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OPDX IGC Visioning

OPDX IGC Visioning

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Published by Sarah Morrigan

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Published by: Sarah Morrigan on Jul 31, 2012
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The Interfaith Guild of Chaplains
Summer 2012Re-envisioning Document(Draft)www.opdxchaplains.co.cc1131 SE Oak St Ste 5, Portland, Oregon 97214By Sarah A. MorriganIGC Coordinator July 30, 2012
Introduction:
The
Interfaith Guild of Chaplains
, founded on October 15, 2011 atthe Beta Camp of Occupy Portland's original occupation (Lownsdale Park indowntown Portland), brought together ministers, seminarians, and other spiritualpractitioners and leaders from a wide range of faith traditions and from all parts of the greater Portland metropolitan region. For the following five weeks, the IGC heldover 20 religious services, both interfaith and faith-specific, and provided a round-the-clock on-site chaplaincy service which was utilized by the community. Thegroup continued its existence after the Occupy Portland's withdrawal from thedowntown parks, and organized a few activities, including Occupy ThanksgivingPDX (community potluck dinner at Wallace Park) and Occupy Christmas PDX(coordination of homestay options during Christmas for the traveling or un-housedOccupiers). The IGC supports all local Occupy movements within the Portland-Vancouver four-county metropolitan region, and is headquartered in Portland, withits membership spread between Vancouver, Washington and Ashland, Oregon. TheIGC has faced a number of challenges since the start of 2012, making the group'ssurvival – and the survival of its founding visions – uncertain.
Executive Summary:
Much of the IGC's prolonged state of slump and inertia todaycan be attributed to the group's inability to adapt to the changing needs andcircumstances of the Occupy movement. Founded in the midst of the encampment'sexciting heyday, the group has generally failed to look beyond the larger picturethat extended beyond the confines of the two-block campsite. While it wasestablished to serve and support the diverse and unconventional community thatthe encampment had become, it did not quite follow its dynamic and diversifiedtrajectories it has taken since its departure from the Alpha and Beta camps. Nowlargely dispersed and greatly far more diversified (and fragmented), OccupyPortland no longer is a tight-knit community with shared challenges. Divergentinterests of various caucuses and workgroups are often hard to keep track of.Nevertheless, the IGC holds a great potential in bringing these divergent groupstogether as a community-builder, as well as a catalyst for galvanizing a voice thatcan only come from a point of spirituality, morality, ethics, and deep religiousconvictions. To this end, the IGC requires some realignment in its organization, aswell as to better refine its goals, missions, and visions.
Origin and History:
In September 2011, Occupy Wall Street was organized. Shortlythereafter, the Portland General Assembly began meeting under the west side of theBurnside Bridge, planning for an occupation of the (yet-to-be-announced) twodowntown parks near several government buildings. On October 6, following amassive march, the Occupiers set themselves down and pitched their tents on theChapman and Lownsdale Squares. By the following day, many of the basic social
 
functions of the Occupation – prefiguring a vision of the world that is withoutcapitalist greed – came into action, including food team, sanitation team, medicalteam, peace and safety team, and legal team. During this week, most major cities inthe U.S. also began their occupations in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. InBoston, a group of seminarians began a group called Protest Chaplains. Soon OWSand a few other cities followed in starting their own Protest Chaplains autonomouschapters. Sarah Morrigan conceived an idea of creating Portland's own ProtestChaplains-like group, with a greater focus on being not exclusively orpredominantly Protestant Christian, but truly interfaith. A notice was posted onOctober 3 at the information and at the Occupy Portland Library calling for the firstmeeting of the IGC, to be held on Saturday, October 15.The IGC organized both interfaith Sunday worship service and faith-specificgatherings (primarily Jewish). In addition to the interfaith services, there was alsoone Anglican holy eucharist service (thanks to St. David of Wales Episcopal Church)and one Roman Catholic mass (thanks to St. Andre Bessett Roman Catholic Church).Additionally, P'nai Or Congregation of Portland and the Multnomah MonthlyMeeting of Friends independently brought their outreach to the occupation. Theinterfaith services were well attended. The IGC continued its offerings of religiousservices until the very last day of the occupation, with the havdalah service held atthe Terry Schrunk Plaza only a few hours before the scheduled closure of the parksand amidst the chaos and noises.Between October 6 and November 11, the “Sacred Space Area” (originallyconstructed by members of P'nai Or as a community sukkah, later converted into aninterfaith chapel and meditation area) served as the hub of activities and base of operation for the IGC.Following the end of the encampment in the parks, the IGC continued aweekly meeting at TaborSpace to discuss ways to move forward and plan oncontinuing ministries to the Occupy community. Out of this came OccupyThanksgiving Portland (#OccupyThanksgivingPDX), which was intended to replicatea sense of community that was previously at the encampment, to celebrate thecommunity that came together as a result of Occupy Portland, and to provide foodand safe space for the unhoused Occupiers who would otherwise have little or noaccess to them on Thanksgiving Day. Approximately 40 people attended during thisall-day event at Wallace Park in Northwest Portland and also attracted three TVstations.The weekly meeting ended in December due to holidays, with plan toreconvene in January 2012. It however did not happen.Between January and July 2012, very few activities took place except for verysparsely attended gatherings on Imbolc and Beltane. Though several organizationalmeetings were planned but never took place due to lack of attendance. Much of thegroup's organizing took place online, however, but most of the IGC's activemembers had moved on or even moved out of town, making everything difficult toput together, requiring a new infusion of active and dynamic membership.
Present Challenges:
 
Our identities.
 
Is IGC a “Christian” organization, or “ecumenical” organization, or“interfaith” organization, or “anything but Christian”? Some membersexpressed discomfort with their perception of our anti-Christian bias.
We have considered ourselves officially as a “support function” to thegreater Occupy movement. The flipside of it is that we generally do nottake part in initiating or organizing public direct actions. This results ininvisibility especially from the general public. Some members expressmore desire for participating and organizing direct actions. But is itwithin the function of chaplaincy?
Shift in needs and resulting change of functions.
Although Occupy Portland has its headquarters, most of activities takeplace elsewhere and people do not reside there. Some are now at thecity hall occupation, while other groups are elsewhere in the outskirtsof the city.
Resident chaplaincy augmented with part-time chaplains were themain function of the IGC while at the first encampment. Now thisneeds to be changed to a flexible and mobile chaplaincy that can bedispatched to different parts of the city.
The first encampment was a microcosm of a city, and therefore atypical pastoral needs for the general population had to be met. Nowthis need is less obvious.
Decline in active membership.
Two of the most active members moved out of Portland, and it is noteconomically feasible to travel to Portland.
One of the members graduated from seminary, and resigned from herpastoral position. Her life is changing.
A certain member is having a worsened medical condition.
Others generally moved on or no longer engaged in the Occupymovement at large.
The coordinator has taken over additional duties within OccupyPortland, participating in several committees and caucuses in additionto the IGC.
Dwindling activities and support, and resulting lack of visibility andpresence.
Having expressed our collective support for other Occupy groups in theregion, never following up on our own words with actions.
What are the Future Steps?:
1.Continue our support of the Occupy movement in Portland region.1.Mobile chaplaincy and spiritual/pastoral support for Occupiers, both at theChe Room and at various locations of activities.2.Support and advocacy for religious minorities within the Occupymovement, help fight misunderstanding and prejudice. This also includesthe Roman Catholics.3.Consultation and knowledge-banking for Occupy-related groups.4.Facilitate better dialogues between Occupy Portland and its existing allychurches including St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Metanoia UnitedMethodist Church, and First Unitarian Church.2.Supporting interfaith solidarity and collaboration for a meaningful socialmovement.

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