I got up early this morning to join the People’s Prayer Breakfast held at The Church of the Pilgrims in Washington, D.C. In order to get there I had to thread my way through police barricades and closed streets around the Washington Hilton Hotel. Thousands of people of faith-based leaders were gathered at the Hilton for the annual National Prayer Breakfast, where President Obama gave the keynote address. The cost is several hundred dollars per plate.
The People’s Prayer Breakfast charged nothing. With signs pointing us to the church basement I walked in to a room twinkling with tiny white Christmas lights. The round tables were hugged tight by chairs–the room was fully occupied. Coffee and tea flowed freely. The Hari Krishna’s provided fruit salad. Someone had boiled mountains of eggs. An abundant table was set for whosoever would come and the banner stretched over head read “Enough for Everyone.”
We were led in prayer and silence by a nun from the Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Poolsville, Maryland. And Sweet-Honey-In-The-Rock-great Dr. Ysaye Barnwell sang an earth-groaning rendition of “Kumbaya, My Lord” to a generation who were experiencing for the first time the power of Black church music as a political and social force to be reckoned with.
The People’s Prayer Breakfast was not a protest against the National Prayer Breakfast, as some have framed it. Indeed, there were some leaders who were attending both. Instead, the People’s Prayer Breakfast extended the circle, opened the table, fired up the prayer, and grounded good spirituality in the lives and experiences of the humble, the poor, the young and the old, the disenfranchised and the powerless.
“To abstain from prayer is to refuse to let oneself be loved,” Brian Merritt reminded us, quoting Gabriel Marcel. I don’t know how folks at the Hilton felt afterward, but OccupyFaithDC, OccupyChurch, OccupyJudaism, OccupyJummah invited the people to breakfast and all went away marveling at the love they felt in the breaking of the bread.–Rose Marie Berger
Rose Marie Berger is a Catholic peace activist and poet. She blogs at www.rosemarieberger.com.