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Sunday, December 18, 2011

"....Another world is possible."

Bp. Packard (Andrew Burton - Reuters)
All I can say is that it's a good thing I wasn't on the preaching roster this morning.

Well, I have a few more things to say, but it is better said from THIS pulpit/blog than one in any church.

I think I might have some untoward affects on the end of the Stewardship Drive.

I would hope that would not be the case, but Anglicanism gives me a deep sense of pragmatism, the root cause of which is a unique sort of ecclesiastical astigmatism - due to "an irregular or toric curvature of the cornea or lens" - which causes blurred vision.

My own vision is fine, thank you very much, but it's been bent a bit by recent displays of some good old fashioned Anglican circumspection. These past few days, however, I'm seeing things much more clearly, now.

But, back to the gospel. I have always loved Luke's telling of the Gospel story which we hear this morning. It's from Luke 1:26-38: The Annunciation. You know the story well, no doubt. Perhaps, like me, you can almost recite the whole thing by heart.

What I love most about the story, I think, is the combination of the very human and the very divine.

I love the way Mary responds in utter confusion, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?".

I love the way the angel, very matter-of-factly, tells her. "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God".

Oh, I see. Well, there it is, then. No problem.

But, just in case she needs some more...um..."proof"... he tells her that, "...your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God."

Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.

Hmmm... was it Gabriel or Mary who was the Anglican pragmatist?

I was thinking about all these things, "pondering them in my heart", as I was going about my Saturday chores. I was also keenly aware of two things: (1) that evacuation of American troops in Iraq was in its final hours and (2) Saturday was the day of the "D17 Protest"- the three month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Movement which was also the day the "occupiers", as they are know, had chosen to "occupy" Duarte Square, a vacant lot in lower Manhattan owned by Trinity Wall Street (TWS).

Now, let me hasten to say that the good rector and people of TWS have extended good, Anglican hospitality to the good people of OWS. They have allowed them to used their "public facilities" (or "restrooms" or "water closets" or "toilets"), some of their meeting rooms and, of course, the sanctuary for respite and quiet and meditation and prayer.

You know. The way they do with most of the general population on any given day.

Photo Credit: Miranda Leitsinger/msnbc.com
When the occupiers were evicted from Zuccotti Park, they petitioned TWS to use the vacant lot as a place where they could gather and meet and have a presence.

Despite the fact that this has been a largely "virtual" movement - carried by websites and live cam videos, emails and IMs and tweets and blogs - there remains a need for place and presence.

Which brought me back to the story of The Annunciation. I don't mean to sound trite or simplistic, but the bottom line of the story is that God announced, through the Angel Gabriel, the need to "occupy" Mary's womb.

And Mary said, "What? Are you kidding me? I'm young. I haven't had time to even think about such things. That's really why I'm called a 'virgin'. Besides, I've never been "occupied" before. I've been "preoccupied" just trying to figure out how to be a young woman in today's day and age."

And, the angel Gabriel said, "Well, look, here's the plan. I know it sounds unrealistic. I know you haven't had time to check with your OB-GYN specialist, much less your parents or your boyfriend or legal counsel, and let's just leave out the theologians for now, but trust me. We could do this. You can do this. It will be totally amazing. Honest. God can do anything. Even your cousin Elizabeth - the one they said was too old to get pregnant? - is already six months along. See? Just say yes. God will take care of the rest."

And, she did. And, the incarnation, as we know, changed and transformed the world. Seems that even God needs 'place and presence'. That's just how the incarnation works.

I was thinking about that as I heard the OWS protesters chant, "“We are unstoppable, another world is possible."

They were chanting that before - and long after - they "occupied" Duarte Park. Well, at least, temporarily. They were promptly arrested and removed by the NYPD.

Bp. Packard (Stephanie Keith / AP)
The first one to climb the ladder and scale the fence surrounding the vacant lot was none other than Bishop George Packard, the 67 year old retired military man and retired Bishop Suffragan of the Armed Forces in the Episcopal Church.

He blogs at "Occupied Bishop". If you haven't already, please go there and visit and send him an encouraging word.

You couldn't miss him in his "Crayola Magenta" cassock. He tumbled to the ground but then got up pretty quickly to let the rest of the crowd know that he was okay. You can watch a video of the event which is posted over at The Lead on Episcopal Cafe.

His wife, Brooke, who was videotaping the event, reports this "Occupy 2.0" for her husband, the bishop, on his blog:
At this point, I think I stood up. I was forced close to the fence and turned to face Officer Teague. His knee came up and hit me in the chest. I was grateful for the chained fence – the barrier softened the jolt. I looked him in the eye saying "Please don't knee me." He looked back at me and did again. Did he smile? Then he did it again. I fell backward into the crowd below me feeling the crush behind, in front, and from the fence which the NYPD was still single-mindedly trying to push onto those outside the fence. Then I felt someone pick me up and throw me onto a pile of people. I looked up and it was a police officer; using my own body as a weapon against other peaceful protesters. Who knew the NYPD could be so clever?
Oh, my dear, that's just the tip of the iceberg of their cleverness.

Bishop Packard has been trying to negotiate and mediate between the occupiers and the good folks at Trinity. Here's what he wrote on his blog in the early morning of the D17 protest:
I am still baffled that the Episcopal Church of which I have been a member all my life could not--through Trinity--find some way to embrace these thousands of young people in our very diminishing ranks. (Every year for the last five years we have lost 14,000 members.) Just as we pioneered an awareness of the full membership for the LBGT community what's happening here? How hard would it have been for Trinity to convene legal counsel and say, "Give us some options so that a charter could be granted over the winter months?"

I had proposed that to the Rector and I still think it was a solution. Occupy Wall Street gets a home over the winter (one that would offer food for the Homeless and a clinic--truly bring alive dead space) and Trinity would have the assurance that the lease would return to them safe and sound come Spring. Everybody wins.
With God, all things are possible. With the church? Well, not so much.

There is no paucity of places to get information on this - and other - events. Religion Dispatches has a great article with some pictures and videos. There is, of course, "The Lead" at Episcopal Cafe. Mother Jones has a story, along with a video shot in the Paddy Wagon with Bishop Packard.

Here's a link to a statement by the Rev'd Dr. James H. Cooper, rector of TWS. You can find a letter from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Bishop Packard which you can find here. He later wrote another letter, in which he appeared to flip-flop on the matter, but I'll let you be the judge of that.

And, just for good measure, here's a link to the letters written by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and another by Mark Sisk, bishop of New York - both in support of Trinity Wall Street.

I'm remembering that, the year I took GOEs, one of the questions on the exam was "What is the difference between 'the good' and 'the right'?". While I struggled for 30 minutes to respond to the question, a friend of mine was done in less than ten minutes. I later asked her what happened. She said, "Oh, that was a great question, wasn't it? And the answer is so easy."

"What is the difference between 'the good' and 'the right'? God is good and the bishop is right."

Yes, God is good. Ah, but which bishop is right? The one with the pointiest mitre, the longest staff, the biggest diocese, the richest coffers, or the most titles?

Or, might it be the one who acts most like Jesus?

On the day when we have ended the occupation of Iraq and the Occupy Wall Street movement is in search of a place to occupy and become more incarnate, we consider the Annunciation of the Incarnation of God.

The gospel has never been more alive, more relevant, more troubling - or more hopeful - for me.

Even God needs place and presence. No one know who or where or when or how God will chose.

I don't know why that is. I only know this much to be true: That's just how the incarnation works.

Suddenly, I'm beginning to hear the words of Mary and the angel and the Magnificat in the chants of the OWS protesters, "We are unstoppable, another world is possible."

Somebody in this "church" give me an, "Amen."

20 comments:

John said...

Amen.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Amen, and amen, and amen! Is three enough, Elizabeth?

Yours is a fine and thought-provoking post. As one who mostly acts from the gut, I need my thinking provoked.

it's margaret said...

AMEN!

wv: firess
You are, indeed.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, John.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mimi - I'll take all the "Amen's" I can get. This is not an easy issue, as you know. God always calls the least to do great things, but God also gives the mighty a shot at redemption.

It will be interesting to see how TWS deals with the increasing pressure to live the gospel they preach.

Hutch said...

AAAMen AAAMen AAMen AMen AMen. And a halleluiah. I never like Bishop George much in his pre-retirement days - but now, I think the dude should sell bracelets - WWGD? I am so impressed to see a representative of the Church standing in Glory.

RFSJ said...

Thank, you, Elizabeth, and Amen. The picture of Bp. Packard climbing the wall at Duarte Park - essentially rebuking the Rector of TWS - will, I think, be emblematic. TWS has a real black eye here. The Dean of St. Paul's resigned after he didn't handle the London OWS folks - I wonder what the Rector of TWS will do?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hi, RFSJ, Solid money (no pun intended) is on the fact that he doesn't resign. The rector of TWS makes waaayyy more money than the Dean of St. Paul's did.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Margaret - I'm in pretty good company, my love.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hutch - Bishop George, like Bishop Walter Righter, is one of those bishops just hanging about, waiting for God to call him to do a mighty work for Her. It's inspiring, is what it is.

Joe B said...

More Amens from an OWS Protest Chaplain!

Seeing Bp Packard scale the fence first made me cry. It made me proud to have once been an Episcopalian.

I thank you for your directness and candor in this statement:

They have allowed them to used their "public facilities" (or "restrooms" or "water closets" or "toilets"), some of their meeting rooms and, of course, the sanctuary for respite and quiet and meditation and prayer.

You know. The way they do with most of the general population on any given day.


Don't forget the "pastoral care"! Or as I called it tonight...Starbucks with Stoles. And I understand the meeting space they offered was approximately the size of a New York City studio apartment bathroom...but it is a nice gesture and definitely makes for good PR.

Regarding Archbishop Tutu's second statement, a person well-acquainted with Trinity and what has transpired these past few weeks told me tonight that after Tutu issued the first statement, Trinity allegedly called Tutu directly (rather than through his office) to allegedly remind him of how much they had helped in the past. Then they allegedly were not entirely, um, above board in their extraction and parsing of his statement. I wish I could give names and more details, and if I had first hand knowledge, I'd remove the "allegedlys" but I promised the source only to be vague. But I hope this brave insider tells his story soon, and I pointed him in the direction of the Cafe to do so. Since I have no way of judging whether this is true--though I have my gut feeling that this person knew what he was talking about--I hope Trinity is questioned publicly about this so they can clarify the circumstances around their contact with Tutu. (Whew, my attorney husband promises me this is a lawsuit-proof statement...)

Again--Amen!!!

JCF said...

AMEN!!!

Sorry to clog your space, but just have to reprint---

And, the angel Gabriel said, "Well, look, here's the plan. I know it sounds unrealistic. I know you haven't had time to check with your OB-GYN specialist, much less your parents or your boyfriend or legal counsel, and let's just leave out the theologians for now, but trust me. We could do this. You can do this. It will be totally amazing. Honest. God can do anything. Even your cousin Elizabeth - the one they said was too old to get pregnant? - is already six months along. See? Just say yes. God will take care of the rest."

And, she did. And, the incarnation, as we know, changed and transformed the world. Seems that even God needs 'place and presence'. That's just how the incarnation works.

I was thinking about that as I heard the OWS protesters chant, "“We are unstoppable, another world is possible."


YES!!!

Brill, Lizbeth. TRUTH.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Joe B - I have heard the same...um..."allegations" from folks on the scene. It's very clear from Tutu's second statement that "someone" leaned on him Very Hard. How could anyone not know that anyone can see through it? I wouldn't be surprised if some "folk at the top" make the phone call(s) directly to Tutu.

The Light is shining in the darkness - revealing the good and the bad and the ugly and the beautiful.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JCF - Thanks. I am a Christian and an Episcopalian because of the Incarnation. It's absolutely central to my identity. So, perhaps not so much brilliant as honest.

David and John said...

After reading the statement from +KJS, I must admit that for the first time since she took that office, I am ashamed of her.

The church would have been better served if she had just kept quiet on a subject that is, in reality, a parish matter between Trinity and OWS. It reflects poorly for someone who took weeks to respond to the Bede Parry debacle to instantly pass public judgement on OWS.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I think +KJS ought to take a page out of her own LGBT book and "stand in a crucified place for a season" before opening her mouth again about OWS.

It's so painfully obvious that she made that statement after pressure from TWS and the bishop of NY. I don't now that to be true, but I know how the church works.

It's all so sad.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Amen.

I cannot tell you how much all of this has shaken my faith in the church....

I lost my love for +KJS after the "stand in a crucified place" comment. I am heartbroken to see the one person I would have classified as a living saint--Desmond Tutu--tell protestors not to do exactly what he did to end apartheid in South Africa. How could he?

I know there are many faithful Episcopalians who stand with OWS--but it is hard for me to continue to claim an affiliation with TEC when the highly visible leadership is so vocally on the side of those who have pillaged our country and made so many people jobless and homeless. I don't even know where to go with a church that will set the NYPD on people who are simply trying to point out the same kinds of inequities and injustices that are decried in the Bible over, and over, and over again.

Anonymous said...

Money talks, BS walks.

It is ever so in this world. Even Tutu got rolled on this one. Usually when a RC "crazy uncle" type like Tutu says something uncomfortable, we just pass by it in silence and let time carry away the words. To lean on him financially is a bit uncouth.

Even as an RC jaded to the ways of my church and yours, Trinity Wall Street's actions are a bit shocking.

FrMichael

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Doxy, as I said, I think +KJS needs to "stand in a crucified place for a season" on this matter before she opens her mouth again.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Fr. Michael - I knew that, eventually, there would be something on which we could agree.