On April 28, 2018, faith leaders from many traditions, including the United Church, stood in solidarity with Water Protectors from the Tsleil-Waututh nation to protest the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion in Burnaby, B.C.. Kimiko Karpoff captured the day in pictures and words.
It was the singing that stood out for me. Singing as resistance. Singing as a spiritually grounding and communally uplifting practice to calm tension and support the people on the frontlines who had put themselves forward for potential arrest. Singing in church is one thing but this was powerful prayer.
When the RCMP arrived to read the 12-page court injunction to those blocking the gate we sang in earnest. It takes a long time to read 12 pages.
The people gonna rise like the water
Gonna shut this pipeline down
I hear the voice of my great granddaughter
Saying shut Kinder Morgan down
The arrests didn’t happen right away. The RCMP took the time to set up a space for on-site processing of those arrested, who face fines of up to $500 and will be required to appear in court. Although the injunction was read collectively, the arrests were individual. Each person was approached and given the opportunity to leave the gate or be arrested. And whether they chose moving away or arrest, they were supported in song.
My friend [My friend]
You do not walk alone
We will [We will]
Walk with you [Walk with you]
And sing your spirit home
To date over 200 people have been arrested.
The callout came from spiritual leaders of the Tsleil-Waututh of the Coast Salish people asking “Religious Leaders and all people of faith and spirit” to stand with them in defense of the lands and the water on April 28th. We gathered at 8 a.m. Buddhist, Muslim, Christians from 10 different denominations, Jewish, ecumenical leaders, Quaker and Indigenous peoples walked together from the camp to the Watch House and on to the gate. Those who had chosen to be the first to risk arrest walked together with a banner that said Water is Life and Stop Kinder Morgan Pipeline.
Until 3 p.m. we prayed and sang. Throughout the day people offered prayers from their faith traditions.
And when voices joined together singing the traditional spiritual “As I Went Down to the River to Pray,” for me it felt like the very water of the world was singing courage with us. Even the relentless rain could not dampen the spirit of the gathered.
As I went down to the river to pray
Studying about the good old ways
And who should wear the robe and crown
Good Lord, show me the way
O sister, let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O brother, let’s go down
Down to the river to pray