Wilton Congregational Church joined Wilton Go Green at the People’s Climate March in New York City on Sunday, Sept. 21, joining other faith and environmental groups in demanding climate justice. The march shone a spotlight on environmental issues ahead of the U.N. Climate Summit on Sept. 23. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon took part in the two-mile march through the streets of Manhattan, along with musician Sting and actors Leonardo di Caprio and Mark Ruffalo. Former vice president Al Gore and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also were present.

On Sunday morning bright and early, Rev. Arnold Thomas met the Wilton delegation at the Wilton railroad station blessing them with a verse from Psalm 24, verse. 1. The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. Rev. Thomas prayed, “asking God’s spirit to guide you and inform you and inspire new ways by which we can inspire and excite others in joining efforts to save out planet.”

The starting team of four—Richard and Jana Bertkau, Jane Shelly and Kitsey Snow—travelled to South Norwalk and connected with the New Haven line gathering Wilton Go Green members and partners on the way. Live Green CT!, Fairfield Earth Day and CT Green Scene joined in. By the time they reached Grand Central, the group had grown to 11. They made their way to West 77th St. and Central Park West where the environmental groups were gathering. They found a congenial spot in front of the World Wildlife Fund, featuring songs, chants and a human Panda Bear available for hugging and photos. Later they followed a group of bicyclists with a catchy bike-dance.

And then they waited and waited and waited. The march was scheduled to commence at 11:30 a.m. at Columbus Circle, but there was no movement at 72nd St. for hours due to larger-than-expected crowds—over 300,000 strong. This really was the largest climate march in history.

At 1 p.m. there was a moment of silence during which everyone on Central Park West raised their hands; the only sound was that of the helicopter whirring above. After a minute, a huge roar of cheers swept up the avenue from Columbus Circle.

Rev. Thomas & Rings Bell

At the same moment, Rev. Thomas climbed into the historic steeple of the Wilton Congregational Church and rang the steeple bell manually 350 times in support of the marchers. The number 350 represents an international effort to raise awareness of the need to decrease carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million.

Jana Bertkau, a member of the Wilton Congregational Church Environmental Ministry Team said, “It was a meaningful day for me, to be part of an enormous wave of diverse organizations that came together with one message. Leaders of the world—take action—preserving a healthy planet is the moral imperative of our time.”

Finally, at 2 p.m. the Wilton contingent started moving down Central Park West. They crossed the starting line at 3 p.m.—more than three hours after the official start. They found some lively bands to march with along the route. By 4 p.m., it was time to catch the train back. Tired marchers smiled at each other on the streets, shared their stories in Grand Central and bid each other good-night on the train. They recognized that together they had sent a historic signal to the world’s leaders to take action, and they had made some new friends along the way.