Here’s the background: After some “should I or shouldn’t I” this morning, I decided to attend church once again at First Christian Church, Portland, OR. I wanted to stay home under the covers in this grey place I’ve moved to. I thought about visiting the Metropolitan Community Church again, having had an amazing worship experience there last week. I finally talked myself into attending FCC again. It IS the first Sunday of Advent after all.
FCC Portland is a beautiful, modernized old church in the heart of downtown. It is space to be envied. People have been friendly and welcoming the few times I have visited, but . . . I don’t know. I am struggling with what I think the church should look like, sound like, be like these days. FCC is very traditional in many ways. Is this where I am supposed to be? What does church mean?
And then there’s the whole Occupy Portland thing.
I have not been “on the ground” much at Occupy, but my husband is a member of the Occupy’s Interfaith Chaplain Guild. I believe that this movement is just beginning. I believe in the basic premise that there is an unjust distribution of wealth that needs to be corrected. I believe that we are in the midst of cataclysmic change and none of us know what the end product will be. A few congregations have been openly supportive of Occupy PDX – FCC not being one of them. I admit that I’ve been disappointed by this; however, I’ve been no more personally involved with the church than I have been Occupy, so who am I to criticize or push?
With all that as background on how God stuck God’s nose in my business this morning, let me try to find the point. I arrived at church just in time as is my pattern and sought out a seat by myself. Very quickly an elder of the church and leader of the denomination greeted me and asked to be my pew buddy. Nice. I like pew buddies and particularly this man. As we rose to sing the first hymn for the hanging of the greens, he leaned in to point out “the gentleman in the bright tie” walking into the sanctuary- the chief of police for the city of Portland. My elder companion expressed his compassion for this member of the congregation who had had a rough few weeks. I could see the Chief’s stress on his face. Crap. Shhh God. You are SO bothering me right now.
For the rest of the service, God and I argued. Mainly I listened, and God pointed out the obvious. We are the One Body of Christ. One. That means the 1%, the 99%, and those caught between rocks and hard places. We are all the One Body. Vilifying the man sitting behind me was not productive nor was it remotely in keeping with the Gospel message. The Chief had come to worship the Christ he loves just as I had. And in good Disciple tradition, we don’t have to agree on our beliefs, but we are called to love one another. Shhh God. Stop bothering me.
If I could chat over coffee with the Chief, there would be many things that I would want the Chief to explain to me, to acknowledge, and to hear from me. I think that there are things that need explaining. But the Christ whose birth we anticipate, tells me that I must address this man as Brother. The ideals of the Occupy movement, as I understand them, call for us to care more for each other than profits and to eschew dehumanization. Shhh God. It was so easy a few moments ago.
At the conclusion of the service, my elder friend introduced me to Chief Reese and his wife. The elder had blogged about the Occupy and gave the Chief the web address. Although the elder said words of encouragement to Chief Reese, the Chief’s eyes seemed to dart between the elder and I as he quickly tried to explain (?) apologize for (?) the situation. I probably didn’t help when I mentioned Tim was an Occupy Chaplain.
In front of me stood a Brother in Christ whose fatigue and stress were obvious. Mistakes were made by both sides here in Portland and those responsible need to be held responsible. If the Occupy Movement is to maintain its passion, its mission, and its credibility, we must continue to reach out to each other to find peaceful ways to protest injustice. If the police are to maintain their community trust, they must use restraint and when protesters “must” be arrested, they absolutely must be treated with dignity. Last Sunday was an excellent example as leaders of Occupy worked out with the police how our march would be conducted. Portland police basically left “policing” of the march to the the Occupy “safety team” which worked splendidly.
God bothers us. Continually. As God yearns for us to move closer to God, God bothers us to love one another as God loves us. God bothers us to love police and protesters.
Wait – you don’t suppose God expects us to – yikes -love bankers, too? Shhhh Shhh Shhhh God. You are really bothering me now.