Christian Anarchism and Activism

Lighting of candles at Trinity+St. Peter's Episcopal Church, San Francisco, CA.

Lighting of candles at Trinity+St. Peter's Episcopal Church, San Francisco, CA.

Christian Anarchism is a strand of political thought within the Anarchist philosophy that stands in constant critique of any who would exercise power over others. It rejects the notion of the state or nation, and stands instead in witness to the Kingdom of God as the Supreme means of human freedom. Christian Anarchism in practice can be summed up in the phrase "Sacred Resistance;" resistance to participation in the mechanisms of government power and violence, and vocal critique of power structures that inhibit human freedom. Christian Anarchist reject war, government without free consent, the police and military apparatus, the system of retributive justice embodied in the prison system, and a judicial system that criminalize human personhood. Many Christian Anarchists reject military service, reject the use of courts for arbitrating conflict, see private property as theft from the poor, and exercise non-voting as a way to refuse their consent to governing powers and their violence. Others have used tax-resistance. We take great effort to critique the founding narratives of nations that rely on persecution, nationalism,  economic, and other types of violence to subjugate the "other." Christian Anarchism is wholly committed to non-violence, and uses the means of non-violent resistance, protest, art, and critique to challenge the structures of power that deny God's call to love and serve. Justice, mercy and forgiveness, love, service, and the rejection of institutions that maintain power through violence, for Christian Anarchists, are the only means by which human freedom may be achieved for any person, but especially those who are oppressed, disenfranchised, or outcast. I am an adherent of this philosophy.

Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes are the framework within which Christian Anarchism finds its deepest scriptural expression, as well as in the narrative of Jesus' life and ministry, and indeed the whole arc of scripture beginning with Israel's rejection of God's rule in favor of a King, and through the speaking of the prophets against the powers of the state. The works of Leo Tolstoy, Jacques Ellul, Alexandre Christoyannopolous, Ammon Hennacy, Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin have expanded the philosophy of Christian Anarchism into a broader philosophical framework, and demonstrated the living of it. 


Working in the Streets

There are many ways in which ministry to the community takes shape. From prayer vigils to protest; celebrating holy days in unique ways for the community; and supporting the ministries of our local entertainers who raise money for local non-profits; it is a privilege to love and serve such a diverse community.

You can view more photos on the Snapshots page.


In the World But Not of It

The annual gathering snapshots and music: Sibelius arranged for the Brothers' Schola, and a rousing Welsh hymn round it out.

The Brotherhood of Saint Gregory  is a Christian Community of The Episcopal Church, its Communion Partners, and the worldwide Anglican Communion, whose members follow a common rule and serve the church on parochial, diocesan, and national levels. Members — clergy and lay, without regard to marital status — live individually, in small groups, or with their families. They support themselves and the community through their secular or church-related work, making use of their God-given talents in the world while not being of the world. The trust that all labor and life can be sanctified is summed up in the community’s motto: Soli Deo Gloria, To God Alone the Glory.

I have been a member of the community since 1994, having made my first vows in 1996, and my Life Profession in 2001. I have at various times served as its Director of Education, Pastoral Care Team Leader, Chapter's Councillor, and the Minister Provincial of Province VIII, a position I held for nearly 15 years. This beloved community defines my entire life.

Flexibility is crucial in the ministry of the Brotherhood. Each member is encouraged to develop his gifts and talents under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the care and direction of the community. Brothers work in parishes as liturgists, musicians, librarians, artists, visitors to the poor and the sick, administrators, sextons, teachers, guild members, and clergy. On diocesan and national levels, brothers serve in a number of administrative and pastoral capacities. Many of those in secular employment continue the servant theme, and work as teachers, nurses and administrators. The aim is always to follow Saint Gregory the Great as “servants of the servants of God” — whether in church or society.


Spiritual Companionship

Br. Karekin preaching at a Convocation of the Brotherhood.

Br. Karekin preaching at a Convocation of the Brotherhood.

Spiritual Companionship is the process by which two individuals, under the guidance and direction of the Spirit of God, engage in the exploration of intentionality about the spiritual life. As a Spiritual Companion, my job is to facilitate that conversation so that the individuals under my charge can safely explore and unfold what is of the deepest spiritual value in their lives.

I have engaged in this kind of work for 20 years, and have worked with individuals across a wide spectrum of gender identity, sexual orientation, denominational affiliation, and religious experience. I have worked with a large number of clergy, lay individuals, and members of a variety of religious orders. For myself, I can say that the work has only enhanced my own spiritual life and that I have been fortunate to be both teacher and learner from those with whom I’ve worked.

I find the process of Spiritual Companionship very dynamic, and my role is to use the tools at my disposal and the insights from our conversations to find ways to help you engage your spiritual life more deliberately. This may include written assignments, reading, reflection, prayer exercises - all of which are suggestions. Most of them are exercises that I have found helpful in this work in the past, some will be tailored to the individual’s experience and needs.

“There is no here. There is no now. Both are spectral things that you and I will never inhabit again on this continuum. Even these cells on my face that feel the wind will be gone some days from now. I will not be in the same body, the particles that make me will not be configured just the same. The tree that watches me will change, this breeze will return from where it came, I guess, or maybe not. Perhaps in a dream some weeks from now I will remember this dance...but it will be remembered by a different me in some new here and now that we have not yet discovered. Stretched like a web between two stair posts, softly thrumming.”
Br. Karekin, BSG

Testimonials

Here are some testimonials from some of the folks I’ve worked with over the years:

“It's no exaggeration to say that my life has radically changed under Brother Karekin's spiritual companionship. As I have shared with Brother K my spiritual autobiography and current situations and challenges, it has given me new insights, helped me recognize patterns, and guided me in discerning God's path for my life. Karekin has done all this with great empathy, humor, and love. In fact, such abundant and disarming love was the first thing I noticed about Brother Karekin when we met: before knowing anything about me, before I had done anything to deserve that love, Karekin loved me—as Karekin does all in their  encounters together—and made me feel that this was a safe, non-judgmental ear.” — from a lay person in the Episcopal Church
“Br. Karekin's remarkable honesty is matched only by Karekin's profound insights and deep love for those companions on spiritual journey. Conversations with Brother K have invariably inspired me to a renewed commitment to growth and transformation in my relationship with God.” — from an Episcopal Priest
“Br. Karekin has exceptional skills as a Spiritual Director.  Karekin has an unusual ability to listen deeply and ask very insightful questions that open up new areas of self-understanding and spiritual reflection.  This work is clearly a God-given vocation for Brother K.  I have benefited greatly from working together - in particular, my relationships with others, with myself, and with God, as well as my understanding of my own vocation, have all been very positively impacted by the work we have done together.” — from an Episcopal Religious and Youth Director
“Brother Karekin offered me spiritual advising ten years ago when I was running a nonprofit concentrating on religious activism and encountering antagonism within the ranks of my fellow activists.  Through many conversations, Brother Karekin acted a conduit for me to hear the voice of the divine, making room through my own distress to listen in on deeper truths and richer possibilities.  It was a truly constructive experience to enter into this space of reflection with the intimacy of another person's complete attention, and one that I would recommend wholeheartedly to any individual pursuing a religious or spiritual path or one of social justice.” — from a social activist and Ivy League professor
“Working with Brother K as my spiritual companion helped me to rediscover the blessings of the tradition I thought I abandoned. Karekin walked with me through tears of sorrow and joy, and helped me find ways to discover and cultivate my inner resources and gifts. I still hold my sessions close to my heart.” — from an ecumenical Franciscan brother
“With amazing insight, compassion, integrity, authenticity, and a sense of humor … Karekin is such a beautiful force for coaching and counseling those challenged with coloring outside the lines of social acceptance - particularly the young and vulnerable. I commend Brother K!” — from a life coach and educator
“I have worked with Br. Karekin for many years now. K has seen me through some very intense times of discernment of my calling as a deacon and as a religious. What is the most important part of Karekin's presence is not only the love and support but the challenging that I need in order to really think, pray, articulate and move forward on my journey with God. Spiritual work, properly done, is hard. Karekin's presence has been vital!” — from an Episcopal Deacon and Religious

If you’d like to grab a virtual Skype coffee to talk about these and any other details, I am always available at your pleasure. (gregorian dot friar at gmail dot com)


Living in Love and Service

I live in San Francisco's Castro district with Anthony my beloved husband of 18 years and our two dogs. Our home, Casa de Guadalupe, is a place of respite, hospitality, and refreshment. Anthony is an artist and we are both former chefs, so there is often something good cooking. You can see Anthony's work here.

I have a deep spiritual relationship wth the Blessed Mother, so Our Lady of Guadalupe has been the patron of our home for many years. A small prayer chapel dedicated to her honor is the first thing to greet visitors to our home. Her Feast Day (December 12) and the Dia de Los Muertos are celebrated to much fanfare here. I was consecrated to her service on her feast day in 2015. 

Board game nights, potluck suppers, and family dinners are a regular feature of life at the friary. It is in this place I find refreshment for the work I do in the world.

I currently work for San Francisco Night Ministry and Trinity+St. Peter's Episcopal Church, and I sit on the Advisory Board of Sacred Space SF, an outreach ministry to the LGBT*Q community. I volunteer for and am a previous President of the Recycled AIDS Medicine Program which provides unused HIV med for clinics in the developing world. I have also previously exercised ministry as a Hospital Chaplain, and as a consultant and former employee of Church Publishing, Inc. in their efforts to bring the Book of Common Prayer and other resources for worship and prayer into the digital age. In short, better than half of my life has been dedicated to ministry for the Church and the people of God. My ministry as the Brother Protector of the Companions of Dorothy the Worker, named for Dorothy Day, is a fulfillment of the Gospel call to live in love and holy relationship with all, most especially my own LGBT*Q community, who has been persecuted and oppressed. CDW's Principles are a model of Christian love and dedication. It is a privilege to witness with them in the streets, engaging in protest, standing vigil, providing conversation (Sacred Table) and holy relationship, and in doing so discover myself as a Beloved of God.


The Rev. Mother Diana Wheeler, CDW and Br. Karekin at the Vigil in honor of the fallen in Orlando. 2016

The Rev. Mother Diana Wheeler, CDW and Br. Karekin at the Vigil in honor of the fallen in Orlando. 2016

Prayer in Action

Being a vowed religious means living a life centered in prayer. But prayer that doesn't lead one to action is not fruitful. It is ever thus for those who would be Christian in truth. Whether in religious life or in secular life. Prayer is an invitation to transformation.

When we pray, we don’t pray to change God’s mind. Instead, we pray to change our own heart. Pray to be made compassionate if we are selfish; pray to be given strength when we feel weak. Pray so that we might take action against injustice or suffering rather than sit idly by. Pray so that we are humbled by our flaws and yet grateful for our gifts and strengths. If our heart is hard, pray that it be made tender. Pray to see ourselves with clear eyes, neither too proud nor filled with self-doubt and judgment. Pray to be filled with empathy for those who are sick, abandoned, imprisoned, or suffering. We are called to embody Christ in the world, as the Body of the One in whom the entire Universe’s striving for reconciliation and perfection is made active. So, pray! Pray so that our eyes become clear and our heart emptied enough to make room for the Love that binds all of Creation to this present moment. It is here that the world will be made whole.

Br. Karekin at prayer at San Damiano Friary, the home of the Franciscan friars in San Francisco.

Br. Karekin at prayer at San Damiano Friary, the home of the Franciscan friars in San Francisco.

The only thing we can guarantee that God will give us in our prayers is a breathtaking invitation into the unifying love that opens our hearts to the truth of our freedom as human creatures. We are free to choose what we will, but it is only through love that we will see ourselves and the world as unbearably full of grace and beauty. Without love, forgiveness is impossible, and mercy and justice are elusive and constrained. But — if we accept the invitation to love as we were created to do; if we embrace love as the force that binds the whole Creation to unifying purpose; then the freedom we receive in return will illuminate the truth of us. We are magnificent creatures one and all! And God will take all that is wounded and make it whole. And through union with the unifying love of the Divine Life, we will all come to fullness of life in the arms of the Beloved.

My life is about making gratitude for the love of God, and prayerful thanksgiving for that love, the center of my world. And the ever-present hope that in living this life of gratitude I may be constantly compelled to serve those who are deemed unlovable or who see themselves as unloved.