On Wednesday, December 5, Christian activists led an ecumenical Advent Vespers service in Bank of America plaza in downtown Boston. The service, which was timed to coincide with evening rush hour, consisted of Advent-themed prayers, songs, and readings, and was organized by Protest Chaplains Robin Lutjohann and Kate Layzer.
Similar to the Wednesday morning “Occupy Lent” gatherings the Protest Chaplains led last Spring, the service combined traditional hymns and prayers along with readings and invocations that called attention to injustice, economic inequality, and the need for those who call themselves “religious” to address these issues
Advent is a season of preparation leading up to Christmas. Its themes include: longing for justice and righteousness, making room in the heart for God’s coming, and bearing witness to Christ. The Bank of America location was chosen as a symbol of worldly wealth and power, in contrast to the story of God’s humble entry into the world in the form of a homeless child.
The service was interrupted by an apologetic Boston police officer about five minutes after it started. The officer requested that the worshipers move. After repeated requests for clarification as to which part of the sidewalk was public and which private property, the group moved a few feet nearer to the curb and continued with the service. This actually amplified the protest component of the activity, as worshipers were now facing toward the bank and also toward commuters who had gathered to wait for the bus.
Quotations from scripture included the Magnificat of Mary (“He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly,” Luke 2) and Isaiah 58 (“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?”) The service also included this quote from Oscar Romero:
“No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need even of God—for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God. Emmanuel. God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God.”
Below is a video of the altercation and part of the Advent service:
Advent Vesper services will continue at the same location on Wednesday, Dec. 12, and Wednesday, Dec. 19, beginning at 5:30. Participants of all beliefs are welcome. Dress warmly. Signs are encouraged.