Protest and resistance can be made manifest in many forms. It was evident that the March In Solidarity, on the evening of December 12th, organized by Madison Square Church and Grace CRC, was done as a call for Kingdom Justice. A community conversation had been held at Madison Square Church, several days prior, as a safe place for people to express their anger and grief. Following the march, a second community conversation was held to develop a plan for continued action through peaceful resistance. This conversation not only educated attendees about resistance and its various forms, but also provided space for collaboration as to how each person could participate in carrying forth the work of promoting justice. This would be an emotional journey for everyone involved, but was one that put aside retributive hate to exhibit restorative hope. Brothers and sisters in the faith, from many churches and of all ages, walked through downtown Grand Rapids with grace, reflecting the love of Christ that cries out for the suffering of the oppressed and marginalized.
The night was cold, and the long walk, from Madison to Grace and then to the corner of Fulton and Division, seemed like only a small step in the movement towards equality. A long parade of signs petitioning change and proclaiming, “Black Lives Matter,” fluttered along the curbs. The march filled the streetside with men and women of ripe old age, boys and girls with playful youth, and a collage of cultures, united as one in chanting evening prayers and the prophetic call, “We want justice! Yes, we do! We want justice. How ’bout you?” As we walked, passing cars beeped their horns in affirmation. A man in tattered clothes sitting on a storefront stoop, stood up when we passed, nodding in appreciation, and called out, “All right. All right. Thank you! Amen!” The group filled the four corners of Division and Wealthy as our songs of hope hovered in the air. From my point of view, this march was as much about hearing those songs as it was about walking.
In Isaiah 26, the prophet speaks of a song that will be sung from Judah as the people return to Jerusalem. The passage, sung out of praise for God’s deliverance, depicts the feet of the poor and the footsteps of the oppressed trampling down the barriers and walls that once held the people of God captive. As they walked in freedom, their feet fell upon the very structures of the city that had perpetuated their long suffering. As we were marching down Division, we were living into that prophetic hope. These churches walked together, no longer hindered by fear, guilt, or the persistent paralysis of analysis that seems to surround racial injustice. We marched so that others might hear the beat of those powerful footsteps in our time.
We hear the grieved footsteps of parents who have lost children, children who have lost parents, and the spouses and siblings who have been torn apart. We hear the lamented footsteps of communities plagued by brutality, addiction, poverty, illiteracy, and incarceration at the hands of a justice system that just isn’t equal. We hear the resilient footsteps of the saints who have marched before us into glory, and saints who march around the country even now, advancing the banner of truth. Most importantly, we hear the eternal footsteps of The One who made the grueling march to Calvary that God’s love may be poured out in our defense, for justice’ sake, “fully paying for our sins with his precious blood and setting us free from the tyranny of the devil.“
The principalities and powers that perpetuate injustice, systemic racism, and profiling of faces that, just like mine, bear God’s image, need to be fought. This march was a song to the city. It was a proclamation that a small group of churches have heard the footsteps and are refusing to yield in this battle, even if our society continues to turn a deaf-ear and a blind-eye to inequality and racism.
I was extremely proud to see so many of my brothers and sisters from Calvin Theological Seminary turn out, on a very cold night, on the eve of finals, to march. They were circled hand-in-hand in prayer, a necklace of hope, side by side with me and many others in the community, to display the the Kingdom of God to the city of Grand Rapids. This was certainly an embodiment of our charge to “go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold on to all that is good; render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honor everyone; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Praise be to God!
By Kyle Kooyers