As the Occupy L.A. encampment on Monday maneuvered to avoid eviction, local clergy representing congregations in the foothills and Pasadena have been working to bring their own brand of hope and support to the movement.
Los Angeles officials — wary of the criticism similar efforts received in Oakland and New York — have been grappling with how to evict the occupiers for weeks. Early Monday morning, protesters defied a midnight deadline to clear out and planned to seek a court injunction to keep authorities from dismantling their camp.
The frustration of those involved in the Occupy movement has generated sympathy far beyond the hundreds of people who converged on the downtown Los Angeles site Monday morning to protest the eviction, clergy members said.
“I think a lot of people in our churches are very sympathetic to what’s going on here,” Andy Schwiebert, a pastor with the United Church of Christ’s First Congregational Church of Pasadena, said Friday after participating in a service at the encampment. “We have a number of highly capable people in our church who are out of work due to the failure of our economy as a result of greedy decisions by the wealthiest 1% of this country.”
From participating in talks with Los Angeles police, to using church kitchens to prepare hot meals, or hosting a faith sanctuary tent at the encampment, local clergy have been tapping their own resources to minister to the protesters for weeks.
Paige Eaves, pastor of the Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church, said members of her congregation have voiced support for the Occupy movement.
“They see the connection between their faith and action in the world,” she said. “It echoes back to the Old Testament — every time God’s people became more concerned about themselves and their own wealth, and not only forgot the poor but trampled on them, God issued a warning and a judgment.”
Members of the progressive Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice have petitioned Los Angeles city officials not to evict demonstrators from the encampment, and All Saints Rector Ed Bacon has participated in talks with police.
For the past two weeks, Occupy L.A. supporters have used the kitchen at All Saints Church in Pasadena to prepare free hot meals for demonstrators.
And clergy have maintained a faith sanctuary tent at Occupy L.A., offering food, counseling and prayer services for the hundreds of demonstrators.
“There’s some sense of brokenness that I think is at the heart of this movement — loneliness and the need for community and a feeling that this country has turned into a place where it’s every person for themselves,” Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center Rabbi Joshua Levine-Grater said.
-- Joe Piasecki, Times Community News
Photo: Pasadena Jewish Temple & Center's Rabbi Joshua Levine-Grater, center, sings along with other religious leaders during an interfaith rally held at the steps of Los Angeles City Hall at Occupy L.A. in downtown L.A. on Friday, November 25, 2011. Credit: Raul Roa/Times Community News
Editor's note: This story has been updated from an earlier version.