I have been following, participating, and blogging about the OccupyWall Street movement for several weeks now, and I am ready to recommend some specific solidarity actions during this Advent season.
I'm calling on Ministers of Shalom, designated Shalom Zones, Communities of Shalom, Belivers Without Borders, and other faith-based groups and people of good will, to find creative ways to "seek shalom in the community where you have been sent" (Jeremiah 29:7). I'm asking you to consider one or more of the following prophetic acts of kindness, hospitality, justice and advocacy in behalf of the so-called "99 %" during Advent--in the spirit of God's Shalom:
1. Open the doors of your church, community center, or home to some Occupiers for a warm meal, hot shower, or even for an overnight rest. Several shalom zones and prophetic churches already have done this, including Church of the Village and Judson Memorial Church in Lower Manhattan, and Arch Street UMC in downtown Philedelphia. Jim Wallis of Sojourners also has called for Christians to offer sancturary, hospitality and refuge to the young Occupiers: Sojo Net church-sanctuary-occupy-movement If you decide to do this, here is some practical advise from one of the pastors of Judson Church: Do's and Don't of Opening Sacred Space
2. Participate in an interfaith prayer service at an Occupy camp near you. OccupyFaithNYC sponsors a weekly multifaith service as Zuccotti Park (now called by its original name of Liberty Square). Yesterday there was a special ceremony at Judson Church and march to Occupy Wall Street for 20th century civil rights leaders (Rev. Phil Lawson among them) to "pass on the torch" to the younger 21th century civil rights leaders (Rev. Eric Jackson from Drew Theological School among them). Passing the Torch at Liberty Square See also Council of Elders http://judson.org/occupywallst
On Sunday, December 4, Communities of Shalom will be hosting and leading an Occupy Advent prayer service at Zuccotti Park (Liberty Square) near Wall Street. United Methodist Bishop Alfred Johnson, Drew University Chaplain Dr. Tanya Bennett, and several others will speak and pray. Join us after church at 3:30pm if you can.
3. Join a protest march near you. On Saturday night my wife and I joined a group of Religion Professors at the American Academy of Religion meeting in San Francisco. Together we marched in the rain from Union Square to the Hyatt Hotel (presenting red roses to service workers denied a living wage), passed the Federal Building on Market Street where many occupiers were camped, and on to Hermann Plaza where the main camp was established. Last Thursday, on the second month anniversary of the movement, I joined other religious leaders march from Zuccotti Park (where the occupiers were evicted two days before) up to Union Square NY, and back down to Palmer Square City Hall for a rally and then across the Brooklyn Bridge en mass. Most cities have Occupy Marches. Join one.
Here's a few good links:
4. Read the Bible: During this Advent season of waiting and willingness to be used by God, go back and re-read the old prophets of justice and Jesus's teaching about "blessed are the poor"in light of the growing popular frustration and opposition to the economic disparity, political corruption, systemic dysfunction, and culture of greed in our time. Here's a really good analysis of the role and function of movements like Occupy from Brookings: Brookings article If you find the spirit of this movement compelling, consider ways to identify and minister with the so-called "99%"
Here's short, faithful, biblical call to Christian solidarity with Occupy Vancouver from a young evangelical graduate student at Regent University in Vancouver: Jubilee Economics
5. Prayerfully discern what time it is for you, for America and for our world. When kairos (God's time, appointed time) has finally come, then we may perceive the "new thing" God is doing in the world to 'raise up the lowly and feed the hungry with good things'. If you perceive it, then, then 'seize the time'. "Who knows whether you have been chosen for such a time as this?"
There are many more ways to proclaim the gospel to the poor, speak truth to power, support Occupy or engage in prophetic ministry in your time and place. What is important is to act prayerfully and courageously, in the spirit of God's Shalom, and with the biblical understanding that the Lord requires us to "remember the poor" and "not neglect the needy" (Psalm 44:1); and to 'do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God" (Micah 6:8).
Occupy Advent! Occupy Shalom.
Dr. Michael J. Christensen, Ph.D.
International Director, Communities of Shalom