Just Peace History
Over the years, First Church has been a strong supporter of mission outreach, a leader in pastoral ministry to victims of natural disasters, poverty, hunger, homelessness, and health care inequity. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, individual members of First Church took public stands on Civil Rights and the Vietnam War, but there was little official action on the part of the church as a whole. In 1980, following the example of national and state UCC bodies, an Ad-Hoc Just Peace Committee was formed by the FCC Executive Council. In 1981, bylaws were amended to make this a standing committee of the church with a charge “to bring ministry of peace with justice into every aspect of church life.” In 1983, First Church voted in Annual Meeting to become a Just Peace Church. In 1990, after ten years of exercising a vigorous Just Peace ministry, and after two years of education and discussion, First Church adopted a new covenant to supplement the Covenant of 1872:
We believe that our covenant with God and each other calls us:
To love God with all that we are, and our close and distant neighbors as ourselves;
To seek peace with justice and equity for all people;
To engage in non-violent resistance to evil;
To respect and preserve God’s earth;
To foster community across every barrier and division;
To attend to God’s unfolding and reconciling word;
To support each other in our frailties and strengths,
that we may embody that love which overcomes fear and death.
This we testify, confessing always our reliance on God’s grace in Christ,
and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
- 1979-1981:A few FCC members were involved with Clamshell Alliance actions at Seabrook, New Hampshire, nuclear power plant.
- 1981: Ad-Hoc Just Peace Committee established by FCC Executive Council.
- 1982: 30 FCC members travel by chartered bus to New York for Nuclear Freeze March. FCC defense and energy investments to be reviewed on a regular basis.
- 1983: Annual Meeting votes to be a Just Peace Church. FCC hosts Soviet peace committee visiting with Bridges For Peace.
- 1984-1988: 10 FCC members travel to Nicaragua with Witness For Peace. Commissioning of 1984 delegation attended by 400 people in sanctuary.
- 1985: FCC affinity group with Pledge of Resistance, to protest Central America policies. Nine members among 500 arrested in civil disobedience in Boston.
- 1986: Courses and discussions on divestment from South Africa. FCC members arrested for civil disobedience in the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
- 1987: FCC annual meeting votes to divest from South Africa. During Lent, many members take part in 150 mile Via Crucis Pilgrimage from Pittsfield to Boston to protest Central America policies. Several members arrested at the CIA in Washington, D.C., for civil disobedience.
- 1989: Members take part in the March For Women’s Lives in Washington. Two members arrested in Washington in non-violent anti-apartheid action.
- 1990: FCC adopts Covenant Testimony.
- 1991: FCC votes to become an Open and Affirming Church. Members protest first Gulf War at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee.
- 2002: FCC passes “War Is Not The Answer” resolution on threat of war in Afghanistan. Same resolution presented by FCC to 400 UCC church delegates at annual meeting of Massachusetts Conference. Passes by 2/3 majority.
- 2003: FCC members attend NYC march just before Iraq War started
- 2003: On-going ecumenical vigil on Cambridge Common against war in Iraq.
- 2004: Petition signatures supporting gay marriage collected and sent to state legislators.
- 2005: Three FCC members take part in March Against Iraq War in Washington, D.C.
- 2005: 13 member delegation visits El Salvador to build North-South solidarity with CRISPAZ(Christians for Peace in El Salvador).
- 2006: Members collect signatures for a statewide petition for access to affordable quality. This Greater Boston Interfaith Organization campaign played a substantial role in securing statewide healthcare reform and in offering near universal healthcare coverage to Massachusetts residents.
- 2011: Several FCC Members join with 350.org to surround the White House in protest of the Keystone XL pipeline. Massachusetts Conference UCC Minister and President and First Church member, Rev. Jim Antal, spends three days in jail for civil disobedience.
Most of the public actions listed were taken in conjunction with other faith-based groups and churches. In addition to these actions, educational meetings have been held on wide-ranging topics related to Peace and Justice issues, including the Central America Sanctuary Movement; Roe v Wade; the war in Bosnia; “The Day After” anti-nuclear film; conflict resolution; environmental concern; global debt relief; respect for diversity; the death penalty, and interfaith dialogue.