Monday, January 21, 2013


Quaker Couple Attend Interfaith Prayer Vigil for Climate Action (IMAC) at the White House

Two Yancey County citizens were among the one hundred-fifty present for a pray-in for climate action at the White House on a cold, rainy day in the nation’s capital on Martin Luther King’s birthday last Tuesday. The prayer vigil was called by Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, a coalition of faith leaders from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Native American traditions.  Dr. Robert McGahey, a retired educator, and Dr. Geeta McGahey, former medical director of the Celo Health Center, joined the group in an interfaith religious service which began in a Presbyterian Church near the White House, hosted by Jacqui Patterson, head of the Environmental and Climate Justice Program of the NAACP.  

After an initial period of worship at the church, including a period of reflective prayer led by Robert representing Quaker Earthcare Witness, the group marched to the White House under police escort behind a sculpted image of the earth held by Dr. James Hansen, celebrated climate scientist and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.  

At the White House gates, near the review stand installed for the Inaugural Parade, ministers, imams, rabbis and monks spoke and prayed for the president and congress to wake up to what Dr. King called the “fierce urgency of now” before our window of opportunity for a concerted national response to climate change closed. Leaders who spoke to the faithful included Dr. Bob Edgar, former director of the National Council of Churches, and Richard Cizik, head of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.  

After a rousing commissioning speech by Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr. of the Hip Hop Caucus, eighteen faith leaders and their supporters moved to the gates of the White House while the names of over one hundred Americans who died during superstorm Sandy were recited, with congregants answering, “presente.” This smaller group, which included the McGaheys, attempted to block access as an act of non-violent civil disobedience.  White House police responded by successively closing two gates.  The group vigiled through part of the afternoon, but were not arrested.  

The McGaheys remained in Washington to lobby for a national summit on climate change hosted by the President to which civic and business leaders, scientists, farmers, and leaders of the faith community would be invited to seek a way forward in combating the threat of catastrophic climate change.  Legislative assistants charged with energy and the environment for both Senators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr were receptive to the idea that pragmatic centrist legislators like their bosses, who both accept the significant threat of climate change, could show leadership in a direction of action that could emerge from such a conference, affirming that our state has many resources to offer towards a greener energy future.  The corresponding aide for newly elected congressman Mark Meadows (R) was ill and could not meet with the Yancey couple.

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