Moving in and out of the crowd gathering before the march were a number of clergypersons, most of them clergywomen. I counted six women in clerical collars and dark suits. One was Asian, one was African. I don’t know if I should add the hyphen and American. There was something about the latter’s features and her expressions that made me think she might have been from Africa. And if she wasn’t from here, maybe the former wasn’t either. Maybe none of them were. Doesn’t matter. I’m only trying to be descriptive. There’s no point except that from my observations they seemed to be as separate and foreign to each other as if they’d each come here from a different far corner of the earth. While I was able to keep track, I saw the same mildly smiling faces weaving their individual ways about and never caught sight of more than two of them together or spotted any one exchanging more than a friendly nod to another when their paths happened to cross.
And I know it’s sentimental of me, especially considering my own apostasy, but I like thinking they weren’t together, that each one had found her way here on her own and not as part of a group, that they weren’t from here, or at least only one of them was, that even though I only counted six I missed half of them, that there were in fact twelve, that each of the other eleven was from some distant point on the globe.
You may remember that some time after Jesus left them for good, the apostles dispersed. They each went to a different far away land to spread the word. Peter to Italy, John to Greece, Andrew to Russia, Thomas to India, and so on. In my days as an altar boy I was taught that the authority and powers to forgive sins and turn bread and wine into body and blood derived from the apostles whose own authority and power derived from you know who. This makes every Catholic priest an avatar of Christ, although I don’t remember the nuns using that word. The line is complicated by the Reformation but whatever the Church wants to claim about it being the one, only, holy, apostolic church, I think it applies to every Christian minister. It’s a shame so many of them, Catholic and Protestant, don’t seem to remember whom they’re standing in for.
My favorite of the signs I saw yesterday wasn’t a protest, it was a joyful boast: Proud Union Mama.
My least favorite said: Even God Hates Wall Street.
God, if He, She, or It exists, not having the time, He, She, or It doesn’t take sides like that. Besides, God hating anyone’s particular enemies? That’s how they think.
But we know how Jesus felt about the moneychangers, and storing up treasure on earth, and rich people and needles’ eyes, and the poor and the downtrodden. We know what he said to the rich young man who wanted to know what he had to do to be saved and he’d say the same to any young hedge fund manager who asked that question today. We know the kind of company he preferred to keep. All the apostles except Matthew, the tax collector, and the other guy, the politician, were working men. If Jesus came today and said to them, Follow me, he’d be talking to Union men and women.
So we can make a good guess where Jesus would be if he could and we can be pretty sure that, since he can’t be there himself, he’d be there in spirit and in the persons of his avatars.
I couldn’t work my way through the gathering throngs to get close enough to talk to any of the clergywomen. When I asked folks I was with if they’d heard of any group of female clerics who’d come to Occupy Wall Street, they suggested they might all be from nearby Trinity, which is a very progressive Episcopalian congregation. So I googled up Trinity’s website when I got home.
I didn’t find anything that told me if they were affiliated in any way with Trinity, but I did find this message from the rector:
For a number of weeks now, “Occupy Wall Street” protesters have encamped in Zuccotti Park, a square of open space just north of Trinity Church and south of St. Paul’s Chapel.
Trinity Wall Street respects the rights of citizens to protest peacefully and supports the vigorous engagement of the concerns that form the core of the protests – economic disenfranchisement and failure of public trust.
As a prayerful community with a deep history of relationships in Lower Manhattan, Trinity continues its pastoral outreach and welcomes any of those involved in the ongoing situation to parish spaces. Many protestors have found the opportunity for rest and revitalization in Charlotte’s Place, Trinity’s new neighborhood center, and have expressed deep appreciation for the hospitality there. We welcome any of those involved in the protest for pastoral care and reflection.
With its long history, Trinity is also a place where meaningful conversations between people with divergent viewpoints can happen. We also offer our meeting spaces to groups for conversations and forums on issues of public concern.
As the protest unfolds, I invite you to hold all those involved in your prayers: the protesters, neighborhood residents and business owners, the police, policy-makers, civic leaders, and those in the financial industry – all – and to consider the ways we might take steps in our own lives that improve the lives of others.
The Rev. Dr. James H. Cooper