The Revs. Gregory Holston (above right), Jason Perkowski (above left) and John Brice (below)

Clergy seek racial justice, peace at protest rallies

Eastern PA Conference clergy and laity have joined peaceful marchers in recent rallies for racial justice in Philadelphia and other cities, protesting the brutal killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis, Minn., police May 25. While violence and looting may have sullied the dignity and purpose of the protests in the eyes of many spectators, the large, popular gatherings have been primarily peaceful, engaging and effective.

The Revs. Gregory Holston, Jason Perkowski and John Brice each provided pastoral presence and leadership at rallies. Holston spoke at a peaceful protest May 30 in front of the Octavius Catto statue at Philadelphia’s City Hall. Learn more…

Perkowski helped marchers and police prevent violence at a rally in Lancaster May 31. However, he was attacked with pepper spray by a police officer during an arrest. Fellow marchers tended to his injury.  

And Brice led a Black Lives Matter march June 2 after reports of retaliatory threats from a white nationalist group caused tension in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. The Rev. Dan Roth, pastor of a church in that community, credited Brice with bringing a “spirit of peace and unity” to a community ready to “explode like a powder keg.”   

All three pastors were featured in news coverage this week. UM News featured comments and photos of Holston in “Moving beyond protests to stamp out racism” and Perkowski in “United Methodists preach, protest and decry racism.” The Star, a local Philly paper, featured Brice in “A peaceful march to drive out fear in Fishtown.” All three also appear in Facebook photos or videos shot during the protests.

The Rev. David Brown, a Deacon at Wharton-Wesley UMC Philadelphia, organized and led a brief but meaningful silent protest against racial violence and injustice in Philly’s Love Park Sunday at 2 PM. It may have been the city’s quietest protest of the past week.

Brown was joined by other UM and interfaith clergy, laity, friends and onlookers, as they all knelt in silent prayer “in the shadow of love” for 8 minutes, 46 seconds clergy. That was the length of time that fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck while Floyd was in police custody, which caused his May 25 death.

During the silent prayer people were encouraged to not only pray but listen to the sounds all around them and think of George Floyd and the sounds he may have heard around him as he was dying under Chauvin’s knee.

“We heard the sounds of choppers flying, a praise group in worship and a young man sharing his testimony of the gospel,” said the Rev. Shayla Johnson, who attended the event. “We felt the embrace of the spirit of God through the breeze and the smile of love upon the city through the rays of the sun.”