Occupy Wall Street, occupy a chaplaincy

Anywhere people gather in numbers, take counsel with each other, and make statements, there’s bound to be a need for a chaplain of some kind? Yes? Well, then, the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon (Twitter = #ows) needs chaplains, too.

Protest Chaplains describes itself:

Who are the Protest Chaplains?

We’re mostly Christians, based in Boston, with ties to Harvard Divinity School, the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, and many other local churches and faith groups.

Somehow or other, we happened to fall in love with God through the traditions of Christianity. And now we find ourselves in a nation whose leaders regularly invoke the name of Christ as they wage war, stomp on the poor, and chip away at the freedoms once guaranteed to us by our Constitution. Our debt, our lack of health insurance, our uncertain futures and the fear we experience in this new corporate world order makes our bodies sick, but the fact that these injustices are labeled “Christian” makes our souls sick.

American Christians have been far too polite, too quiet, and too accommodating of both the injustice and the blasphemous use of Jesus’ name in committing atrocities in our nation and our world. That’s why we want to protest with all those who, like us, know in the deepest places of our souls that another world is indeed possible.

We also want to be of service to those camping with us. We draw strength from the rituals of prayer, song, meditation, and devotion that we have inherited as the very best and brightest points of the troublesome Christian tradition. We’re not out to evangelize anyone – seriously. We’re not going to New York in order to convince anyone that Christianity is a good thing: we too are very critical of the genocidal, anti-Semitic, homophobic, etc abuses of the Church and the Christian faith over the past 2000 years.

And yet: many of us have been involved in organizing, social justice efforts, and various campaigns, and we’ve seen burnout time and time again. So we’re bringing the spiritual practices and our sense of the world as sacred to Wall Street and we hope to be of use to everyone who’s camping out. Because protesters have souls too!

Some of our services in the streets will be explicitly Christian and will mention Jesusy stuff. We’re doing this because we believe that Jesus came to “proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:21) And Jesus said to go be like him. To be free is more than just the freedom to buy stuff. To be free is to be fully alive, in body, mind, and soul. Jesus was so fully alive that, the story goes, not even being tortured and executed could make him stay dead very long. Something about that story of resurrection points to the deepest truth about what it means to be fully alive. And so we try to follow this Jesus.

We believe the great mysterious life and beauty of this world we often call God is given to everyone and alive in everyone. So we really don’t care what you happen to believe about The Thing We Call God. But the powers of this world, lately aligned in a configuration known as late capitalism, would rather profit from us not knowing how free, loved, and alive we really are. So it takes intentional spiritual practice to come to fuller realization of our freedom.

Those practices, translated into language that we hope anyone can feel comfortable with, are what we’re hoping to bring to New York. Meditation, blessings, silence, singing, and contemplative prayer will be what we offer to the community gathered on Wall Street. It’s going to be a really intense environment. We hope we can help you recharge, find new inspiration, experience deep communion with the sacred, and know the sustaining peace that we call the love of God.

We welcome practitioners from all traditions to come lead a workshop or worship in our space, too! Email protestchaplains@gmail.com to get on the schedule, or come find us when we get to New York!

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