Some Christian churches will be offering more than prayer this winter, as they plan to devote resources, space and food to Occupy protesters who seek to continue their "march" against the current capitalist system.
As cities continue to crack down on the protesters -- Los Angeles and Philadelphia being two of the latest to do so -- some faith leaders are more than eager to step up and help. A few pastors and churches are even taking their devotion to bizarre levels, as they seek to find complete and utter solidarity with the Occupiers.
Take, for instance, Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village. Rev. Michael Ellick, a pastor at the church, has been deeply involved in the Occupy movement. He and his colleagues marched to Zuccotti Park when the protests first began. As was widely reported in national media, the group famously carried a golden calf -- created to look like the well-known Wall Street bull statue.
Following this well-publicized action, Ellick claims that members of the faith community have been reaching out to Judson to find out how they can get involved. With calls streaming in from people and institutions of all faiths, the reverend finds himself at the center of a support movement.
Since the New York City eviction, which was chaotic and boisterous, Ellick says that the movement has "boomed." "...Immediately there was this network in place that we’d developed of communities throughout New York that were willing to open up their doors and house the movement,” he explains.
What was once a few churches lending a helping hand has now become something greater, he explains. “Initially it was just sort of a few churches who work a lot together on these issues. Now it’s actually a pretty hefty power base in New York City."
Aside from helping meet physical needs, these churches are also holding spiritual services down at Zuccotti Park, as they seek to connect with Occupiers who might be friendly to the gospel. Ellick claims that more than 1,400 faith leaders across America have signed a pledge to support the protesters. Many of these individuals signed on after police cracked down on Zuccotti Park.
Ellick has also taken the lead on a faith coalition in New York City called "Occupy Faith." On November 20, in an effort to invigorate protesters, Ellick led an interfaith service. His project's web site claims that Civil Rights activists used the platform to pass "the torch of activism for a better world to the occupiers in a very moving ceremony."
Watch the service, below:
Ellick's most recent message on the Occupy Faith web site talks about the movement's next steps. It reads, in part:
Hello friends: Much to catch up on following the holiday weekend. Post-eviction from Zuccotti Park, the game has certainly changed form considerably here in NYC, but it seems clear that this has only grown the movement, and much is underway here in NYC. Let’s meet in person this Thursday (12/1) at 10:00a (at Judson) to compare notes and bring each other up to speed.
In particular, we are looking to hold a coordinated weekend of reflection on OWS and the underlying economic justice issues it represents on the weekend of Friday (12/16) – Sunday (12/18). In addition to continuing to educate our faith communities on these issues, our hope is to invite press to various communities around the city to show the true diversity and breadth of this movement here in NYC.
Although the media storm has cooled a bit, this letter shows that some in the faith community have no intention of abandoning the Occupy Wall Street mantra. And Ellick and his church aren't alone.
In Washington D.C., Christian activists have launched "Occupy Church," which holds Saturday afternoon prayer services and is seeking to establish a full-time chaplaincy for the protesters. Another D.C. group called "Occupy Faith DC" is helping protesters prepare for a possible eviction by creating a list of faith-based groups and individuals who may help if and when an eviction occurs.
It seems Jim Wallis isn't the only leftist faith leader helping sustain the Occupiers.