Personal stories from the pilgrims who walked the “Pilgrimage for Justice” from 7 June 2012, from St Paul’s Cathedral, London to Cantebury Cathedral…
Alexander of Stroud’s Tale
What attracted me to Occupy Faith was the commitment to rethink society through conversation and dialogue. The global crises engulfing the world today are engulfing the world today are enormous. The pledge to begin a conversation about Justice, about a more wholesome lifestyle that is morally just and environmentally sustainable, was not in the old political ways that have let us all down. It is not a conversation with people who know the answers. It is a true conversation of people seeking good solutions.
The Pilgrimage is an extended opportunity to follow this conversation. Here are some thoughts: Each one of us has to find the path between self interest and social interest. It is no use confusing the two.
In the economy , producers, consumers, traders, workers, and owners need to get together to find a constructive way forward, co-operatively in everyone’s interest.
Ultimately we need an economy that rewards enterprise, and doesn’t reward mere ownership.
Occupy Faith is a society-forming movement. The pilgrimage brought this home to me as a real experience. About 25 people, from very diverse backgrounds, came together to walk to Canterbury. The call was for anyone with a will to combine a spiritual or religious path with social living and the hope for a more just society.
There were strong echoes of Chaucer’s Canterbury tales because we followed his route almost exactly, stopping at quite a few inns as well as pilgrim churches along the way.
None of us can really be summarised in a name or title, but we were a mixed assembly: a teacher, a minister, a vicar’s wife and mother of 5, a lady with a dog with a very homely tent, a lady about to be evicted for rent arrears and a great dancer, a social-worker-probation- officer-mental health support- worker- ( is that right, Bob?), a carer- Quaker- singer, a handful of students, one with a talent for finding especially elegant second hand clothes , a post graduate student also a wonderful orator, an Occupy Faith organiser or two, magical 3 year-old twins and their Brazilian mother, their father- a writer and tarot card consultant, a homeless man, a skateboard park inspirer, a mother of ten!, and a few other wonderful individuals…. Steve, Ellena, Alex…
Also we represented a good mix of creeds and spiritual orientations: Church of England, Reformist, Christian, Quaker, Buddhist, Catholic, Anthroposophist, Daoist, Mystic, Rastafarian, and we all thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Sikh Gurdwara in Gravesend and doing Tai-Chi in the mornings.
Over two weeks we got to know each other and lived socially together. In several places we set up our tents and were like a nomadic tribe. When humans lived deeply integrated in Nature and at one with their environment they travelled in little groups of 20 – 30 people- the first human societies perhaps).
In the words of some of my companions, Occupy is a seed for a compassionate revolution, for developing co-operative behaviour through conversation and consensus, respecting the freedom of autonomous adults.
The pilgrimage was orientated around spirituality- a real spirituality rooted in real life and ordinary day-to-day activities. The larger social aims of Occupy are expressed in the ideals like Truth, Justice, Mercy, Peace and Environmental awareness. The personal achievements on the pilgrimage are about learning sociability: interest in other people, in their own paths of pilgrimage: finding in our hearts the wish and will to support others on their spiritual and faith journeys and all of this alongside just getting along harmoniously with ordinary life on the move!
What I learned, in faith terms, is that Christ is a Social Being. Where two or three have come together in My name, there will I be among them. (Matthew18:20)
Certainly I say to you, In so far as you did it to one of the least of my brothers, You did it to me. ( Matthew25:40)
If you prefer a non-faith language: love is the most universal reality for human beings; it is both the origin and transcendence of our individual selves and our bond with Nature and with humanity. When the social element weaves between two or more people, then Love can be present. You are more your true Self if you are more connected.
Everyone’s conscience leads towards this social being.
If an employer, landlord, factory owner, or a shareholder knows that his or her workers or tenants are under conditions which prevent or are contrary to human dignity, then it is a matter of his or her conscience to change that situation. The kind of things which affect human dignity are working conditions, the length of working days, the possibility of receiving sick pay, as well as the wage or rent . (Care workers in Britain at the moment are not granted sick pay- this is a morally shocking reality. Are we consenting to that without applying the same to ourselves? )
Do the working conditions enable people to participate in the cultural and educational spheres of society, or are they allowing only basic sustenance?
Any Employer who relates to his working colleagues with a normal level of friendly, human interest will see the changes for good that need to be made.
Real togetherness, where the suffering or happiness of each individual becomes the concern of each of the others, will engender true healthiness. Good social relationships are a pre condition for healthy human beings
If we wish to avoid an unaffordable health crisis then the engendering of, and education for health in this country have to be pursued with vigour.
How we meet and greet one another is the ground level for healthy living. Our pilgrimage was a beautiful example of a social quest for health.
Laws, Social forms, and Economic conditions which cause separation and oppression are the final outcome of the failure of individual conscience. They will foster unhealthiness on every level.
At present, economic affairs are dominating the social and political arena. But economics is, or should be, about the production, and exchange of goods and services. It constitutes only a fraction of our possible relationships with each other, and with the whole of life, in its moral-spiritual dimension.
It is a warped view of life that allows the economic sphere of society to dominate both the spiritual-cultural sphere, and the arena of rights and mutual relationships. Occupy Faith is about restoring the balance.
A Conscience-inspired social impulse will have further consequences alongside a more just society. I think it will lead to a more productive, less foolishly wasteful economy; and a better environmental relationship will also follow when we properly value the two thirds or three quarters of life that should not be about economics.
Each one of us in life has to find the path between self interest and social interest. It is no use confusing the two.
Producers, consumers, traders, workers, and owners need to get together to find a constructive way forward, co-operatively in everyone’s and in the environmental interest. Economics should be about human relationships as well; and the global task is not to get rich but to provide the material and basic needs for all the world’s citizens.
Ultimately we need an economy that rewards enterprise, and doesn’t reward mere ownership. Someone who possesses money or land in an egoistical sense has power over other people; when money is managed selflessly, others are liberated.
As a pilgrim I learned these things because I learned to know myself in relationship with others and in conversation about the social evils of our time and the potential we all have for positivity. I am deeply grateful as an individual. I think I am on the way to being a better person, changed for good. I would recommend a pilgrimage for everyone of you at some point in your life.
I am also confident that the most positive seeds for social change and evolution are alive in the Occupy Movement.
Thank you Occupy.
Alexander Murrell- June 25th 2012
I joined the Pilgrimage on Sunday evening for three days and nights. One of the delights of the Pilgrimage has been the sharing of blessings and spiritual practices. A beautiful guided meditation/prayer from Kevin starting with “golden light inside us”, (which I relate very easily to as a Quaker) and not forgetting to be kind to and accept our own difficult feelings; a star blessing from Alex – a kind of body prayer; a wonderfully inclusive blessing from the Bishop of Rochester; and a Quaker grace from Bob. The stories of ‘warm fuzzies’ and a sermon of a green cross embroidered on a green background. Staying in this church has made it really feel like a house of God. And the group has a great sense of God running through all of us, and acting, and speaking through us and those we meet on the way. And the rain keeps falling, but doesn’t seem to dim our spirits.
Mini international community with a passionate desire to engage betweeen balancing society and awakening those of faith to their importance/duty in this process. Lots of encouragement from those already alive to the ills of our times and working for change. Minutes of sheer joy in a sight surrounded by large trees with swallows, parakeets, and ducks flying above, infront of exciting clouds. The singer is singer “stir it up” while I dance with the delightful three year old twins – exotically beautiful, being half-Brazilian. Tai the dog, trots into our circle, but cannot hold hands, so he returns to the centre of the camp circle and whizzes around chasing his tale and barking simultaneously before leaping up at branches to pluck leaves and twigs – the camp comedian and now centre of attention.
For Christ Church parish. I thank all that have and are with me in spirit on my walk for justice to Canterbury. Lord make me an instrument for our peace, where there is hatred let me show love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born into eternal life. With a warm hug, Nina.
I have brought “me” to this Pilgrimage in a variety of ways. For the proceeding weeks I have thought deeply about who I am and have tried to represent this in stories and prose. I have tried to dispose of any masks and let the inner “me” come to the forefront. Those ‘strangers’ who I met for the first time last Thursday are now very close friends. How rewarding to be so readily accepted for who I am. The love and generosity that has focussed on this pilgrimage has made it an intensely spiritual experience. My fellow Pilgrims are very stimulating, as thought, ideas, and learning pour forth from them. The exercise has eased my ailments and walking becomes easier each day. I came hoping for mental, spiritual, and physical growth and already my expectations have been exceeded.
The Marianists offer us an “Occupy Prayer”
May God bless us with discomfort
At easy answers half truths, and
So that we may live deeply within
May God bless us with anger
At injusticce, oppression, and exploitation
and the Earth.
May God bless us with tears
to shed for those who suffer,
From pain, hunger, homelessness
So that we may reach out
Our hand to comfort them,
And turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless us with
To believe that we can make a
difference in the world.
So that we can do what others claim
Cannot be done!
What a privilege – to be here. What a lovely group of people. We’re all so different/We’re all so similar! I’m not normally given to certainties – but I’m convinced that the “God of the poor” is with us, the “God (as Bishop James prayed in blessing us yesterday) of justice and joy”. So we’re going places. But as we head out together to share Occupy Faith, again and again, the local communities meet us as though the message has got here before us: overwhelming generosity and hospitality is changing us. Humbling and thrilling. Wow!
After months of planning, as much joy, despair, hope, triumph and tribulation as I have known in any of my walks of life – our journey has begun. I know very few of my fellow Pilgrims but this is all the better. Having two ears and one mouth I have decided to listen twice as much as I talk in conversations, walk humbly, and learn as much as I can from this endeavour – to spread the ideals of the Occupy movement to all the communities, faith groups and people we can engage with between St Paul’s and Canterbury Cathedral. Fortunately my fellow Pilgrims provide a deep well of knowledge, insight, and conversation to draw from. This group sharing has taken the shape, quite organically, in the form of the ancient pilgrimages I had hoped to emulate. Our path has led us to take sanctuary in Christ Church in Gravesend, in our occupation of this church it is beautiful to see the building being used for what I always imagined to be its most sincere purpose – unguided pray, song, reading and conversation. In this we have already achieved a microcosm of our purpose. As a result of our actions people have already started to engage in the shared goals of Faiths and Occupy, of a compassionate revolution in the way people relate to each other. If religious and academic spaces are reclaimed for public use then we have already gone a small way to correcting the some of the ills of our society.
Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini, a Muslim academic who is a national gold medallist traditional Irish singer and fiddle player, recited verses from the Quran at Canterbury Cathedral at the end of the Pilgrimage.
Muhammad Al-Hussaini Irish Songs