Center for the Working Poor House Journal

December 14th, 2011

By Paul Engler

The Center for the Working Poor (aka the Burning Bush Community) is continuing to live in our balance of communal life, serving the poor, prayer and meditation, and organizing a non-violent movement. Paul Engler has been much busier than is normal—and our jokes about his obsessive desire to plan the non-violent revolution have increased, considering the immense amount of time he has spent pacing the floors while speaking on the phone, coordinating non-violence trainings for Occupy LA, and his daily coffee meetings with activists. He has been spending a few days a week working at a mental health center called the Relational Center. It is a dream job for Paul, for it allows him to focus on developing better training for community organizing and building healthy and democratic affinity groups (aka small groups) to support the Occupy movement.  Paul has been juggling this explosion of activity, while continuing to deliver food to the impoverished families in our network that have been fired for being whistleblowers.

We have a new full-time volunteer named Elise Whitaker who has joined to help with organizing at Occupy LA. Most of all her time has been spent camping out at the tent city around City Hall, and participating in long consensus meetings there. Our good friend, and former Board member at the Center, Paulina Gonzalez, who is now executive director of SAJE, a local tenet rights organization, has been stopping by the house recently in our meetings to help to organize with the Occupy movement.

Sam Pullen has shown up at Occupy LA with members of his church to deliver food and participate in interfaith services with Clergy and Laity for Economic Justice. He has been instrumental in running the house, and he coordinates a project training for members of La Placita Catholic parish to do community organizing around immigrant rights. We saw dozens of leaders from La Placita Catholic Church at our yearly Labor Day celebration with the families we serve. There is an easy consensus that everyone loves Sam and his work at the Church, especially his cameo appearances as the famous Gringo Mariachi. It’s hard to believe that most of Sam’s time has been spent being a 2nd year seminarian at Claremont School of Theology. In addition, he has been working as a ministry intern at First Congregational Church in Pasadena, where he has helped to launch a new progressive worship called Aspire (www.aspireucc.org). Last but not least, we are so happy that Sam announced his engagement to his lovely fiancée, Elizabeth Gonzalez. We wish them blessings as they prepare for their life together.

As usual, we have had several people move in and out of the house. Elizabeth Griswold, a pastor of a progressive UCC church in Irvine, got engaged and moved out of the house to be with her fiancée. We are also sorry to see our long time community member Shoshana Raskas move out but happy that she is moving into a home with her fiancée Pablo in Temecula. While studying feverishly as a masters student at USC, Shoshana has contributed in many ways to our community, and she is reputed to be the best cook of our communal house meals.

New to our community is Stephanie Kimec. She works as a missionary doing immigrant rights work and provides services for the local immigrant community at Echo Park United Methodist Church. Stephanie is so nice and good-hearted that the rest of us feel like jerks in comparison.

We are also pleased that veteran community member John Breckenfeld has returned, who we know well from his volunteer service during our 22 day fast for immigrant rights in 2008 and his participation in our weekly Centering Prayer group. John is a dedicated nonviolent soldier who always does his duty, whether in his job as a fourth grade teacher at a local Catholic School, or in his chores at the house, which include cleaning out the dish rack (thanks, John!).

It seems that the Center is an incubator not only for the nonviolent revolution, but also for healthy relationships, considering the number of our members who have gotten engaged within the last year! (Kevin, Christy, Elizabeth, Sam, and Shoshana—who is next?) We pray that we may continue to make a better future possible by living according to God’s will in the present moment. Come join us for a free smoothie (our special form of communal love) the next time you are in our neighborhood!

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