The NC Council of Churches is proud to publish a brand new e-book collection of testimonies from Moral Mondays. With 32 short vignettes from North Carolinians across the state, Voices of Moral Mondays tells the story of everyday folks being motivated to speak out on account of their faith. Many, though not all, of the accounts describe what it was like to engage in civil disobedience and be arrested by the authorities. Click here to download the free e-book.
I’ve been thinking about mustard seed as I reflect on Moral Mondays. Jesus once described the coming kingdom of God by comparing it to a tiny seed that grows into a large tree.
Moral Mondays started with a simple call to people of faith to prayer, to pursue the “moral high ground” of nonviolent protest and peaceful assembly, to register distress at the direction our state was being taken by the General Assembly and Governor. The call came from the Rev. William Barber, pastor of Goldsboro’s Greenleaf Christian Church, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, and the creator and prophetic force behind Moral Mondays. On April 29 (my birthday, but I’m pretty sure that’s just coincidental) there was a “pray-in,” followed by a rally at the General Assembly, followed by civil disobedience that resulted in 17 arrests.
From that modest beginning, what became Moral Mondays (as far as I can remember or find in my email, that name was not used for the first Monday gathering) grew into a movement that attracted national and international attention, drew crowds that were repeatedly several thousand in number, and produced more than 940 arrests from April through July. It also drew attention from the state’s elected leaders, including the Governor, who famously proclaimed us to be “outsiders,” but also from the legislative minority, who felt undergirded in this dismal session by the support of Moral Mondays.
The first inkling I had that it was becoming news beyond the state was when I got email from an old high school friend, someone I hear from very infrequently, saying that she had just read about it on Yahoo and wanting me to tell her more about it. The national news media came in to report. (I was interviewed by reporters from American Public Media’s Marketplace and PBS’ Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, though, sadly, I didn’t say much that they thought useful.) I heard from several friends and colleagues across the country who had heard about Moral Mondays.
I am proud of the participation of Council people from the start. Several of the heads of our member bodies attended. Many Board members, pastors and lay members of congregations affiliated with the Council, and our staff (past and present) were there as witnesses/supporters, and a goodly number were arrested. There was an air of homecoming to Moral Mondays, and I never attended without seeing a host of Council friends.
For those of you who did not attend any Moral Monday, each included a rally – singing, praying, speeches – followed by the sending in (i.e., into the legislative building) of those who were going to engage in civil disobedience and be arrested. Many of the witnesses/supporters waited to cheer on those arrested as they were loaded into prison buses and carried away for processing. Rev. Barber said from the start, and many of those arrested have said the same, that the thousands of witnesses/supporters were as significant for Moral Mondays as were the hundreds who were willing to be arrested.
I hope you will appreciate the personal reflections which follow. They come from those who were arrested and those who were there as witnesses/supporters. All have powerful stories to tell, though words alone cannot adequately communicate the energy and emotion felt by those who were actually in attendance.
Jesus also used the mustard seed to describe the faith expected of his followers. As Moral Mondays become a series of local and regional rallies across the state this fall and as participants look ahead to the need for civic engagement in registering new voters, many people of faith are demonstrating our faith as we water and fertilize the mustard seed and see it continue to grow.