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Donna Schaper
Donna Schaper
The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper has been Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church for five years. Her life goal is to animate spiritual capacity for public ministry.

Do’s and Don’ts when Opening Church Space: Learnings from Occupy Wall Street


by: on November 17th, 2011 | 3 Comments »

A meditation at Occupy Oakland

On Monday night, November 14, 2011 the mayor of New York City ordered the police to evict the 500 or so overnight occupiers in Zicotti Park. The eviction happened around 2 a.m. He did not tell them to leave within 72 hours. Or 48 hours. Or even by morning. He moved them out by force at 2 a.m. using surprise. In addition the police put the tents and tarps, many of the backpacks, computers, notebooks, sweatshirts and granola bars into a trash compactor and let the grind be heard throughout the park. As Rev. Robert Coleman of Riverside Church said, “I have the receipts for the 100 tents we bought. I’d like the city to repay my congregation for the destruction of our tents.” Sacred space may start with tents and have a middle stage in church buildings, even sanctuaries. Sacred space has no need of one place. It can occupy many, at the same time.

What follows is a list of blended do’s and don’ts if your congregation or minister were to decide to open your space as a sanctuary for Occupy Poughkeepsie or OWS Protesters. For the record, my congregation has done so the last two nights, will again tonight, and will consider doing so going forward. We “slept” about 100 each night, turned away about 40. Riverside, our chief partner, in this enterprise, slept about 60. The rest have been scattered to the four winds, originally by the police eviction that separated then forcefully by allowing only forty or so at a time to go any one direction. The police action gave new meaning to the words, “divide and conquer.” It didn’t work – as the movement is already too deep in the hearts and minds of Americans. If anything, the eviction moved us forcefully into a second phase of this movement, which has changed the American story about ourselves. We are now authoring the story again – not reading what Wall Street tells us about our political and economic futures or ourselves.


Police Clear Zuccotti Park: A First Reflection


by: on November 15th, 2011 | Comments Off

Creative Commons / Amanda Farah

Why in the middle of the night? Why with so much police power? Why did they think they had to shove people out? The good news is that this action, so unnecessary, will build the movement even more. Yes, the people in the park had become tired, irritable, a little vague. They had even considered exit strategies but were unable to execute any, due to a serious allegiance to the kind of democracy most people gave up on long ago. Some sexual violence was happening, likewise drugs, as the park was open to the world and the world moved in with it. But the larger story is one of extraordinary discipline, inner development, non-violence. The larger story is the way some folk out of Canada, with great symbols and slogans, camped out and changed the conversation in the United States. I call Occupy my zanex, my anti-depressant, my ability to sit with peers over dinner or coffee and not become morbid. I had a spiritual and political depression. I don’t have it any more. The cops don’t have a chance of taking it away from me.

My hope had been that the earliest spark and spirit would have prevailed and some humor would have announced an orderly departure to a winter home in various congregations and union halls. That was partly in the works. But the police made all the decisions, the way force often does. So unnecessary, so sad. There is some relief that there is an ending. But truthfully, this is just the beginning. The fact that New York’s finest — and a decent Mayor — made a choice to go stealth instead of steady is embarassing. New York is better than that. The mayor won’t care, because he is in his third term. But New Yorkers will.