Occupy Reflections by Rev. Russell Daye

Note:  In the last few weeks we’ve seen several prominent cases (e.g. New York and London) of large urban churches offering shelter and sanctuary to Occupy protesters being ousted by the authorities from public space.  Below is a message from our friend and colleague Rev. Russell Daye of St. Andrew's United Church in Halifax, Nova Scotia, whose church did the same recently.  We take heart at these expressions of solidarity.   --Ched

 

Also check out this excellent reflection by our friend Stan Goff, who turned 60 0n Veterans Day: http://www.feralscholar.org/blog/index.php/2011/11/10/christian-soldier-at-60-on-veterans-day/

 

“We moved quickly when we heard that the mayor of Halifax was breaking his word and forcibly removing the Occupy Nova Scotia encampment from a park. There had been an agreement between the Occupy folks and the mayor that the encampment would move from the Grand Parade (with its cenotaph) to another park so that services could be held on Remembrance Day. As soon as those services were held, Mayor Kelly sent the police in to the second park and about 15 people were arrested, some quite roughly. We quickly arranged for the remaining protesters to gather at St. Andrew’s church where they could warm up, dry off, and decide what to do next. It was a real eye-opener to watch them slowly and carefully decide what to do next. All voices were respected and feedback was offered with a series of agreed upon hand signals and gestures.

 

 “As far as I can tell, there is very little support from politicians or the church for the growing Occupy community and its supporters, with the exception of a handful of United Church of Canada ministers.  I had spent a small amount of time with the Occupy folks in the 1st park but didn’t have a good sense of them. I have to say that, watching them up close during a very difficult day, I am growing in my admiration for them. I think they are motivated by a series of concerns, with the common theme being a rejection of a political economy in which the winners are shrinking in number but growing in terms of the size of their prizes and the losers are growing both in terms of numbers and the repercussions of their abandonment. 

 

“The Occupy NS folks met in our church till about 10pm or so. They left in waves and we were left with about 15 for the night – mostly young and a little wild, some street kids. I felt like I was running a shelter for youth. With some help from one of the leaders – whom I called back to the church, not wanting to be left alone and in a compromised situation – we got folks quieted by 1 am. Our council chair came by at 7:30 and, with a fair bit of prodding and some bribery in the form of donuts, we woke folks up and had the place emptied and cleaned just in time for our 9 am rental.

 

“It was a very interesting educational experience about the make up and the organizational style of the Occupy movement. Their consensus decision making process was really interesting and quite effective. I was impressed with the gentleness and patience of the leaders. It was heartening to see young male leaders function in a way that didn’t resonate with patriarchy in any fashion that I could make out. Kyle and others just kept saying ‘you know, I’m not a leader ...’ It was also heartening to see young folks being so respectful of and grateful toward the church.

 

Even the wild young ones late at night would catch themselves after a string of f and  s and b words tossed off casually, and say ‘oh sorry; it’s wrong to swear in a church.’ “It was a good moment for us. It certainly was good to see our 75-year-old former banker and chair of council get on board so quickly and fully. We need more bankers like him. I’d like to say it’s my preaching that’s converted him, but I think it’s more about his Newfoundland origins!”  --Russ Daye, Lead Minister, St. Andrew's United Church (www.standrewshfx.ca).