Posts Tagged ‘occupy wall street’


Zephania and Economic Justice

November 18, 2011

On Sunday, November 13, one of the lectionary readings for the day was from the book of the prophet Zephania. In it the speaker warns the people about the dangers of “resting on the dregs” of economic wealth.

In the two Sunday services at First Church Berkeley, preachers Phil Porter (9 am) and Sam Rennebohm (11 am) reflect on issues of economic justice, weaving in reflections on the Occupy movement and the 99%.

Here are the videos of the two sermons:



Non-Violence: More Reflections on the General Strike

November 7, 2011

Sam Rennebohm, First Church Seminary Intern, shares his experiences of the march to the Port of Oakland that was part of the General Strike called by the Occupy Oakland movement on Wednesday, November 2.

The march yesterday evening was one of the most amazing demonstrations of people power I have seen—inspiring, non-violent, communal. I remember being on top of the bridge into the port and seeing people stretching for blocks and blocks in either direction. There were people of all ages and races, Berkeley and Oakland teachers, workers representing their unions, babies and toddlers, people on stilts and on bicycles, high schoolers and university students. Rarely do we witness such a true representation of that phrase “all walks of life.”

We marched into the port with such positive and life-affirming energy. As we walked through the port, people broke into celebration. There was dancing and singing and drumming, and people waved flags. There were also powerful conversations happening in small groups, people talking about their ideas and ideals with one another in passionate ways. All the while it was the sheer presence of so many folks that was causing the Port to have to shut down its operations.

At one point in the evening, while we were blocking one of the gates to the port, two or three people got angry with a car that was driving by and started to bang on the windshield. A group of maybe 100 soon gathered around them and started chanting “peaceful, peaceful” with enough force to entirely change the energy. The people who were angry calmed down, and the crowd convinced them to let the vehicle drive away.

It was an amazing indication to me that, even though there is no true center or established leadership here, the overwhelming (literally) majority are committed to non-violent methods.

I left the Port around 9pm, and the energy was still very celebratory and positive. Even as we were piling into the BART, people were giving each-other high-fives and hugs and telling their stories.

Reading the news-reports from the middle of the night, it saddens me to hear of what took place. It also convinces me of the importance of continued involvement in this growing movement – the importance of maintaining strong voices for the methods of non-violence.

More about First Church Berkeley…


National “Move Your Money” Day

October 28, 2011

by Richard Wong, a member of First Church Berkeley

National Move Your Money Day is November 5th—A way to participate in the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

Move Your Money logoOn October 13th about 30 people from FCCB, the GTU community, and local clergy met to discuss how people of faith can support the Occupy Wall Street movement. One idea was to encourage people to move their money from major banks to more local options. This is not a new idea. It was first proposed by Arianna Huffington in December 2010 as a New Year’s resolution to address the excesses of the banking industry and the havoc they have played in the housing market and in the economy at large. This idea has now gained national momentum because of Bank of America’s debit card fee and the Occupy Wall Street movement.

On October 25th, Jody and I completed transfer of our bank accounts from Chase to First United Services Credit Union. We did this to align ourselves with the National Move Your Money campaign, which has declared November 5th as the day to move your money from large banks to credit unions and local community banks. We feel that we can make a difference in a concrete way by this action. We are standing with “the 99 percent.” So far, over 45,000 people have pledged on Facebook to participate. For more information on the ‘Move Your Money’ campaign, visit online at

The “Big Six” banks, JP Morgan/Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have evolved in the past few years to become the institutions “too big to fail.”  Why do we have this situation?  In 1990, the six largest banks accounted for 9 percent of all U.S. deposits.  By the end of 2010, the six biggest banks accounted for 36 percent of deposits.  This concentration of deposits into the major banks was the result of 37 regional/national banks (remember Security Pacific Bank?) in 1990, merging from buyout, acquisition, and bankruptcy to become only four in 2009 (Citibank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan/Chase).  Add the investment banks, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and we have the Big Six.

The result of this shift was that the largest and most profitable banks have moved away from being traditional lending institutions and have become speculative trading entities.

This collective mismanagement has resulted in the foreclosure crisis, record high levels of unemployment, and the American and world economies in turmoil. It is time to reverse this trend.

Jody and I invite you to join us in the Move Your Money campaign as a concrete way to “do something” in the face of our current economic crisis.

To find a local credit union go to, submit your address, and a listing of credit unions in the area will be given.


Adding our Voice to the 99 Percent

October 10, 2011

by Sam Rennebohm

“Justice is not an ancient custom, a human convention, a value, but a transcendent demand, freighted with divine concern” —Abraham J. Heschel

We are the 99%We stand at a point in history when the onerous weight of inequity has become so burdensome that it calls forth the forces of resistance. We are witnessing one of the most pronounced divides between rich and poor in the history of this country. That divide has manifest  itself in the most palpable ways: months of unemployment, foreclosed homes, mounting debt and precipitous loans, and cutbacks in social services. We would be remiss to ignore that those who have been most adversely affected are disproportionately people of color, further cementing our history of racial disparity.

The circumstances we now face are similar to those described by the prophets of the Old Testament. Amos decried those who “trample on the poor” and “push aside the needy at the gate,”  Jeremiah spoke out against those who “have become great and rich” with “deeds of wickedness,” and Isaiah railed against those “who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one.” In the New Testament, we read of Jesus overturning the money changing tables and calling on the wealthy to give their possessions to the poor,  These are the voices of our tradition, crying out from the pages of our most sacred text.

Those same words of righteous indignation now echo through the streets of our nation. They can be read on the signs of people camping out on Wall Street. They can be heard on the lips of seasoned protestors and disillusioned young people, returning war veterans and longtime union members. The spirit of principled resistance, so epitomized in scripture, is now spreading through our country.

As Progressive Christians, we speak of God’s call to work for justice and righteousness in the world. We speak of the good news promised by Jesus—that the last shall become first, the hungry shall be fed, the naked shall be clothed. We speak of an age of hope and possibilities, of new beginnings that draw ever closer to God’s kin-dom. This nascent movement is an opportunity for progressive Christians to add voices and our vision to the plurality of people calling for change. The occupation of Wall Street and the subsequent protests that have sprung up across the country call us forward to live into our faith, to lend what resources we have, to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, to articulate our expectations and our dreams.

People of faith will gather for a meeting on Thursday, October 13 led by Sam Rennebohm. Read more…