“Let us rejoin the global community; do away with the attitude of imperialism; and send nuclear weapons back to hell where they came from!” — Michael Walli
The Festival of Hope this evening saw a coming-together of friends from Oklahoma, Indiana, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Wisconsin, Washington state and Washington D.C., Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Louisiana… and more. We all made our way to Knoxville to honor the desire that Michael expressed, that we each hold deep in our hearts: the desire to overcome violence and form one world community.
The day had begun for some of us at Erik and Libby Johnson’s house in Knoxville, where Rev. Janice Sevre-Duszynska led us in a Sunday liturgy. We reflected on unjust laws, resistance, and the ministry of “afflicting the comfortable” in light of the good news Jesus brought. After sharing bread and wine around the table, we shared a delicious meal together (soup and pie!) and divided up for the afternoon. Some went to hear Paul Chappell speak, others attended a planning meeting. Others still continued their puppet artistry, preparing for the week’s street theater.
It has been raining for two days straight here in Knoxville, so when OREPA’s weekly five o’clock vigil came around, Sister Megan decided to be sensible by staying out of the rain. Greg, Michael, and fifty other people were not deterred by the wet weather however, and rallied with their umbrellas and ponchos on Bear Creek Road outside the weapons complex, brightening the dreary day with songs for peace and freedom from nuclear weapons.
The Festival of Hope was a spectacular, moving end to a meaningful day. The Church of the Savior provided generous hospitality, and over a hundred people were present for the celebration. The Emancipators, Charlie King, and OREPA’s own Ralph Hutchison provided music throughout the night: “sing for Light, sing for Justice, sing for a world without nuclear bombs”; “for swords into plowshares, the hammer has to fall”; “no prison cell, no iron bars can hold your heart.”
Kathy Boylan gave dear introductions for Greg, Megan, and Michael, and each of the three were then able to share with those gathered some of what moved them to act. Michael shared his dismay at the erosion of rule of law, and how not only Phil Berrigan and Dorothy Day, but even Abe Lincoln could not rest easy knowing that nuclear weapons production continues at Oak Ridge. Greg spoke to us about the inspiration Dan Berrigan was in his life, and also shared a letter he received from a friend, reminding him that he is on trial to do the will of God, and that requires listening, and letting the Holy Spirit speak through you in the moment. In the insanity of the moment, the company of saints will be standing with you to help you be the instrument God requires you to be — and in this moment, maybe the truth will be heard. Megan emphasized that she and her co-defendants are simple people who very simply entered a place built on secrecy and lies. “There is no way to secure even one nuclear bomb until it is dismantled. Let’s stop pouring billions in to false, impossible security.”
As a closing reflection, Beth Brockman led us in a meditation on light. Light, she said, is beautiful to look at in and of itself. But even more importantly than that, light is there to show us the truth, show us what is. Greg, Megan, and Michael each lit a candle, and everyone present went forward to spread that light by using the co-defendants’ candles to light a small candle at the front of the room.
The last reflection of the night was taken from J.R.R. Tolkein: “Such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.”