While we proudly continue our history that traces itself to the giant sukkah at Lownsdale Park ("Beta Camp") in downtown Portland at the heyday of Occupy Portland, history and tradition are never static. As the Occupy movement evolved over time and transformed itself into many different manifestations, it is time for this organization to re-imagine itself to recapture the spirit that created this group in the first place.
(1) A much heavier emphasis on community-building rather than "just" activism or "just" chaplaincy. In fact, the group's role as providers of spiritual support probably would diminish although we aim for creating a visible presence within the movement and beyond.
What would be a spiritual community that is authentic, organic, yet diverse? We in the Portland area are often known for our weirdness as well as being unchurched. Yet many Portlanders are deeply spiritual in many ways. Emergent churches in Portland area have imagined and created many impressive communities, based on their (usually) Evangelical, Protestant backgrounds. But what if the community is even more diverse, having no clear majority but instead many faith traditions (or lack thereof) are more or less evenly represented?
What would such a community do? What would their emphasis be? How do they "worship"? How do they connect, build a community, and serve?
(2) A rebranding -- "Interfaith Solidarity" sounded too abstract, too sterile, and too political. "Interfaith Guild of Chaplains" sounded too exclusive and limiting. The word "interfaith" especially for those who are not members of Abrahamic faith traditions often evokes negative feelings (as most "interfaith" organizations only include mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish denominations) and also too "institutional" and even "elitist." Although "Interfaith Solidarity" was chosen last summer as a self-explanatory moniker, it did not quite work. I am looking for something that is more welcoming, fosters a sense of belonging and community, and at the same time clearly communicates the group's history and visions.
Our group drew initial inspiration from Boston's Protest Chaplains. That group consisted mostly of seminarians representing liberal mainline Protestant denominations, as well as ministers from such churches. The word "chaplain" originally means a keeper of a chapel. In our history, the sukkah built by SaraHope Smith ended up our de facto chapel and community center. But now we do not have a chapel per se, just a small altar that symbolically holds its presence inside the Fremont Room. We named ourselves Interfaith Guild of Chaplains primarily to clarify that we weren't just for Christians. Indeed, the first three members who joined me were Jewish.
I still believe that this movement needs a voice of conscience, moderation, and above all, a voice that is rooted in some spiritual wisdom. Yet, our role mainly as chaplains is no longer the situation.
We need something imaginative. (Although, we might keep the "Interfaith Solidarity Cascadia" moniker as a tagline or a secondary part of the new name, just for the sake of clarity.)