Friday, January 22, 2016

Abby Brockway: First PEC EARTH-Keeper

EARTH-Keeper: Abby Brockway
by Holly Hallman, 
Northwestern Regional Representative to the Steering Committee

Let me introduce you to the Amazing Abby Brockway.  She is the first of our new Earth Keepers and here is how that came to be.

It was January 2014. Seattle Presbytery was considering an overture that would support the Lummi Nation in their efforts to stop the Army Corps of Engineers from building the largest coal terminal in the United States. The discussion went back and forth until a young woman came to the microphone and said, “I support this overture and I will be advocating for the Lummi in the months ahead. When I do I want to know that the whole Presbyterian Church has my back.”

Nine months later four people cabled themselves to a railroad track, building a
tripod 18 feet high above them. That same young woman sat atop that tripod blocking a train at the Delta switching yards in Everett, Washington. The five of them were arrested and spent the night in jail. They were charged with trespass and delaying a train. January 11, 2016 their trial began. The day before her trial Abby Brockway, ruling elder, gave the sermon at her church, Woodland Park Presbyterian.

While she was speaking, John Fife, founder of the sanctuary movement in the 1980s, was across town addressing another Presbyterian congregation. John said that the Presbyterian Church is very good at reform. He said that the Presbyterian Church is amazing at charity. Who does a better bowl of hot soup and a warm blanket? He said that Presbyterians are articulate and energetic advocates on issues that span all of our global concerns. He said that isn’t enough.  In order for the Presbyterian Church to be relevant to those who are inheriting our damaged earth and to make the issues move forward in a gridlocked Congressional world the church must resist. The fourth step, the next step, is resistance.

What would that look like?

Well, it might look like Abby Brockway sitting at the defendant's table during a recess with her almost-as-big-as-she-is daughter on her lap.  It might look like recess in a courtroom filled with chattering people and that same young woman standing and asking that all who are present join her in a silent time of reflection for the defendants.

When asked why she does the things she does Abby will tell you it's because she loves so much. She loves God and the Jesus that she follows. She loves her husband, daughter, parents, and her church. She loves the beauty of the Northwest in which she lives. She resists but she resists nonviolently. She resists in a way that caused three of the jurors, after they gave their verdict and were dismissed, to wait quietly outside in the hallway in order to embrace the defendants--Abby in particular. It looks like the judge Anthony Howard saying to the court, you have changed everyone in this room including myself. He went on to say that the trial might have devolved into a circus. There was no chanting and there were no challenging posters--just 5 people showing the northwest how powerful and relevant resistant is.  Abby was the spokesperson, the one the media looked to, the one who spoke with the “whole Presbyterian Church at her back.”

The resistance that John Fife proclaimed and demonstrated in his work with the sanctuary movement is the resistance, in love, that Abby Brockway is teaching us in Seattle.

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