Occupy Wall Street protesters were forced to leave West-Park Presbyterian Church on Saturday after a series of disturbing incidents at the church, including two major thefts. The sign above was hung from the side entrance where the Occupiers used to enter (West Side Rag reader Michael sent us the picture).
The protesters tried the patience of some pretty patient people — Pastor Robert Brashear gladly welcomed the occupiers, and even looked the other way when his laptop was stolen. But the loss of a piece from the church’s prized baptismal font, where hundreds of parishioners had been baptized over the years, was the last straw. Detectives have been to the church, trying to find out how the piece disappeared.
Still, Brashear told us in an email that he is willing to welcome a smaller group back under the right conditions:
“[T]he exodus was carefully planned and is almost done. BUT we said we were open to new proposals for a smaller, intentional community of around 20 that could extend throughout winter (after a few days to catch our breath) A group is working to create a coop not depending on #ows central funding that could pull this together. That would work towards creating an urban living coop in a new housing situation by spring…”
There are, in fact, all sorts of attempts at reconciliation going on. At a service this Sunday, the Occupiers apologized and gave the church $1,600. The full story is on Brashear’s blog.
I asked Brasheear in an email: “Does this situation with the thefts, etc. change your feeling in general about giving shelter to homeless people at West Park?”
“Short answer, NO. Longer answer, I’ve been an urban pastor for 35 years. Too old to be naive. One can be disappointed and not surprised. We had an incredibly moving “farewell” service Sunday wih over 40 owsers in attendance .(That will be my next post…) But it doesn’t matter what i feel, my understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus means to take Matthew 25 seriously, not as a sentimental sermon topic to get weepy about or to pay someone else to do, but simply what it is we do…What I saw Sunday, the expressions of regret, effort to make amends, seek reconciliation, was reward enough. And my session (board) is completely supportive.My one professional business woman, the one who went down to Zucotti at 6 am the first threatened eviction day,an active volunteer with Manahttan Together community organizing and Westside Campaign Against Hunger put it best when ows delivered to us $1600 in cash (given in the service by a trans black baptist minister from the bronx): The banks never repaid us for what they stole….”