The Interfaith Guild of Chaplains Summer 2012 Re-envisioning Document (Draft)

cc 1131 SE Oak St Ste 5, Portland, Oregon 97214 By Sarah A. Morrigan IGC Coordinator July 30, 2012 Introduction: The Interfaith Guild of Chaplains, founded on October 15, 2011 at the Beta Camp of Occupy Portland's original occupation (Lownsdale Park in downtown Portland), brought together ministers, seminarians, and other spiritual practitioners 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 held over 20 religious services, both interfaith and faith-specific, and provided a roundthe-clock on-site chaplaincy service which was utilized by the community. The group continued its existence after the Occupy Portland's withdrawal from the downtown parks, and organized a few activities, including Occupy Thanksgiving PDX (community potluck dinner at Wallace Park) and Occupy Christmas PDX (coordination of homestay options during Christmas for the traveling or un-housed Occupiers). The IGC supports all local Occupy movements within the PortlandVancouver four-county metropolitan region, and is headquartered in Portland, with its membership spread between Vancouver, Washington and Ashland, Oregon. The IGC has faced a number of challenges since the start of 2012, making the group's survival – and the survival of its founding visions – uncertain. Executive Summary: Much of the IGC's prolonged state of slump and inertia today can be attributed to the group's inability to adapt to the changing needs and circumstances of the Occupy movement. Founded in the midst of the encampment's exciting heyday, the group has generally failed to look beyond the larger picture that extended beyond the confines of the two-block campsite. While it was established to serve and support the diverse and unconventional community that the encampment had become, it did not quite follow its dynamic and diversified trajectories it has taken since its departure from the Alpha and Beta camps. Now largely dispersed and greatly far more diversified (and fragmented), Occupy Portland no longer is a tight-knit community with shared challenges. Divergent interests of various caucuses and workgroups are often hard to keep track of. Nevertheless, the IGC holds a great potential in bringing these divergent groups together as a community-builder, as well as a catalyst for galvanizing a voice that can only come from a point of spirituality, morality, ethics, and deep religious convictions. To this end, the IGC requires some realignment in its organization, as well as to better refine its goals, missions, and visions. Origin and History: In September 2011, Occupy Wall Street was organized. Shortly thereafter, the Portland General Assembly began meeting under the west side of the Burnside Bridge, planning for an occupation of the (yet-to-be-announced) two downtown parks near several government buildings. On October 6, following a massive march, the Occupiers set themselves down and pitched their tents on the Chapman and Lownsdale Squares. By the following day, many of the basic social

functions of the Occupation – prefiguring a vision of the world that is without capitalist greed – came into action, including food team, sanitation team, medical team, peace and safety team, and legal team. During this week, most major cities in the U.S. also began their occupations in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street. In Boston, a group of seminarians began a group called Protest Chaplains. Soon OWS and a few other cities followed in starting their own Protest Chaplains autonomous chapters. Sarah Morrigan conceived an idea of creating Portland's own Protest Chaplains-like group, with a greater focus on being not exclusively or predominantly Protestant Christian, but truly interfaith. A notice was posted on October 3 at the information and at the Occupy Portland Library calling for the first meeting of the IGC, to be held on Saturday, October 15. The IGC organized both interfaith Sunday worship service and faith-specific gatherings (primarily Jewish). In addition to the interfaith services, there was also one 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 Monthly Meeting of Friends independently brought their outreach to the occupation. The interfaith services were well attended. The IGC continued its offerings of religious services until the very last day of the occupation, with the havdalah service held at the Terry Schrunk Plaza only a few hours before the scheduled closure of the parks and amidst the chaos and noises. Between October 6 and November 11, the “Sacred Space Area” (originally constructed by members of P'nai Or as a community sukkah, later converted into an interfaith 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 a weekly meeting at TaborSpace to discuss ways to move forward and plan on continuing ministries to the Occupy community. Out of this came Occupy Thanksgiving Portland (#OccupyThanksgivingPDX), which was intended to replicate a sense of community that was previously at the encampment, to celebrate the community that came together as a result of Occupy Portland, and to provide food and safe space for the unhoused Occupiers who would otherwise have little or no access to them on Thanksgiving Day. Approximately 40 people attended during this all-day event at Wallace Park in Northwest Portland and also attracted three TV stations. The weekly meeting ended in December due to holidays, with plan to reconvene in January 2012. It however did not happen. Between January and July 2012, very few activities took place except for very sparsely attended gatherings on Imbolc and Beltane. Though several organizational meetings were planned but never took place due to lack of attendance. Much of the group's organizing took place online, however, but most of the IGC's active members had moved on or even moved out of town, making everything difficult to put together, requiring a new infusion of active and dynamic membership. Present Challenges: • Our identities.

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Is IGC a “Christian” organization, or “ecumenical” organization, or “interfaith” organization, or “anything but Christian”? Some members expressed discomfort with their perception of our anti-Christian bias. • We have considered ourselves officially as a “support function” to the greater Occupy movement. The flipside of it is that we generally do not take part in initiating or organizing public direct actions. This results in invisibility especially from the general public. Some members express more desire for participating and organizing direct actions. But is it within the function of chaplaincy? Shift in needs and resulting change of functions. • Although Occupy Portland has its headquarters, most of activities take place elsewhere and people do not reside there. Some are now at the city hall occupation, while other groups are elsewhere in the outskirts of the city. • Resident chaplaincy augmented with part-time chaplains were the main function of the IGC while at the first encampment. Now this needs to be changed to a flexible and mobile chaplaincy that can be dispatched to different parts of the city. • The first encampment was a microcosm of a city, and therefore a typical pastoral needs for the general population had to be met. Now this need is less obvious. Decline in active membership. • Two of the most active members moved out of Portland, and it is not economically feasible to travel to Portland. • One of the members graduated from seminary, and resigned from her pastoral position. Her life is changing. • A certain member is having a worsened medical condition. • Others generally moved on or no longer engaged in the Occupy movement at large. • The coordinator has taken over additional duties within Occupy Portland, participating in several committees and caucuses in addition to the IGC. Dwindling activities and support, and resulting lack of visibility and presence. Having expressed our collective support for other Occupy groups in the region, 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 the Che Room and at various locations of activities. 2. Support and advocacy for religious minorities within the Occupy movement, help fight misunderstanding and prejudice. This also includes the Roman Catholics. 3. Consultation and knowledge-banking for Occupy-related groups. 4. Facilitate better dialogues between Occupy Portland and its existing ally churches including St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Metanoia United Methodist Church, and First Unitarian Church. 2. Supporting interfaith solidarity and collaboration for a meaningful social movement.

1. Educate Occupy movement about various religious traditions and provide with accurate knowledge, dispelling misunderstandings. 2. Bring faith-based voice and witness to the Occupy actions. 3. Bring the Occupy community together and promote internal cohesion and solidarity. 3. Explore new way of being a person of faith and being a spiritual community. 4. Connecting faith communities to the Occupy movement and its messages. 1. Speakers bureau and other outreach to area churches, etc. 2. Local clergy panel on Occupy Beyond Occupy: Envisioning for a Longer Term for a Sustainable Movement: While what is started by Occupy Wall Street and movements rooted in the Occupy tradition are expected to continue for decades to come, it is natural that they will evolve and take a different shape as time passes. In order for the Occupy movement to remain effective and powerful, we must be vigilant against its becoming into a fossilized institution. This means Occupy will continue but its shapes and manifestations will be different. The question for the long-term is how do we envision for a sustainable and dynamically growing faith-based social movement beyond Occupy, when no one is calling themselves “Occupy.” Possible Solutions Proposed: Option 1: Widen membership and organizational focus. Perhaps incorporating the original visions of the now-defunct Faith and Spirit Caucus, make this a broader interfaith social action organization, while maintaining the chaplaincy as a subgroup within that newly expanded group. The roles of chaplaincy within that group could be less emphasized in favor of a more broad-based and inclusive organizing. Option 2: Instead of the first option, narrow membership focus and opt for a tighter and more specifically focused, limited mission. The group then would only focus on a very narrow definition of chaplaincy but try to do it better and more effectively. Option 3: To make the group friendlier and more approachable to Christians, especially for more conservative and mainstream ones. This may mean spinning off a Christian ecumencal chaplains group as an autonomous one. Option 4: To take the best of all three options above, adopting a more of a spokes council model for the umbrella organization, while smaller “spokes” could act as autonomous affinity groups based on shared interests and tasks. The only downside to this option is that it would only be functional when we have a large enough group. Therefore initial plan would be to build a general membership that would include Christians and non-Christians, as well as chaplains and nonchaplains alike. Once a larger group is recruited smaller “spokes” (subgroups) can be formed, for example, like “Catholic Caucus,” “Buddhist Caucus,” “Protestant Chaplains Committee,” “Liberation and Social Justice Committee,” “Direct Action Committee,” etc.

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