The day after Donald Trump was inaugurated as president, members of the Diocese of Newark joined millions of people in women’s marches around the globe. Many traveled to the nation’s capital for the Women’s March on Washington, while others joined “sister marches” in New York and New Jersey.
“I have never done anything like this in my life,” said physician Debbie Quinn, a member of Church of the Redeemer, Morristown. She traveled with about 40 other people on a bus the church chartered for the march in Washington, D.C.
“It was an amazing day,” she said. “I cried when I first heard the chanting of slogans.”
The event also was a first for Doris Dicristina. “As I started to grasp the reality of the course our country was being launched on, I remembered the poem of the Holocaust by Pastor Martin Niemoller, which we call to mind every year at Redeemer when honoring the Holocaust,” she said. “I knew I could no longer be an observer. I knew I had to speak up and take action. … We went to stand for justice for everyone and everything we hold dear in our country and to hold President Trump accountable to the American people, all the American people. We have started the journey, and we will not turn back.”
For Redeemer Rector Cynthia Black, her decision to march related directly to the Baptismal Covenant. She recalled memorizing the page numbers for the covenant when the 1979 Book of Common Prayer came out.
“It spoke to me and my spiritual journey,” she said. “It later came in handy when I could refer to it on my ordination exams, and it was useful last week when a reporter asked me why I was going to Washington to participate in the Women’s March. To ‘strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being’ is what I have been trying to do all of my life, and marching – praying with one's feet – is one way to do that.
“Apparently I’m not alone. Sign after sign that people carried in marches all over the U.S. last Saturday, and that I saw pictures of on my Facebook feed during the March on Washington for Women, referenced these words of the Baptismal Covenant,” she said. “I marched in Washington to protest the lack of dignity given to so many human beings by our incoming president. For me, marching was about my baptism. And it was a prayer.”
The experience was “exhilarating,” said Krista Donough, who traveled with Redeemer along with her brother and sister-in-law.
“To be in a large, peaceful crowd chanting, ‘We are the popular vote!’ and ‘This is what democracy looks like!’ was cathartic and energizing. I wanted to march because of the outrageous comments our president has made,” she said. “It was wonderful on Saturday to be surrounded by love, encouragement and the sisterhood, including its honorary brothers. … It reminded me of the lyrics to a welcoming introit we often sing at church:
‘Tear down the walls that divide us /
Remove the labels that define us /
Unbind the chains that confine us /
The fear that undermines us /
All God's people are welcome in this place.’”
On the way to and from Washington, the group stopped for respite at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, New Carrollton, Md. Redeemer member Yolanda Baker recalled the welcome there – “I am very grateful for their snacks and hospitality!” – and the positive spirit of marchers.
“I witnessed the kindest and most appreciative group of protesters I could have ever imagined,” she said. “Everywhere I went people were thanking cops, high-fiving military personnel and expressing gratitude to the volunteers. There were blind folks with canes, people in wheelchairs and kids in strollers. People made room and made way. It did my heart good. This is America!”
Julie Crawford, a member of Church of the Messiah in Chester who traveled separately to Washington, also remarked on the diversity of demonstrators. “So much diversity, especially in terms of cause and age,” she said, adding that she was “amazed by the presence of elderly women.”
Crawford said she was fortunate to have a prepaid Metro card to get into Washington because the crowd swelled the line for buying cards to a half-mile long at the Shady Grove station. After the “tightest subway ride ever,” she got off one stop before a Metro station that was so filled with demonstrators that no one could reach the exit. The crowds were so tight around the National Mall that “we were stuck for 1.5 hours about one block from the stage,” she said, adding that the “Feds did a great job managing museums and access to facilities.”
Messiah’s rector, the Rev. Margaret Otterburn, encountered similar crowds during the march in New York.
“Arriving at 47th St. and First Ave. around 10:20 a.m., I could see many people had also arrived well before the 11 a.m. scheduled start time,” she said. “I saw that the multitude of placards which were waving was on the whole negative – denouncing the new administration in some form or other. Promptly at 11 a.m., a well-organized program began, beginning with musical contributions and followed by a great many short, inspirational speeches. These were positive, declaring a determination of all Americans to work together to defend all the liberties that had been won over the years and not about to let them be taken away.”
“By noon there was a vocal desire to march, and we moved a little way down 47th St.,” she said. “But the size of the crowd, already spilling into Second Avenue and the streets beyond, seemed too large for the authorities to allow to proceed. So people patiently waited for another couple of hours before any marching was permitted.”
The Rev. C. Melissa Hall, rector of St. James’, Upper Montclair, joined a 2,000-person march organized by two women in their 80s. Hall told the Episcopal Journal that, approaching the venue, “all you could hear was laughter.” The event was joyous, drawing “all types of people” supporting an array of issues.
“I loved watching the news about New York and so forth, but I have to say, being in a small town that never does anything like this ... it was amazing,” she said. “There was a just a feeling as if for the first time it wasn’t what car do you drive or what house do you live in or what school does your child go to. It was really, we’re here as women, but we’re here really as Americans, to say, ‘We have a voice and need to use it.’”
Participants also felt a strong sense of connection to marchers in other cities, she told the Journal. “Everybody had a sense that it wasn’t just being in that one place. It was being connected in an incredible way. It was wonderful.”