on Capitol Hill, an historic black church. I attended at the invitation of a friend who was part of the arrests in the Capitol on July 13th of this year. She and others were taken to lock-up for praying and singing in the hall outside Senator McConnell’s office. Their “crime” was supposedly refusing to disperse and making a disturbance.
I was present for a prayer service for the Fighting 4 Justice movement by the African American Clergy Call to Action group. We sang and prayed and I listened… for on this occasion, I was there to bear witness. Not preach or speak. Listen. Pray. Grieve. But most of all, listen.
The African American clergy present that night were a Who’s-Who of theologians, writers, leaders and preachers. They were community pastors, activists and organizers. They gathered to pray and prepare for their own advance on Capitol Hill on July 18th. They were strong their desire to worship Jesus and from in their purpose to preach justice.
They came to protest the health care bill currently being proposed in the US Senate. It is a bill that will slash public funding for health care, particularly for the most vulnerable, the elderly, the disabled and the poor. It is a plan that disproportionately will affect African Americans, who are already underserved by the present health care system.
As one speaker read from Ezekiel 22:27-31, we in the audience, mostly clergy, responded by rising to our feet. Later, Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon preached a sermon of empowerment and challenge. Songs and hymns poured out with passion. Prayers were powerful. God. Showed. UP!
One of the songs from that evening has been the meter for my footsteps this week. Written by Bernice Johnson Reagon, it begins…
We who believe in freedom cannot rest…
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.
In the days since this prayer service, I have pondered my own personal Freedom and privilege. I am fortunate. So many are not.
I serve the marginalized every day in my work as a hospice chaplain. Most are on Medicare, many are dependent on Medicaid as well. Many are people of color, whose families take shifts to provide the care they need. Many are lonely, confused, and though not neglected, do not receive all of the attention they deserve. And any cuts in publicly funded healthcare would be devastating to all but a select, privileged few.
I told my friends, “March for my patients. March for their families. March for their medications and their nurses and their medical supplies.” I promised to pray, and I watched their press conference and subsequent arrests. I called my senators and thanked them for promising to vote against this bill.
Defunding health care for the poor and needy is immoral. It is, as Rev. Dr. William J Barber II says, a sin to accept a standard of care that is certain death for those without the funds to buy the health care they need. My pastor’s heart and my Calling demand that I keep speaking up and demanding adequately funded health care for “the least of these.”
I’m a woman who speaks in a voice and I must be heard
At times I can be quite difficult, I’ll bow to no man’s word
We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes
Rev. Deborah Vaughn is a hospice chaplain endorsed by the Alliance of Baptists, and Assistant Minister at Twinbrook Baptist Church in Rockville, MD. She blogs at An Unfinished Symphony and was a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit. She is an avid Buckeye fan despite living with her family live outside Washington, DC.
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