From the Reverend John Merz
This note expresses my personal opinion. My core sense. I speak on my own behalf. I represent no group or church. This is a matter of conscience
On October 7th I made a simple request, 1 paragraph asking that Trinity Wall Street put 6 porta potties on the portico of St. Paul’s. It was indeed needed and in the end what was Bloomberg’s rationale for clearing the park? “It was becoming unsanitary”, the press mentioned the existence of buckets of urine in one section of the park. My post, the first one speaking a word of request, word of encouragement was deleted in 14 or so minutes.
Late last evening, Bishop George Packard after many conversations with the Rector Jim Cooper posted this on the Facebook Page of Trinity Wall Street, I underline particular line that is extraordinary and prophetic, at has to do with experiencing future possibilities even in the present, a domain for visionaries. Bishop Packard’s note follows:
I have this great worry that this venerable parish will be on the wrong side of history in a few weeks. Surely there’s some consummate wisdom in the leadership that can offer Occupiers a chance to express their prophetic destiny in these days. It’s a matter of record that the church is good with the provision of service and succor for the neighborhood; they are unable, it seems, to understand their dynamic needs. Plainly said, this means looking afresh at lease arrangements for a season regarding the Duarte property. Think of it as offering hospitality to travelers from our future who bring the message of “no injustice, no more.” If we really saw OWS for who they are rather than putting up roadblocks in their path we’d truly delight in their coming!
—-Bishop George E. Packard
Many things extremely critical of Trinity Wall Street have been up on their site. Yet this deeply generous, kind blues note was deleted this morning. This note has been on to the House of Bishops. Do at TWS people understand that Bishop Packard is not a “radical” easily dismissed by those that seek to discredit? Bishop Packard is a long steady voice, a decorated war veteran, a Bishop in the Church, Bishop to the Armed Forces, a good man. Or is this indeed why such a voice was removed. It is heartbreaking that this This pattern of dissembling has been recurrent since late September.
The following is a piece written by Rev. Donna Schaper Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church:
Dear Rev. Dr. Cooper,
We have not yet met in person but you have been kind enough to return my calls. Normally, I would be calling you for money because you have it and we don’t. But instead, I have been calling without an “ask” and you have returned my calls without an ask. My goal has been to keep you informed about what your fellow OccupyFaith NYC. is saying and thinking about you at Trinity. I didn’t want you to hear anything before you heard it from me. It is a question of Christianity and collegiality and also non-violence, all three matters about which each of us cares deeply. I thank you for returning my calls. You didn’t have to..and you did.
Just to keep you up to date, after the petitions on line, I wanted you to know that tonight I did an interview on WBAI and mentioned the word “Eucharist” on air. I could hear the reporters scoffing. You will want to know how and why. How? Because it came up with regard to the hunger strikers, who say they won’t breathe until they eat at a certain place, over which we imagine you have control. Why? Because it seemed the only appropriate thing to say. Diego won’t eat till he eats at a certain place. I think that place is larger than any one-city block, whether in Mumbai, Prague or New York. It is also a particular place. Thus the word Eucharist.
I will continue here less personally and more theoretically. We are not really in a personal conversation but actually one that matters to our different communions.
It is time to occupy sacred space. Not just that owned by Trinity Wall Street – although it would be great if your democratic institution would do what it could do and open something up to the occupiers. They have it, the occupiers need it, now is the time, this is the city.
But why push Trinity harder than we push ourselves? My congregation, Judson, opened for five nights and closed. We couldn’t handle the human destitution that walked through the doors. We COULD handle the hope, with 40 volunteers by the end. But the hope had a shadow. Now we hold a day shelter, in which a computer or a cell phone occupies just about every plug. We also have ever so modest a night shelter. We packed the house with the Council of Elders as a torch passed from a group of older activists to a group of younger ones. We sound just like Trinity, don’t we? “After all, we have been opening Charlotte’s place since day one…and giving out a lot of hot chocolate.” We are not doing enough, Trinity is not doing enough, and all God’s children are not doing enough to keep this movement alive. What does it need? It needs space. Even more, it needs Eucharist, that great feast that shows us what time and space could be in the broken body and blood of the one some of us call Christ and all call Jesus and some just call the great feast. To speak the word Eucharist, with respect, on WBAI, does not mean something controlling or that others have to see it. It means that we have a great symbol, whose time and space is now.
Another collegial friend of ours, a United Methodist congregation, St. Peter and St. Paul, sent out a winsome email a few days ago, saying “are we the only ones still housing occupiers? “ Yes, they were. The other half dozen that did open had already closed, along with mine, because truth is we have renters and contracts and concerts and lives that didn’t imagine occupier’s need nor know how to satisfy it. We offer quiet space. What is needed is loud space. You, for better or worse, have loud open space.
Occupy says it wants physical outdoor space. Most of us in the city are land locked. So we plug on, with whatever kind of conversation we can get, including hastily called meetings that helped pressure the governor to see the light on taxes for the rich. As one of our seminarians said, “we aren’t fooling around here.” That’s not exactly what she said.
OccupyFaithNYC is in conversation with the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and the Ethical Cultural Society and with you – all places with chairs, heat and large capacity – to have a daylong conversation with journalists, fellow clergy, occupiers and more. Such a conversation would also be Eucharistic. Why? Because we have to talk. We have to talk in time and space about this time and the need for space. Again, the body broken open.
As Chris Hedges put it so well in his talk last weekend at Liberty Square, “Where were you when they crucified my movement.?” We were there; we were hoping to eat together. To talk together. To live together. I believe that is also your hope.
The mayor’s eviction didn’t compute because you can’t evict the spirit but you can evict the body. You can eviscerate Christianity and the Eucharist. You can even delay the communion’s fruition into genuine economic change. The need for conversation in time and space, in sacred space – the last free, unsurveilled public spaces around – has become acute. By the way, the police do try to surveil but fail when they sneak into churches and synagogues and mosques. They are probably surveilling you. But they just embarrass themselves, while violating several constitutional amendments at the same time. You can’t evict the spirit nor can you stop the Eucharist from spilling into reality, in blood, wine, bread, and body, Sixth and Canal.
Let me repeat the rational, pre Eucharistic, reasons for Occupy’s need for physical space. Most space is privatized: sounds like the economy, doesn’t it? Most space is surveilled or self-surveilled by Facebook: sounds like the airport, doesn’t it? Plus it really bothers people when people get together to make a movement. That bother alone causes us to want to get together in ever widening circles. We simply have to eat.
I have been recalling my tour of Prague endlessly since Occupy began. We went on a “Velvet Revolution Tour”, seeing the places where 1500 18 year olds, attacked by the state, still changed a country. Our tour guide was Ludmilla. “The demonstrators kept opening their hands, saying “We have nothing in our hands.” That nothing openness was everything, so much like the words of institution and the prayer that bids the spirit to inhabit time and space. They jangled their keys to make a little noise. Still the state surrounded them on four sides – and did not defeat them. Communists hate other people’s mass spectacles. I found that encouraging! It is also convincing regarding physical space. Capitalists appear not to like mass spectacles either. (I am not saying you are a “capitalist.” I know you are a Christian.)
Church basements, many say, are one of the last free spaces in America. Let’s open many spaces up, every nook and cranny, every unpopulated lot, every great-unfinished cathedral. When we get together, let’s talk. And jangle the heaven out of our keys, the very keys which keep us captive in a false security and which we appear to have in our own pockets. Eucharist is now. You could imagine a great one at Sixth and Canal.
This is the reply from the Rector Trinity,m and the public statement concerning the space:
From time to time people of goodwill may disagree. We disagree with those who argue that Trinity should–indeed, must as a matter of conscience–allow Occupy Wall Street to liberate its Duarte Square lot at Avenue of the Americas and Canal Street for an open encampment and large scale assemblies. In all good conscience and faith, we strongly believe to do so would be wrong, unsafe, unhealthy and potentially injurious.
Trinity has probably done as much or more for the protestors than any other institution in the area. We have provided OWS with meeting rooms and offices for them to assemble, plan and hold private discussions. We have provided pastoral services. We have provided a place of refuge and tranquility at our neighborhood center during open hours where they can rest, use computers, charge cell phones, and use bathrooms. Hundreds avail themselves of these facilities and services every day. It is one simple reflection of Trinity’s inherent concern for our community and for social and economic justice which has been at the heart of the church’s mission for more than 300 years.
We want to be responsive, while also being responsible, to our residential and business neighbors, partners, visitors and tenants-our entire community. There are no facilities at the Canal Street lot. Demanding access and vandalizing the property by a determined few OWS protesters won’t alter the fact that there are no basic elements to sustain an encampment. The health, safety and security problems posed by an encampment here, compounded by winter weather, would dwarf those experienced at Zuccotti Park.
Calling this an issue of “political sanctuary” is manipulative and blind to reality. Equating the desire to seize this property with uprisings against tyranny is misguided, at best. Hyperbolic distortion drives up petition signatures, but doesn’t make it right. Those arrested were not seeking sanctuary; they were seeking to be arrested. Trinity will continue our responsible outreach and pastoral services for all. We appreciate the many expressions of support we have received from so many in the community.
–The Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper
Do you hear the contempt for the movement in those words? Do you hear the patronizing stance about the possibility of an “encampment” and the inability for those in it to solve problems of self sustenance in in the winter? It is illogical that the desire for outdoor space is driven by the desires of a “few”. Are these same “few” fueling the desires of the encampment outside of St. Paul’s in London which the Archbishop of the entire Anglican Communion Rowan Williams has come out in support of? Are these same “few” the ones who drove the desire for Liberty Square and the Occupy movement in lower Manhattan, and the rest, the many thousands, not those staying there, but those of every age race and class that descended on that park every morning, noon and night for 2 months to tell their stories and begin to hallow a public square in a country where public assembly is so utterly proscribed as to become meaningless, are we to imagine that a few drove them and motivated them to be there?
—-Bishop George E. Packard