The Rev. Osagyefo Sekou (left), the Rev. Seth Wispelwey (fourth from right) and Brittany Caine-Conley (fifth from right), a 2014 Eastern Mennonite Seminary graduate, march with other clergy Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia, to counter-protest the "Unite the Right" rally. The three will be honored by the National Council of Churches in November. (Photo by Jordy Yager)

Congregate Charlottesville co-founders to be honored by National Council of Churches

An Eastern Mennonite Seminary graduate and two other organizers of the clergy protest against the August “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, will be honored by the National Council of Churches (NCC).

Brittany Caine-Conley, along with the Rev. Seth Wispelwey and the Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, will receive the President’s Award for Excellence in Faithful Leadership at a Nov. 9 awards ceremony during the NCC’s Christian Unity Gathering.

The trio “provided exemplary leadership in the midst of a crisis that has become known as a turning point in America’s response to a rising tide of white supremacy, and continue to provide a faithful, moral witness in Charlottesville,” said the Rev. Steve D. Martin, NCC’s communications director who joined the clergy counter-protest and witnessed their leadership. “These are exactly the kind of leaders we wish to see in the world, and by honoring them with the President’s Award, we hope their example will be more widely understood and that others will follow in their footsteps.”

Caine-Conley, now in the final stages of the United Church of Christ ordination process, joined with Wispelwey, directing minister for the Charlottesville-based Restoration Village Arts, to co-found Congregate Charlottesville in the months leading up to the Aug. 12 rally. The organization worked to train religious leaders in direct action, public witness and rapid response.

In early August, they led the organization’s call for 1,000 clergy and faith leaders of all denominations to counter-protest the white supremacists.

Sekou was invited to join the clergy protest by the organizers. As a representative of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (the nation’s oldest interfaith organization), he trained thousands in nonviolent protest actions in Ferguson, Missouri. At a prayer service in Charlottesville the night before August 12, upon learning a torch-lit march was approaching the church, Sekou would invite those gathered to sing.

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Coverage of Congregate C’ville was also featured in the Washington Post and The New York Times.

More coverage on the Aug. 12 event from EMU News is here.

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