A letter to the Trinity Wall Street community around the world

From the rector, the Rev. Dr. James Cooper, of Trinity Wall Street regarding Occupy Wall Street and Trinity’s role:

Dear Parish Family and Friends in New York and Around the World,

Trinity, like churches across the world, is called in its local community to play a pastoral role, to act as a community leader, and to be an effective steward of that with which we have been entrusted, for the greater good.

We have sought to be responsive to the Occupy Wall Street movement in all three aspects of this calling. We have been pastor to our newest neighbors. We have used our voice as a leader in the community on their behalf. And we have made sure that the parish has been open and inviting to all, and a resource for those who, facing trying circumstances, need a place to be warm, reassured, and heard.

As many protesters will tell you, Charlotte’s Place, our neighborhood center, has been a welcome gathering spot apart from Zuccotti Park – a place to rest, share in conversation, catch up on email, or simply chat with other protesters and parish staff. At Charlotte’s Place, and in our churchyards, churches, and meeting rooms, we have gotten to know the people behind the protest signs and slogans of the evening news.

Churches are perhaps the only institutions that practice genuine inclusiveness in this day and age. In Trinity’s case, every week, more than 60,000 people enter parish spaces, including congregation members, people in need, local community groups, tourists, concertgoers, neighbors, visiting choirs, preschool children, and, over the past two months, protesters. And so while Trinity supports the Occupy movement’s right to protest peacefully and lawfully, and provides responsible assistance, the parish simply cannot be turned over to a single cause. Trinity welcomes protesters to participate in parish life, but not to occupy parish life in such a way that excludes anyone from taking full part in the vital and dynamic place of faith that is Trinity Wall Street.

After the arrest of several members of the Occupy Wall Street movement at Duarte Square, a site owned by Trinity and licensed to the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, on Tuesday morning, please allow me a few clarifications, made necessary in any chaotic, emotional time:

First, there has been concern that protesters were removed from land adjacent to Trinity Church. This is not the case. Duarte Square is located one mile north of Trinity Church at the intersection of Canal Street and Sixth Avenue, a block from the Holland Tunnel. The protesters were asked to leave and many did.

Second, there has been concern that the arrests will mean that Trinity will not allow protesters back into parish life. This is not true. Our meeting spaces at 74 Trinity Place and Charlotte’s Place are being used every day and our public restrooms at three locations (Trinity Church, St. Paul’s Chapel, and Charlotte’s Place) are available during our open hours. We will continue to provide practical and pastoral help. It is important to note, however, that we will not provide overnight shelter.

In my first letter on this topic, I indicated that we keep all who are involved in our prayers. This has not changed. All: the protesters, neighborhood residents and business owners, the police, policy-makers, civic leaders, and those in the financial industry.

In the days ahead, Trinity will continue to be in frequent conversations with all, doing our part to ensure that those conversations are in good faith. That is who we are, and who we will continue to be, God willing.


The Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper


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