In an article appearing in Crain’s New York Business (online) today, discussion centered on whether or not Trinity Church would or should yield access to a parcel of land it owns on Canal Street to the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Among other voices, one who spoke to the issue was The Rev. John Merz, the priest-in-charge at Church of the Ascension in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. To excerpt from that article (which in turn quotes him, in part):
The space could be used “in a limited way” for a short period of time. “It can be done in a way that’s creative and vibrant,” he said. “In terms of them being a real estate company, their stance makes sense. In terms of them being a church, it makes no sense. The question is, where are their obligations?”
Rev. Merz is wrong. Trinity, as a church, has every right to say “no” to the OWS people. This is politics. Churches do their best when they stay out of politics. If Trinity Church were to provide such accommodation to this directionless rebellion, what kind of message would that send? Not only to its commercial tenants (which it seems is the insinuation of the closing comment), but to us, the people who look to the church to provide some sense of relief from all this earthly discord?
On a humanitarian basis, it’s great that the church is already providing access to restrooms, meeting rooms, etc. But why single Trinity out to provide access to its own private property for the benefit of this group? Particularly when the property is so far away from the focus of the movement? Why not instead target a parking lot? Or a street? Or a pier? Does the fact that the protesters find Trinity’s property convenient, or that they like the space perhaps, give them the right to just claim it as their own? What kind of message does that send?
I applaud Trinity for not caving in to the will of a few in a movement that is merely masquerading as public opinion. And I encourage those more politically-inclined members of the clergy to take the higher road, and not to espouse actions that would pull the church down into this morass.