Khepe-Ra is a community organizer and consultant who lives at OB four days per week. She was hosting in the tent when we arrived and struck up a conversation with us by asking us why we came. We explained that Jesus' command to love our neighbor and God's concern for those who are poor and suffering led us to participate. Khepe-Ra shared that she had done a lot of faith-based community organizing, and she felt frustrated with the Church. She was disappointed that church folk tend to only want to get involved when everyone in the movement believes the same things they do. She contrasted them with the folks she meets at OB, whom she says are genuinely trying to live out the kind of community they want America to be- even if they all hold different beliefs and come from different walks of life. Khepe-Ra said that OB is struggling with how to deal with the homeless members of the movement. They lived in Dewey Square first, so OB wants to include them and feed them, but they struggle with addictions, mental illness, and theft, which is hard on OB participants. We shared our experiences in the Church with her, and then we had a mini-Bible study and prayer time. By the time my alarm told me our meter had run out and it was time to go, Khepe-Ra declared that she had regained hope for the Church from our visit.
the altar at the Faith and Spirituality Tent - image from the OB WikiAs we dashed through the freezing rain to the car, I thought about what Khepe-Ra had said. Why is it that church folk are reticent to become involved in work in the community when the effort is interdenominational or interfaith? What is it about our mindset that fosters the need to have everyone agree with us? Shoot, half the time, United Methodists don't even agree with one another! Perhaps what holds us back is the notion that working with people who are different from us is an obstacle, and we perceive those who believe differently than we do as people who are different from us.
In the end, though, we're not so different from people of other denominations and faith traditions. We have the same needs. We all love our families. We all care deeply about our religion, and we try hard to follow it and so be made more holy. Despite our differences, we share similar values. Perhaps we need to move away from making sure everyone believes the same way to finding a core value or values that we share. That might help us collaborate with people in other denominations, in other faiths, and even in other parts of the United Methodist connection. I know, it's easier said than done. But I think it is worth a try. If OB can find a way to live with chronically homeless, addicted persons, I think we can find a way to live with one another.
Joy and I returned to my apartment, slipped into warm, dry clothes, and heated up some spiced apple cider. As I curled up under a blanket on the couch, I thought about all those who were Occupying through the cold rain and snow. While I enjoyed my comfortable home, they gave up their homes so that they can live out the kind of community they want America to become. How can I show the same dedication to my fellow Americans, even if I can't sleep in a tent or feed the homeless? How can we as the Church support our communities, even as our communities are different from us?