Friday, December 09, 2011

Prophetic Witness @ OccupyPhilly

As written in an upcoming edition of LTSP's The Seminarian:

Over the last few weeks I had the pleasure of visiting the OccupyPhilly encampment at Dilworth Plaza three times.  Each visit was a uniquely amazing experience.  It was great to talk with folks and feel a strong sense of community during my first visit, but I was also disappointed that people of faith weren’t visibly present at all.  My second time down I attended a meeting of the then newly formed Interfaith Working Group.  Since that meeting, I’ve seen the Interfaith Working Group do some fantastic ministry.  They’ve organized weekly speakers, made appeals for food donations and cared for the many homeless folks living at Occupy.  The group provided a calming presence when police closed the encampment last week and they’ve even worked with the Rev. Jesse Jackson to reach out to the city’s African-American church community.

I purposely made my third visit to OccupyPhilly during one of their public feeding times.  At the encampment’s height they was feeding 900 folks each day of the week and 2100 folks on the weekend free of charge.  Meals were cooked at a local Friends Center kitchen and carted over to the encampment, providing a very public witness to our city’s hunger crisis right in front of City Hall.  Before leaving that evening I briefly spoke with a man who said he wanted to start going to church because the Friends Center was so helpful.

The city government evicted occupiers from Dilworth Plaza last week to make way for a construction project without granting a new overnight permit for another location.  Since then OccupyPhilly’s Interfaith Working Group has worked hard to help homeless folks find another long-term residence.  While I pray the movement stays alive and even grows in the coming months, Occupy has already provided us with an important model for being church in the 21st century.  Living amidst such social and economic injustice, the church must bear very public, prophetic witness to the many sins of our contemporary society.  Like Occupy, the church must publicly witness in partnership with our interfaith sisters and brother in manner centered on conversation rather than violence.

God's peace,

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