Archive for October, 2011

Interfaith Prayer Service for Occupy Together

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

The Interfaith Worker Justice has issued the following press release, encouraging faith communities to study, support, and engage with the growing "Occupy" movement.

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National – Interfaith Worker Justice published a Prayer Service designed to help people reflect on a moral economy within the context of their religious tradition. Written for clergy and religious leaders, the prayer service is aimed for those Occupying Wall Street and other cities, and for congregational use.

Many people of faith are seeking to understand how their tradition calls them to respond to the movement.

Joe Hopkins, a young adult missionary of the United Methodist Church, working with IWJ’s Workers' Center Network, was one of 175 arrested on Saturday in an act of non-violent civil disobedience at an Occupy Chicago site in Grant Park. The crowd chanted together, “We are unstoppable; another world is possible.”



Hopkins said, “Imagine that world: families live together in their houses, the sick and elderly receive care, workers receive payment before the sun sets. I invite you to take a moment of silence to reflect on the voices so often ignored. Then when you’ve listened to those voices, break the silence. Join us in that possible world. We are building that world together right now, and you can build it with us.”

Kim Bobo, Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice, told the National Catholic Register, “The core issues here are the growing inequality in the nation, the lack of responsiveness to that and the job crisis.”

“There is a growing frustration,” Bobo said, “with what people have witnessed in Congress, which almost had a total meltdown this summer and couldn’t get anything done at all. People are just like ‘What are our options right now?’ We’ve got to get attention from our policymakers on these issues.”

The Interfaith Prayer Service is available as a free download here or at iwj.org.

On Nov. 17-20, Interfaith Worker Justice and faith and labor communities across the nation are preparing for action aimed to develop an economic system oriented around Just Jobs.

Contact Kelly Fryer at 773-710-9837 for more information or to interview Joe Hopkins or Kim Bobo.

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Interfaith Worker Justice has been organizing, educating and advocating at the intersection of faith and work since 1996.

My Marriage is Not Threatened by Gay Marriage

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

by Chris Weedy

Last week I was on a local news website and came across an article about the NC anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment and I found this quote….."(The constitutional marriage amendment) is about marriage, the protection of marriage," said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director for the North Carolina Values Coalition. "We expect a groundswell of support from people across the state because the polls tell us that people care very deeply about protecting marriage from being redefined."

What? My marriage is not threatened by gay marriage in NC. That is ridiculous! Do you know anyone whose is? Of course not! So, I had to do something. I created a Facebook page out of protest. It is called My Marriage is Not Threatened by Gay Marriage in NC. Follow that link. Check out the photos. See the love.

I started the Facebook page on Friday 9/29. On Sunday morning (10/2) there were 53 "likes", on 10/4 there were 500, and on  today (10/12) there are over 2000. Be a part of the movement!

It is a simple idea. Heterosexual couples living in NC and opposing the anti-gay constitutional marriage amendment are posting photos of themselves on this Facebook page, expressing their support for equality. It is my goal to raise awareness of just how stupid this amendment is. If you are on Facebook whether you are in NC or not, encourage your friends to "like" the page, and to share the page. Encourage friends to post their photos if they are heterosexual married couples living in NC and opposing the marriage amendment.We can make a difference!

Thanks in advance for your support.

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Chris Weedy currently works as publicist for her partner, Jimmy Creech. Jimmy Creech is author of Adam's Gift: A Memoir of a Pastor's Calling to Defy the Church's Persecution of Lesbians and Gays. For more information, visit Jimmy Creech's Facebook Page.

My Religious Experience on Wall Street

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

by Rev. John Collins, retired United Methodist pastor

Last week, I took a walk on Wall Street and had myself a religious experience.  My wife, Sheila, and I had decided to join the Occupy Wall Street rally to show our support for the young people who had been camping out in a small park near Wall Street for the past few weeks. I wore my clerical collar because I wanted the marchers to see they have some support from the religious community (Also, the collar comes in handy if there is a disturbance).

We gathered for the rally in front of the federal courthouse in Foley Square where Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years for stealing $60 billion. There were more police on hand than ever went after Bernie and the banks. The words inscribed over the courthouse steps were “The True Administration of Justice is the Foundation of all Good Government.” It seemed that the crowd was an appeal to those words.

Because the crowd was so big and the sound system so inadequate, we couldn’t hear the speeches, so we occupied ourselves in talking with those around us as the march proceeded slowly down Centre, Chambers and then Broadway. It was in these encounters with other marchers that I had my religious experience.

-          A man in his ‘50’s, noticing my walking sticks and my unsteady gait, said “I’m walking with a 6-inch hernia protruding from my gut – I’ve got it in a pouch at my waist.” “When are you going to have it repaired?” I asked.  “As soon as I can get $5000.” He is an unemployed jazz musician who last year did a 25-city tour in Germany.

-          The march was difficult because the police herded us onto the narrow sidewalks, slowing the march to a snail’s pace. I spotted an officer whose white shirt denoted higher rank, and said “Why don’t you let us walk in the street? It’s closed to traffic.” Not surprisingly he refused, but a Black woman nearby said “Thanks for trying.”

-          One of the cops was a community relations officer. I held up my sign saying “JOBS FOR ALL AT DECENT PAY” and asked her “Do you agree with that?” She said “I can’t comment” but she was smiling.

-          A young woman marching near us came over. “We can’t tell you how inspiring it is for us to have you here.” I don’t know if she was referring to the collar or our age, but it was lovely either way.

-          I told another marcher who was taking time off from work that I had to cancel a session with my therapist to be there. He replied “This is the best form of therapy!” He had a point.

-          The faith community was not very visible. I walked for a while with a woman from the Community Church of New York, which is Unitarian.. A little later we passed a woman minister holding a sign which said “On earth as in heaven.” But as we passed St Paul’s Chapel, which still has George Washington’s pew, the great iron gates were locked – no sign saying come in, rest and have a cup of water.” That’s when I realized Jesus was in the street with us.

-          We heard a cheer ahead and soon we were passing a group of young doctors from Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, wearing their white jackets and stethoscopes, holding signs to support the march. I walked over to one of them and said, “Since you’re here, Doc, I have this sore knee.” We both laughed.

-          There was a noisy contingent from the Socialist Workers Party, along with schoolteachers, public employees, and the unemployed in great numbers.

-          There were straightforward signs like “Good Jobs for All,” held by a friend from the Consumers Union. He engaged in conversation with a West Indian who wanted to know “Where are you going to get the money for those jobs?”

-          There were other, less subtle signs, like “Screw You, Alabama’” a reference to George Wallace’s state’s passage of new Jim Crow laws for immigrants. Another advised “Take all your money and invest it in Pepper Spray.”

-          Suddenly, while greeting Connie Hogarth, a long time fighter for peace and justice, I was embraced from behind – it was Amir, who three years ago was in a class I taught in an upstate prison. He is out on parole and studying to become a social worker so he can aid others coming out of prison.

-          Finally, as darkness descended, and feeling my bad back and knees, we left the march at Murray Street to get a bite at the Stage Door Deli. Before I could sit down, a young man with a camera asked “were you on the march?” When I said yes he asked if he could interview me. He is a documentary film maker, originally from Poland who makes films to support himself so he can make the ones he really cares about. Today was the latter, and for half an hour he questioned me about whether Christianity and Jesus have anything to say about Occupy Wall Street and the issues which gave rise to it. We talked about Jesus’ parables of the Laborers in the Vineyard and the Wicked Tenants, the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. He seemed pleasantly surprised to find a Christian minister linking Jesus’ teachings to class struggle and the cause of the poor and the earth.

-          While I was being interviewed, Sheila fell into conversation with two young women marchers from Jersey City. Both were unemployed. One had worked for Verizon in retail but quit because of the pressure to sell things to people even if they couldn’t afford it.  “Only the sharks succeed” was the way she summed it up.

-           I asked the other what her last job was, and she said “retail.” What kind?” “Shoes – nothing important.” “No work is unimportant,” “What do you do while not working?” “I write poetry.” Can you share one with us? And she recited from memory and with passion a beautiful poem.  Then the other woman said “I have one on my phone,” and she graced us with a wonderfully humorous piece. They are both performance poets. We exchanged emails.

-          As we trudged to the A train for the ride uptown. I realized again that I was having a religious experience – 4 hours on the streets of Manhattan and I connected with more people than I usually do in a year – and I am pretty gregarious. People were friendly, shared their personal struggles and hopes, exchanged emails and did all the things I never thought could happen in the public square. We were a COMMUNITY.

-          Whatever else these young people are doing, they are rediscovering political hope in solidarity. I hope to God the rest of us support them. We don’t have a lot of time.   

A Spirituality of Justice

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

A Spirituality of Justice – for times that try our souls

The Oregon-Idaho Chapter of MFSA met in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday, October 1 for an event titled “A Spirituality of Justice – for times that try our souls”. The event was designed as a means of reaching out to support and empower others in the ongoing and often difficult work of social justice. It was also a way for the OR-ID Chapter to reinvigorate our movement, meet new people and communities, and spark hope in the lives of so many who have felt a sense of hopelessness spreading in our cities, states, nation and world. According to chapter President, Rev. Dave Bean, “After all, we in MFSA are people of faith and bearers of hope and good news rooted in the One who came to ‘proclaim good news’!”

The day began with a public announcement of the names of the 75 clergy in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference who have signed the “We Will Not Discriminate in Our Ministries” statement which says they will officiate at the marriage ceremony of any prepared couple. The event was covered live by a local Eugene television station. Over 1,000 clergy nationwide have signed similar statements in an effort to lead the denomination into a more faithful embrace of the Gospel and toward more fully living into our motto of “Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors”. Full text of the statement and the list of signers can be found on the chapter website at oimfsa.org.

Scripture was the focus of the day from beginning to end, with opening music and the reading of scriptures about justice from both the Old and New Testaments leading into a discussion of how scripture informs and guides our work for justice. This discussion was followed by a presentation on “The Character and Nature of God” that emerges out of the over-arching themes of the Bible which, when placed in conversation with the Wesleyan quadrilateral, enable us to encounter the God of love, peace, and justice as most clearly seen in Jesus Christ. Attendees were then guided in learning processes for effective organizing that could be used in local settings, followed by highlighting the need for those who work for social justice to replenish their spirit and strength for the journey by drawing on a variety of resources or “pools of grace” that feed our spirits. Closing worship included Communion and a word of sending forth.

Remarks of those who attended were highly positive and included a desire expressed by some to become more involved. The event was videotaped for use as a training tool for future, similar events. For further information about this or other activities of the OR-ID Chapter of MFSA contact Rev. Dave Bean, revdaveb@hotmail.com or visit our chapter website at oimfsa.org for times.

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Submitted by Dave Bean, Karen Nelson and Jan Nelson of Oregan-Idaho chapter of MFSA. Photos by Greg Nelson.

National Office:212 East Capitol St., NE,Washington, DC 20003 * tel: 202.546.8806 *email: mfsa@mfsaweb.org