Quaker Universalist Conversations

Occupy movement and Friends

Quakers were among the first religious group to become actively engaged with the Occupy movement, as I learned when I was in Philadelphia a few weeks ago and attended a Quaker meeting for worship at an Occupy encampment at City Hall under the shadow of William Penn.  Friends and the AFSC had established an “interfaith tent,” mostly used by UU’s and Quakers, but open to all. This tent represents the universalist theology of Friends—grounded historically in Christianity, but open and welcoming to all, since there is “that of God” in everyone.

There is a Occupy Quaker facebook page for those who want to know more about what Quakers and doing and feeling about this amazing political/spiritual movement.

When I returned to Los Angeles, I felt led to have an interfaith tent and Quaker worship experience at the Occupy LA movement. I brought up this leading to Southern California Quarterly Meeting and received the enthusiastic approval of Friends, many of whom were involved with Occupy sites in their communities. The latest issue of  “The Western Friend” contains excellent articles by Quakers involved in the Occupy movement, including a piece by Susanne Kromberg about Occupy Seattle.  This issue suggests a spiritual dimension to the Occupy movement, what Kromberg calls “a depth of passion for a more just world, deep commitment to equality and diversity and real appreciation for other people’s experiences and stories. And there is belief that regular people can and should do something to change the world.” This quote reminds me of similar words by the Quaker bible scholar Henry Cadbury, who wrote in 1947:

“Common folk, not statesmen, nor generals, nor great men of affairs, but just simple men and women, if they devote themselves … can do something to build a better peaceful world.”

After gaining the approval of Friends to launch an interfaith sharing circle, I went to folks at Occupy LA, who loved the idea. “We need the Quakers,” many of them said.  I then sought, and received, the support of Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace and the local chapter of the Parliament of the World’s Religion.

As I was working on this angle, other progressive religious leaders from LA felt a similar leading and were taking steps to start an “Interfaith Sanctuary.” This group was launched last week and is planning a major event this week, a gathering of elders. (See details below.) I am now working with the Interfaith Sanctuary to help organize and coordinate religious and interfaith activities at Occupy LA.

We had our first spiritual sharing circle on Sunday, Nov 17, and it was powerful. In spite of the noisy setting, the silence was deep, and the messages profound and powerful. Around 30-40 people took part—-Jewish, Christian and others. You can read more it and about Occupy LA on my blog at laquaker.blogspot.com. I’d love to know more about how Quakers are reaching out to the Occupy movement in other parts of the country. 

This Sunday, we will have another Quaker-style sharing circle, followed by a remarkable gathering of “elders.” Spirit is certainly at work, and I feel very thankful…. deep in my heart, I do believe, a change is gonna come!

Historic Civil Rights Leaders to speak at Occupy Los Angeles
Sunday, November 20, at 3:00 p.m., Los Angeles City Hall, South Lawn

On November 20th, a newly organized independent group of elder leaders from many of the defining American social justice movements of the 20th century, will lead a service of solidarity and host a conversation with Occupy demonstrators and other interested individuals in Los Angeles. Similar events with other notable elders will be held in San Francisco, Oakland and New York.

  • Rev. James M. Lawson, Jr., Pastor Emeritus, Holman United Methodist Church

  • Rev. Canon Malcolm M. Boyd, Poet-in-Residence, Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles

  • Ms. Dolores Huerta, Co-Founder, United Farm Workers

  • Rev. George Regas, Executive Director, Regas Institute

  • Dr. Maher Hathout, Physician (retired), leading spokesperson for the American Muslim Community

  • Rabbi Leonard Beerman, Founding Rabbi, Leo Baeck Temple

2:00pm Interfaith Circle at Occupy Los Angeles, South Lawn at Los Angeles City Hall

3:00pm ELDERS SPEAK AT OCCUPY LOS ANGELES, South Lawn at Los Angeles City Hall

For more information Contact FOR LOS ANGELES EVENT ONLY: Rev. Sandie Richards, member, Occupy Los Angeles Interfaith Council— 323-761-0797 DOWNTOWNLAREV@GMAIL.COM

Add a Comment