This has been the month of the big move. Faith and I, after years of living together at the William Penn House, took up residence in our new home, four miles directly east on East Capitol Street. Things are very different now. Before, we lived together in a single room, shared a bathroom and shower with a WPH intern, and shared a kitchen with the entire Penn House staff. Now, we have a whole house all to ourselves. We are still getting used to the idea that we have multiple rooms for our exclusive use, not to mention that dinner will not be interrupted by guests from the hostel asking us to tend to their needs.
Moving day was the second of February, and the biggest change so far is definitely the sense of distance from the hustle and bustle of the William Penn House. I am only now beginning to appreciate what an intense experience it was to live full-time in a hostel with up to thirty guests at a time. The sheer energy of the place could be overwhelming, especially when groups rented the entire house. This took a toll on me, and I did not even work there. In Faith's case, her job, living and social scene were all combined at the Penn House. For her, our new home represents an opportunity for genuine retreat, and to develop a life away from work.
Besides all the preparations for moving into our new house, the other major focus of my life this past month has been the emerging Occupy Church movement. From the very beginning of Occupy DC, there has been a strong faith component. Folks from a variety of religious traditions have come together to highlight the moral failure of a country in which the vast majority of resources are controlled by an increasingly tiny percentage of our citizens. During the first weeks of Occupy DC, it became clear to several Christian occupiers that we needed an explicitly Christian voice within the Occupy movement, in addition to the wider interfaith network. One night in mid-October, Brian Merritt, Jeremy John and I set up the Prayer Tent in McPherson Square, and Occupy Church was born.
The name "Occupy Church" is intentionally ambiguous. First and foremost, it represents our identity as Christians in solidarity with the Occupy movement. We are Christians from a variety of denominations and communions who feel the Holy Spirit calling us to bear prophetic witness to the plight of the poor, and God's anger with the fact that there are more than forty-five million people living in poverty in this, the wealthiest nation the world has ever known. We feel God calling us to join with the Lord Jesus Christ in proclaiming his good news to the poor - release for the oppressed, sight to the blind, and a Jubilee year of debt cancellation(1).
There is, however, another sense in which the name "Occupy Church" can be understood. In addition to the calling we sense to embody Christ's love for the poor and prophetic witness against idolatrous greed, we cannot help but notice that the Christian community has itself been colonized by the demonic values of Empire. Despite our half-hearted confessions on Sunday morning, the Christian Church as a whole does not bear fruit of genuine repentance. We, too, have been seduced by promises of power and prosperity. As a practical matter, we too have come to worship money as our only absolute.
Please pray for those of us in Washington, DC who are gathering together in the name of Jesus to confront the principalities and powers that have taken hostage our entire society, including much of the Church. Pray that we might grow in spiritual maturity and dedication as we live into the radical call that we are hearing from the Holy Spirit in these days. Also, I would ask that you prayerfully consider whether God is calling you to get involved in the Occupy Church movement. This is only the beginning, and it will take far more than a small band of brothers and sisters in Washington, DC to effect a reformation of the ecumenical Christian Church.
As I have become fond of saying, we are on a Fifty Year Plan. We have no illusions about easy victories or quick fixes. We are in this struggle for the long haul, and we pray that you will join us in the long march towards an economy based in love rather than greed.
Your friend in the love and light of our Savior,
1. Luke 4:18-19