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Keystone UCC brings Occupy Movement to Wallingford neighborhood

Occupy Wallingford has met three times since members and friends of Keystone Congregational United Church of Christ in Seattle held an Occupy Christmas event in the tradition of Las Posadas celebrations.


Erv Faulmann and Vandana Gupta join in Las Posadas procession.

They meet again on Feb. 13 at the church.  About 25 are involved, currently deciding on their direction.

One idea is to do a tool bank with neighbors in the north central Seattle area sharing tools and expertise.  The idea is to move from dependence on monetary interactions in the community,

They are also working in children-friendly protest opportunities, like the Las Posadas.

On Dec. 22, a group of 20 adults and children chose sites along North 45th Street in the retail heart of the Wallingford neighborhood.  They processed from site to site sharing information, stories and songs.

“The Las Posadas tradition highlights the Holy Family seeking refuge in Bethlehem on the eve of Jesus’ birth,” said Rich Gamble, pastor and chair of the PNC’s Justice and Witness Ministries Committee.

Las Posadas, a nine-day celebration that has been a tradition in Mexico, and is now also celebrated by Protestants and Catholics in Guatemala and the Southwest United States.

Traditionally, people process from place to place as pilgrims re-enacting Mary and Joseph seeking shelter and being refused.  The participants go from house to house until they at last are invited inside to participate in a community celebration.

“We took this celebration and fit it into our time and place,” Gamble said. “We talked about the systems of our nation which exclude the poor and refugees.”

Las Posadas 2

Tom Greene, Peg Faulmann and Richard Vogt were among 20 members and friends of Keystone UCC in a Las Posadas Occupy procession.

In Wallingford, the group stopped at three banks along 45th Street—Wells Fargo, Keybank and Chase—and outside each talked about the banks’  practices that have harmed the U.S. and global economy and especially harmed people who are most vulnerable.

“We shared how the people who run these corporations prosper greatly while the rest of us suffer with crippling mortgages, foreclosures and huge student loans,” Gamble said.  “We shared stories of people who had lost their homes, were struggling with school loans or had lost their jobs.

“We also stopped at a health clinic and grocery store to talk about how vulnerable people are being turned away from access to decent health care and nutrition,” he said.

Peg Faulmann, Keystone’s associate pastor, said of the evening event, “We followed the star—a makeshift epiphany light on a pole. We were people of many faith traditions singing in procession the songs of Emmanuel and of our oppressed people, engaging with those along the way who recognized the light.

“Afterwards, the glow of God’s light continues on  through hearts on fire and burning within us still,” she said, “knowing that we are much more now than we were before we gathered.”

Gamble said he had been  looking for ways to move the energy of the Occupy movement into local neighborhoods and churches.

“The Christmas story and the Las Posadas tradition fit into conversations about who is being excluded and exploited in our current economic system,” Gamble said.  “The great thing was that the event carried all the themes of other Occupy events, while at the same time being a safe and enjoyable experience for the adults and children involved.

“We came away from the event feeling like we need to be doing more of this kind of thing,” he said.

Gamble said they seek ways to be part of the Occupy movement without long, rancorous conversations.  They just want to bring together neighbors in a family-friendly, faith-centered form of protest.

Keystone UCC identifies with issues of social justice, so “the Occupy movement resonates,” he said.  “The question is whether the Occupy movement will adopt a commitment to nonviolence.”

Gamble has participated in Occupy protest chaplains in Seattle.

Beyond Occupy, he said the church is committed to social justice. One other expression of that commitment is that Keystone has been accepted as a host congregation for four Young Adult Service Communities Program interns who will be assigned fall 2012 through summer 2013 to work with social justice agencies and work to bring social justice concerns into congregations.

They will be housed and live in community at All Pilgrims UCC in Seattle.  The Church Council of Greater Seattle is the first agency to commit to work with them.

Gamble is recruiting other agencies and encourages young adults to apply to the national UCC at

“They will spend the year learning to be social justice leaders,” he said.  “I hope we can expand to more sites in the Northwest in coming years.”

For information, call 206-632-6021 or email


Copyright Pacific Northwest Conference News © February 2012



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