#OccupyWallStreet: Without a Vision, the People Will Perish

By Cathleen Falsani 10-17-2011

The Rev. Michael Ellick (center in black) leads a multi-faith service in Zuccotti Park on Sunday. Photo by Cathleen Falsani/Sojourners

The Occupy Wall Street movement is a month old.

Now what?

On Sunday afternoon, I stood in Zuccotti Park with several thousand other folks trying to take in the veritable circus that is the Occupation site sandwiched between Wall Street and Trinity Episcopal Church.

Who is working here? Who is loafing? Which ones are performing for attention and spare change like so many street mimes? Who is actually sincere in their attempts to foment a new kind of justice in our world?

And will any of this make a difference another month from now?

The Kumbaya-quotient is off the charts in Zuccotti Park and much of it rings authentic. The smell of Nag Champa incense hangs in the air mixed with the odors from nearby falafel, pretzel and Sabrett hot dog carts. There are lots of dread-locked white kids with nose rings and bare feet, plenty of tie dye, Che Guevera t-shirts and fresh-faced, lightly tattooed young mothers breastfeeding a few yards away from an impromptu meditation circle. There were also multi-generational family outings, where a grandmother was teaching her teenage granddaughter about the Catholic Worker movement, and small bands of young Lubavitch Chabad Jewish men -- carrying date palm, willow and myrtle branches (and some impressive citron -- or etrog -- specimens) -- who stopped passersby whom they presumed to be Jewish as well to ask whether they were celebrating Sukkot (the feast of booths) and offering to daven (pray) with any willing men.

About 3:30 p.m. a contingent of Roman-collar-wearing clergy men and women -- Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, Native American and many others -- arrived carrying the now-famous papier mache golden calf aloft like a sacrificial lamb or a statue of San Gennaro. The religious leaders and other people of faith gathered for the now-weekly Multi-Faith Service, that included litanies of prayers, petitions, scripture reading, and a lot of singing (accompanied by acoustic guitars and at least one auto-harp.)

After an hour or so of echoing statements of faith, prayers and petitions aloud and in unison, when the hundreds-strong crowd began to disperse, I caught up with one of the event's organizers -- the Rev. Michael Ellick of New York City's Judson Memorial Church.

Lubavitchers and their Sukkot Mobile parked across from Zuccotti Park. Photo by Cathleen Falsani/Sojourners

Standing at the top of a flight of stone stairs at the west end of the park, looking down on the massive crowd as it moved through the rabbit warren of tarpaulins, lean-tos and the occasional portable sukkah (it is Sukkot, after all) below, I turned to the vaguely weary clergyman and asked, "So ... what now?"

"We're organizing faith communities around issues of economic justice and we see this as the mark to do it," Ellick said before making a small motion toward the Zuccotti Park crowds and adding, "This will fade. This will fade tomorrow."

Ellick has been involved with the Occupation, as it's come to be known, since its genesis. While he doesn't camp at the park and isn't there each day, he is a part of a larger organization of clergy and spiritual leaders who have made a point of showing their solidarity with demonstrators and pointing out the parts of the movement and its concerns that have deep moral resonance.

So Ellick's "fade" comment at first caught me off guard, which I'm guessing he saw in my face.

"I don't put a lot of stake in it," Ellick explained. "And I don't think we should tie our wagon. But we are putting together these [summit] meetings with faith leaders in the city to talk about what it has meant for us in the larger, long-term economic message.

New York City's faith leaders are working on something unique -- you could call it radical or even revolutionary.

Ellick didn't want to give too much away (a public announcement is expected sometime late today or tomorrow), but he did say, "I basically have an idea that I want to have us all come around and how to take all this energy and put it into a goal that is both moral

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