Occupy Trinity Wall Street: Part 4 of 4

Sunday, December 23rd, Trinity Wall Street held it’s final forum at the office complex at 74 Trinity Place on “Jesus in the Margins”. TWS’s site states this last session “continues by exploring economic marginalization. Bryan Parsons will look at Situational Ethics, the prophet Amos, and the goals that Occupy and the Christian movement have in common. How does Christ call us, and Occupy encourage us, to look at humanity first when considering another? And what is the place of movements in influencing secular society to create space for all people to live happy and productive existences?”  Those familiar with this blog and the OTWS community remember Bryan Parsons arriving intoxicated one night to trade alcohol for cigarettes. Clergy, Matt Heyd, commented in November that it was time for these people to leave. It was getting cold, after all. It was cold for those shepherds who kept watch, and the parables often read in Advent are about waiting in faith. This is the time of year during which we are reminded that it is God’s decision about what happens in our lives. Our work is to wait in faith. Rather than deciding what’s right for those on the street, it might be the “churchy” or priestly thing to do and bring blankets. a hot meal, counsel for the troubled.

Some of those sleeping in front of Trinity Wall Street are part of the Occupy Sandy efforts – it’s an easy commute to Brooklyn or downtown and the Diocese of New York (not Long Island of which Brooklyn is a part) has forbidden volunteers from sleeping in the churches.  It has been observed that the space in front of Trinity Wall Street could provide a warehouse for provisions, but that space is locked up tight.  This time of year, it’s dramatic and telling – lots of square footage empty, with signs posted about the area being under surveillance, and tourists following red umbrellas touring the adjacent graveyards.

The spiritual illness at Trinity Wall Street has metastasized and those charged with oversight are cowed by Trinity’s wealth. Like so many stories in holy scripture, riches keep a person or an institution sick.  Christmas Eve marked day 200 of Occupy Trinity Wall Street.

OTWS Five Marks of Mission

Real Estate and the church

OTWS under surveillance

Occupy Trinity Wall Street, Pt. 3: Life on the street

OTWS why does this occur

On November 17th, when this broadside was handed out at the NY Diocesan convention, there were a few people from Trinity Wall Street’s staff who handed the broadside back. One was Reverend Anne Mallonee who said “I don’t need this, I know all about it.”  I replied “And now everyone else does!”  It was a stunning response from someone who has taken the oath of the priesthood, or even made the promise of baptism.  To claim to know all about this and do nothing is an admission of dislocation. No matter what your opinion of the validity or efficacy of Occupy Trinity Wall Street, there is the reality of these people sleeping on your front steps, being harassed by Trinity Wall Street staff and the NYPD.

On December 12, The Village Voice published a piece on the general spiritual malaise infecting Trintity Wall Street (found HERE). Hard copies of The Voice were kept by those sleeping in front of the church and handed out to passers by as well as parishioners. A middle-aged blonde woman asked for copies, took them all and then threw them in the trash can. She was identified as Linda Hanick, Trinity Wall Street’s PR representative. A puerile act and comically ignorant – the world of print is in demise. Google “Reverend James Cooper” and the first choice is the article in The Village Voice. That is his legacy unless the institution has a change of heart.

Below is part 3 of the original broadside.

A core group of people have been occupying for over 5 months. These include Fathema Nusrat Sha’didi, a street medic who found refuge and rest at St. Paul’s Chapel after the traumatic recovery work in the smoking remains of the World Trade Center; Ed Mortimer, a street medic, and Jack Boyle both defendants in the D17 trespassing trial.

OTWS NYPD harassmentThey are joined by a diverse community which includes people with regular jobs sleeping when they can, traveling activists, and most notably homeless youth seek refuge there. The latter group finds a haven safer than in  shelters and get a sense of being part of a greater cause. All who pass by note the irony in Trinity’s slogan—”For a world of good”. Some are there because this church sits at the top of Wall Street, the epicenter of capitalism at its most cancerous stage. Those same passers by know this story, noting the church as complicit by its silence with the toll taken by a culture of greed.

A careless disregard for the young, sensitive population was featured on September 23 when alcohol was served to these minors. CEO/Rector Cooper said casually “I hope everyone’s of age!” Bryan Parsons, TWS staff was observed one night in August intoxicated trading alcohol for cigarettes among the youth.

Representatives from TWS, such as clergy Matt Heyd, straight-faced recites NYC code requiring hosing down of the sidewalk twice a day. However, the second hosing was not initiated until September—three months after the sleep-in began. Heyd will also tell you it is NYC code to drill holes in scaffolding to prevent standing water. Holes were drilled on October 21st, long after the summer heat when standing water would offer a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes. When it rains, instead of the steady fall of drops, the water accumulates in pockets, hitting those below in bullet-like large drops making sleep or simple rest very difficult.

At press release, Heyd was not available for further comment.

TWS staff defends the practice of maximizing profits through luxury apartment development at the expense of small business and middle and working class families through TWS’s charitable work overseas, inspiring the street chant Trinity Church you look so pretty, but you do nothing for New York City.

Throughout the heat of summer, rain and snow, beatings and harassment from the NYPD, no clergy have offered a drink of water, a bathroom to use, or sanctuary in any form. During Hurricane Sandy OTWS found safety among the greater OWS community. After the November snowfall those occupying TWS sent out word that they needed warm clothes. Meanwhile, TWS proudly Tweeted a video of one of its priests delivering clothes to those in the vicinity but not to those huddled in front of the church.

TWS will cite Charlotte’s Place as a resource. However OWS can get free internet at dozens of locations. Charlotte’s Place is limited in many ways, to include that it is only open Monday through Friday from 12 to 2PM.

Need doesn’t punch a time clock.

OTWS fellowship

OTWS sleeper 1

Episcopal So-Called News

During General Convention 2009 everyone going in and out of the center was greeted by the usual gang of idiots. I’d say they were biker types but that would give bikers a bad name. Just big-bellied, bearded dudes in tee shirts carrying signs about hating “homos” and that anyone going into the building was going to hell.

The appearance of the Phelps Family and other hatemongers is more of a tradition at GC than the seminary cocktail parties where they try to drum up donations from alums.

So I stole an idea for an action I’d heard about. I started a Sponsor-a-Protester campaign. I asked if people wanted to pledge cash for the Protest-a-thon occurring right in front of them. With the help of Utah’s enthusiastic youth group , $120 was raised in less than 25 minutes. We had a blast. People pointed out the angriest–and by now they were angrier than hornets rousted from a nest–protesters and hand the cash over while waving to the protester. We thanked them for their work – they were raising funds for a home for LGBT teens who needed a safe haven. There were about 100 people laughing, donating, joining in.

This would have gone on for hours, but I was approached by a factotum of GC wearing collar and eye-searing shirt that really should be featured on Bad Vestments . He insisted I stop. Naively, I thought he was concerned about my personal safety.  Since I was still a Bishop’s Wife, I followed orders.Turns out I was one step ahead of the law – the protesters had called the police on me.  It’s possible the factotum with collar was trying to control the press.  A Bishop’s Wife arrested during General Convention would certainly get a squib…somewhere.  Too bad. I would have very much liked to appear before a judge in Orange County on charges of soliciting for charity.

The next day’s General Convention news had not a word about that. Outreach, mission, activism is only newsworthy if it has the corporate stamp of TEC. Individual prophetic action is not recognized.

Which brings me to an additional gift from the trial of Trinity Wall Street versus Occupy Wall Street. It confirms what most of us knew all along: That Episcopal News Service, Episcopal Cafe, and Episcopal New Yorker are simply the Pravda/Fox News of TEC. (Well, Episcopal Cafe is kind of the MSNBC wing of the church. But ye fans of MSNBC, remember it is owned by GE.)

A retired bishop and a priest recently active in the Diocese of NY are facing incarceration at Rikers at the insistence of a parish in Manhattan and there is no coverage. Two members of the clergy and there’s not a word about it. None. It’s not surprising, just affirming.

When an institution sets up a PR instrument to talk to the world, what happens is a filter of mendacity.

So what does it say about Katharine Jefferts-Schori that one of the first things she did when she moved into 815 Second Ave was have ENS on the same floor so that it sitteth at her right elbow?

Long live the Church!

The  Hopeful Episcopalian is delighted at this critical response to a blog post from  June 22, 2009:

It appears you don’t understand the history, heirarchy (sic) and governing canons of the Church. Perhaps you should go elsewhere. Deliberation will never be out-of-date. Elitism is not present when each diocese elects its own delegates. Please – a little more research before you throw out the presiding Bishop, etc., with the bathwater.

No one is throwing the baby out. People are siphoning out the bathwater so the real baby-Christian faith- doesn’t drown.

Delegates to General Convention are typically the same people elected by a tiny in crowd.  Voting is not an exercise in populism: the elite elect (and re-elect, and re-elect, and re-elect) the elite without term limits.

Local parishes can barely recognize their diocesan bishop unless there’s a mitre on his or her head on Confirmation Day. The majority have no idea what General Convention is or who attends. Most Americans  can’t recognize their congressperson. You think they know who Katharine Jefferts-Schori is?  Ask an Episcopalian to provide the surname for “Rowan” and you’ll hear silence or “Atkins”.

Of what use are governing canons if 20,000 people are leaving TEC each year? Who will be around to govern over? And have you asked the faithful church attendees if they are aware they are being governed?

The hierarchy, i.e. the leadership and the elite, is leading the institution in a direction that ensures TEC will be an oddity read about in history books.

Your post indicates that you don’t see church as a home for the faithful seeking God’s face in a spiritual community.  To you, it is a museum where delegates and governing canons are priorities. You want people like me to go elsewhere.  Not to worry – I have and we are! We want to worship, pray, and be part of a Eucharistic community.

And with a drain of 20,000 a year, who will fund General Convention?  The costs are huge: travel, copying, hotel rooms, hospitality suites, salaries of coordinators, etc.  Producing GC is an industry of its own at 815.

You and others like you can take refuge in your “rightness” when we ignorant faithful who haven’t done our research have gone elsewhere.   I’ve witnessed that many times on a parish level.  Those  entrenched in certainty about history and the right way to “do church” –and frequently it was a skewed as Glen Beck’s interpretation of US History–were left with no children, no one with the gifts of hospitality, prayer, prophecy, joy, patience, kindness, or goodness.  Ironically, even self control is absent.

But dad gummit – they sure knew how the governances worked and peppered their conversation with references to the PB! (When PB is used in conversation, most people think the person talking left out “and J”.)

The history of the presiding bishop as figurehead and self-proclaimed primate is astonishingly brief. Primate is as recent as Griswold. What was THAT about?

The presiding bishop was once a bishop with a geographical episcopacy who presided over House of Bishops meetings. Meeting over, everyone went home,  and next year the bishop with the most seniority got to bang the gavel when Roberts Rules of Order went astray.

The luxury penthouse  with terrace on 2nd Avenue and 44th Street, the international travel budget, the personal media machine of ENS were never part of that position until the latter part of the 20th century. Many of us yearn for the old days. This is an entitled baby with a silver spoon in its mouth. We’re willing  to toss her out because we understand that church is local.

Speaking of local and the importance of deliberations: is your local parish familiar with the resolutions about the the military base on Okinawa, or the one about honoring the much-anticipated first Eucharist on the moon?  The latter made it into the House of Bishops for a “yea”  vote. I was there during the deliberations for the former – educated as other significant international issues were discussed.  On returning to my parish, the biggest local deliberation was all about who was going to do coffee hour.

After the approval of Gene Robinson’s election in 2003, the September newsletters from all the local parishes in my area led with a letter from their rectors: Don’t panic! Nothing’s changing in your home parish!  Everything will be exactly the same as always.

For me, the biggest wake-up call regarding the relevance of GC resolutions sounded during a discussion with a fourth-year EFM student who could not be swayed from her entrenched belief that death penalty ought to stand.  She was educated, a big fan of the hierarchy, well-acquainted with the several resolutions about the death penalty, and still wanted state-sanctioned murder. “Forgive us our trespasses as we lethally inject those who sin against us.” – John Fugelsang

Here’s an idea: perhaps the church should be more concerned about changing hearts and nurturing faith.

There are some wonderful, hard-working delegates who have come to similar conclusions:  the church is dead. Long live the church.

Episcopal Church & Celebrity Culture: The other guys do it better…and it’s wrong

celebrity

After the Sunday morning Eucharist, Katherine Jefferts-Schori recesses down the aisle to a round of applause.  No one is quite sure whether the applause is for her or the two former Presiding Bishops that recess with her. Over one-third of the Convention Center’s worship space has empty seats.  The applause decays as the three of them turn left and go past the powder blue “Refreshments” sign.  

The clapping was the most rousing moment in the service.  The sermon was more explanation than inspiration.  Katharine’s tonal speech pattern tends to produce sleep-friendly delta waves. 

Even if the sermonizing had been so motivational in content and delivery we all walked out committed to mission  instead of blinking our eyes in the Southern California sun wondering where we could get some decent huevos rancheros , Katharine’s exit down the cement floor of the worship space,  is not momentous enough to warrant applause.  Not the equivalent of Elvis has left the building.  The central event was the Eucharist and celebrating sacrifice and community despite the fact that for General Convention 2009 it was shorn of community Bible study.

Church Publishing’s booth has Katherine’s picture all over it and I suppose there are those who buy her books simply because they are her books.  Outside of this small circle of Episcopalians, very few buy books based on the cover art of a woman posing in front of a plane.  That is unless the woman is wearing a bikini.  Anne LaMott sold many books, and in the early days, her readers could only imagine what she looked like.  Anne rose through the ranks based on her writing, broadcasts, and witty, irreverent theology. I’d go on a mission trip with Annie any day, but think twice about a walk to the grocery store with this lady who’s like the kid in the back of the class with her hand up to answer every question.

The former Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, showed up at his last Episcopal Youth Event in Kentucky behaving like a Mick Jagger without the music.  He made a dramatized entrance into the worship space waving and smiling as he hung from the back of a golf cart; big belt buckle and tee shirt tucked in to reveal that he had been to the gym a lot for a guy his age.  You’d think the position of PB wouldn’t give him that much time with his personal trainer.  Unless he felt he needed to get in shape for this appearance at EYE the way a movie star trains for an action flick.  No…couldn’t be…..

Despite the announcement “And now…The Presiding Bishop!” the teens were asking each other “Who is this guy?”  (Interpretation: Who is this old guy?)  It’s been described by those who worked at The Episcopal Church center, that for a number of weeks there was on display a dressmaker’s dummy with a dress on it given to Frank’s wife during a trip to Africa.  People who entered the building saw this homage to someone who happened to be married to a bishop before seeing the chapel, security guard, the map of the Anglican Communion,  before the books on religion.  A dress.

The Presiding Bishop was originally a bishop who presided at meetings, a bishop with diocesan responsibilities but who was willing to impose Roberts Rules of Order.  A historian can better interpret at what point the position got its own salary, staff, and Manhattan penthouse.

A tactician can plan for a future of The Episcopal Church that doesn’t run on the fumes of former grandeur. 

There are the others who play on the class C Mount Olympus of The Episcopal Church, but a bit farther down the slope.  Despite the small audience, they seem quite content to build modest careers by performing or doing workshops just for Episcopalians with stars in their eyes.

Chris Hedges, in a piece on Michael Jackson and the cult of celebrity says: 

The fantasy of celebrity culture is not designed simply to entertain. It is designed to drain us emotionally, confuse us about our identity, make us blame ourselves for our predicament, condition us to chase illusions of fame and happiness and keep us from fighting back. 

The CANA crowd has taken the TEC’s cult of family celebrity and run with it to their advantage.  The leadership of TEC gets their knickers in a twist when David Virtue produces his fever-dream-driven screed because there is such a confusion between personality and content. 

(TEC focuses on poster boys and poster girls rather than content. Virtue drains those who buy into this fiction by attacking the poster boys and girls. He successfully confuses the handful – unfortunately those who are in leadership positions – to mistakenly think the identity of the TEC is bound up in people like Gene “I’m ready for my closeup Mr. DeMille” Robinson.  Then everyone on both sides blames the wrong things for the declining membership of The Episcopal Church,  and those at home don’t fight back because they don’t know what’s going on.  They are huddled together waiting for the next blow in a reality that does not involve ABCs, PBs, CANAs, or GCs. )

What’s important in the world is what The Episcopal Church does, not who is doing it.  And let’s face it – we can never be as photogenic as the ones who do this on an international level. 

As we’ve observed with Joe the Plumber,  nothing good comes when you push for that 16th minute of fame.

No one knows who Virtue is either.  So treat him for what he is – a fart in the wind.  Don’t let the s.o.b.s distract you – The Episcopal Church is shrinking because of what happens on the ground level, in small parishes. They’re the canaries in the coal mines and as they go so will the larger parishes with more resources. 

For the sake of the future of The Episcopal Church, and to give those of us watching out there hope, make this General Convention about the work, about empowering the laity, about repairing the chasm that exists between resolutions and what happens in small parishes. 

They’re dying, you know.  Many don’t  have a photo of Katharine Jefferts-Schori in the narthex – they don’t know who she is.  Church is that family that hangs on together on Sunday mornings. They think the only thing happening in Anaheim is Disney. In many cases, these good people have to endure dreary inane  liturgy to make it to the fellowship.

 Hope gets lost when the core of the worship is lost in distractions and projection and needless applause.

This just in: Why the web changes everything

Everyone attending General Convention in Anaheim needs to not just go to a seminar on the emergent church but start strategizing on how The Episcopal Church can be the emergent church.

http://weblogged.wikispaces.com/A%20Web%20of%20Connections…Why%20the%20Read%20Write%20Web%20Changes%20Everything

Missing from this entry: How the web is changing organized religion and a 2020 vision for The Epsicopal Church. (No, not that risible double the membership goal from the late 90s. )  Is that because organized religion is making itself irrelevant, or because our leadership is too busy addressing out-dated issues to hunker down and do more immediate work?

Contained in the hyperlink above is a roadmap for the leadership about to gather in Anaheim.

General Convention Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music Part 2

messjacket_full

There are a lot of commissions and committees that will be convening, offering formal  reports of their work at General Convention this year.

formal-wear

Let’s check in on the Standing Commission for Liturgy and Music. In The Episcopal Church, a Standing Commission begins when the elite in a bureaucracy choose a select group of people – other elite – who then make all the decisions when it comes to how The Episcopal Church worships.

How the Episcopal Church worships is the main experience of church for the Average Joe or Jane. It defines Sunday morning, bringing people in the door. Yet no matter what the purpose of a commission or committee, when The Episcopal Church operates under the assumption that it “knows better”, it is one of the diagnostics indicating a church in stage IV cancer. It’s time for hospice or radical therapies.

Closed groups are passé and obsolete. Eighteen people, no matter who they are or where they came from, are not enough to keep their pulse on what’s happening out there.  Moreover, the flow of communication and power structure is all wrong. The Holy Spirit blows where she wills with chaotic power. She doesn’t know from Standing Commissions.  She continues to inspire writers, poets, singers, preachers, composers, musicians, dancers, artists, and those who sit in holy silence.

wind

The sun set long ago on the notion that prayers have to be “okayed” by a select group. Yet the gate keeping continues. The results can hurt. Gifts are ignored.  People leave, going where they can grow and be appreciated.

If a Standing Commission truly valued its work, and truly valued the Body of Christ, it wouldn’t spend any time generating liturgies and songbooks, but figure out where the disconnect is happening; working to empower all, working to respect the dignity of all. Its members would value curiosity and keen listening skills over resumes and power connections.  It would be scouring the world for resources, creating a lateral network of relationships and ideas.

The leadership of The Episcopal Church needs to be more grassroots than Astroturf.  More of a scout with an ear to the ground than a couple of generals looking at a map. Isn’t that what got Custer into trouble?

The reality is, people are indeed hungry for ways to make corporate prayer more relevant and responsive. People want a spiritual community in which they can be accountable.  All they need are guidelines and the opportunity for dialog. If these standing commissions were doing their jobs, there wouldn’t be the need to publish any more prayer books or hymnals. A BCP Kindle is a dead idea but I’m willing to bet good money it’s being discussed as an “important next step.”  The last thing we need is more codification.  That’s like Western Union working on an improved Morse Code manual while the telephone lines were being put up.

The new Christianity requires more nimble responses, a leadership that evokes and inspires instead of dictates and explains.

suckshirt

This is not a generation waiting with bated breath for the new prayerbook.

Prayer happens every day all over the world in the lives of believers, seekers, and atheists.  We are all discovering that when it comes to God and living righteous lives, we have more in common with our Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, and secularist/atheist sisters and brothers than we do with some fellow Episcopalians.

Jon Stewart defines shared principles in America more than the obscure leadership of The Episcopal Church. (Would someone please tell Gene Robinson that this is not an invitation to do yet another sound and lighting check?)

Instead of the top-down imparting of prayers, follow the other mainline denominations.  Build sites loaded with resources, interconnected, not set in some virtual Siberia on the ECUSA website. Even better, join the party of poly-denominational boards where prayers, practices, videos of services, and repertoire are shared in the spirit of collaboration.

One wonders: has anyone on the Standing Commission for Liturgy and Music been to the Workshop Rotation Model web site?  Educators in every denomination from around the world share curricula and implementation. Sure there’s some sketchy theology, but no commission, bishop, priest, or deputy is my theologian. Like the rest of God’s children, I am working that out with my Creator every single day.

And don’t pass on the guff about standards and theology yada yada yada.  Yes – there’s a whole lot of wacky stuff going on in different churches.  There are churches that don’t have the energy to split, but use the 1928 BCP and have idolatrous relationships with Rite One, sometimes in the shadow of a cathedral spire or a quick public transit ride from 815 Second Ave. There happens to be a system in place to deal with this nonsense: put the bishops to work and actually have them supervise parishes in their dioceses. What a concept. Maybe if parishes had been supervised over the past decade or so, leaving things like pronouncements on sexuality up to psychologists, or do-gooder world tours to Angelina Jolie,  the obituary for the Episcopal Church wouldn’t be on file ready to run.