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by Jeremy Sierra
“The Occupy Movement is a light from above through the people from below,” the Rev. Dr. James Forbes said at Trinity’s "Occupy: A May Day Teach-In."
Dr. Forbes, Senior Minister Emeritus of The Riverside Church, was the first of the speakers at the event, which convened a group of intellectuals, writers, priests, and activists in Trinity’s television studio to consider Occupy Wall Street and the moral and political issues that face it.
Dr. Forbes called Occupy Wall Street a blessing and a light that exposes, illuminates, and even heals the nation’s hidden ailments.
In true occupy fashion, the speakers addressed various ailments about which they were passionate: Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, author and psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, spoke about the horrors of modern warfare, and Blanche Wiesen Cook, professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, touched on the problems facing American education.
Author Joyce Carol Oates called on Occupy Wall Street to develop a “deliberate and conscientious agenda that’s not going to exclude.”
Peader & Pio, an Irish folk duo, treated the audience to musical interludes between the ten speakers. Dr. Charles Strozier, professor at John Jay College, hosted the event.
The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, reminded the audience that “we will not enjoy deep joy and happiness as long as some experience the injustice of poverty.”
Many of the speakers agreed that economic inequality is a moral issue that the church cannot ignore.
“There is no authentic belief in God without consistent attention paid to the poor,” said The Rev. Mark Bozzuti-Jones, priest at Trinity Wall Street, who confessed that a part of him wished that Trinity Wall Street had birthed the movement.
“Occupy Wall Street reminds each and every one of us exactly how courageous we need to be,” he said.
Located only a few blocks from Zuccotti Park and at the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway, Trinity has been involved in Occupy Wall Street from its earliest days.
The Rev. Dr. James Cooper, rector of Trinity Wall Street, spoke frankly about the “appropriately intense” conversations that have taken place between Occupy Wall Street members and Trinity, while emphasizing that Trinty and Occupy agree about most things, including about the need for regulation, advocacy, and tax and wage reform.
“We’re at the point of raising the issue, making it clear that something has gone amuck,” said Dr. Cooper. “Each of us will play a part with the tools that we have been given.”
Diego Ibañez, a member and organizer of Occupy Wall Street, reminded the audience that “There’s great things going on outside at Union Square,” where thousands had already gathered as part of Occupy Wall Street’s planned May Day protests.
Ibañez acknowledged his disappointment that Trinity did not allow the Occupy Movement to use Duarte Square, but focused more on the meaning of the movement. “A lot of us have felt what it means to lose yourself in something greater than yourself,” he said.
After he spoke, Ibanez, young and wearing a fedora and scarf, could be seen with Dr. Cooper in his clerical shirt and collar, speaking earnestly.
Bryan Parsons, an Occupy activist who works with the homeless, challenged the audience not to be so concerned with following the rules that they lose sight of what it is to be human and maintain important relationships.
Ibañez and Parsons left shortly after they spoke, presumably to join the events Occupy Wall Street had planned around the city. The Teach-In was planned to coincide with a general strike and march that were planned by Occupy on May Day. As the Teach-In was coming to a close, a crowd of thousands marched down Broadway to Wall Street.
Dr. Jim Jones, professor at Rutgers, read a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer during his talk: “Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good.”
“What an astounding vision,” he said.
Jeremy Sierra is Managing Editor for Trinity Wall Street.