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Wednesday, October 29, 2014



Session meets early. Anxieties rising. It’s easy to look ahead and see the wall. Like the one on the Mexican border or between Israel and Palestine. Or at the 20 mile mark of any marathon. That’s what it feels like. We have resources. The question is how to use them wisely to build towards a future. We all feel a bit done in by meeting’s end.

The cast of Othello is hard at work preparing for next week’s workshop performance.

My son is heading to Phoenix for a week so there’s a family brunch before he goes.

The NMASS band
Tonight the National Movement Against Sweatshops NMASS) , the SWEAT campaign, Sweat Shop Free Upper West Side and Justice Will Be Served gather at West-Park for a party celebrating their recent victories against Domino’s Pizza and Indus Valley. Even though that last one took six years, the reality is that NMASS and the SWEAT coalition is undefeated against the big corporate players.  It’s a pretty impressive record for a group of grass roots workers in an exemplary Chinese- Latino coalition to have never fought a losing battle. The focus now is on Governor Cuomo.
Gov. Cuomo

When I get up to speak,
JoAnn  tells me to watch my time because everything has to be translated into Spanish, Mixtecoe Fujian Chinese. You have to love it. The table is laden with Chinese and Latino foods. The evening begins with the NMASS band playing some original protest songs. When I speak, I welcome them to our church, our house, nuestra casa es su casa…and remind them that they are undefeated…and will be undefeated because the cause is just and right.

Pastor Heidi and I laugh about when Domino's went after us. And we talk about the next steps in our community wide food justice work . I watch the people dancing, all shapes and sizes, that wonderful spirit that transcends class, shape, age or color. Then dj’s lights are flashing. The Latin beat pulsing…la lucha sigue…
Carlos and the NMASS leadership and Pastors Bob and Heidi

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Fall classic


Victoire and Jeremy working on  a song

Karen come sin to play the piano, but someone else is there. One of our interviewees for the administrator position has kept coming back just to play the piano. She waits. Her turn will come.

Pat O has come in. We need to rethink the congregational strategy given some recent session developments. After so many years, so many disappointments, it’s hard keeping the spirits up, hard keeping hope alive. It has been a hard road.

Richard from Brooklyn is in for his weekly volunteer session. More folding. And an hour of working with David S getting ready for Open Mic.

My son Dan is in town, so a family dinner gives me a late arrival to Open Mic. As I walk up to the church, Victoire and young Jeremy are working on a song together. That makes me smile. Pat O behind the bar tells me there’s been a lot of good talent tonight. The house is full.

It’s a classic night for spoken word. As always, Joel leads us on a unique journey, accompanied by Rabbi Steve again.
Joel Gold and Steve B
Poez has given us a chilling recitation of Edgar Allan Poe’s the Raven,( and to honor the World Series, Mandola Joe has his best rendition of Casey at the Bat yet. (

Still plenty of music with Pat O trying out new electronic equipment and David S with another good rock classic set. As young Jeremy finishes his set with an original, I hear Victoire adding harmony from the audience. Was this what they were working on? No, to finish her set, she brings up Jeremy
Nobody loves you when you're down and out
and they sing Nobody loves you when you’re down and out together. And this makes me happy. And Rabbi Steve starts out on ukelele before finishing on piano.  
Tonight Steve brought his uke

i know you Rider
Happier still with my own set. Tonight, I want to feature songs about fall. And for the first time, I do a full set of other singer’s songs. I open by myself with I Still Miss Someone, then bring  Pat up for So Lonesome…and then bring Joe up to join us for Rider…Fall? Well it’s World Series time. The fall classic. The Giants are in it. So wearing my Garcia shirt, we honor the only team to have an annual Jerry Garcia night. And singing I know you rider gonna miss me.. feels good.

David York 
Miriam has another set of ballads looking very Leonard Cohenesque in her hat. 
Miriam. And hat.

Longtime neighborhood resident David York, who was just wandering down the street and walked in closes ou the night with one children's song and some not children’s songs.

And as always, Stay Awhile to send us on our way. (Only RL has ever noted the irony of that…)
Yes. Stay Awhile.

Front cover
And back
This was our longest night of performers. There is a strong sense of community. And I love the collaborations. Yeah, a fall classic....

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The man who plays the piano brings me coffee


Nanna Mallan is an artist from Denmark and a friend of  Lotte and Carman. She was in worship last Sunday and has come  for a special tour of West-Park. She does photography. And installations. She dreams big. And from a look at her photographs, delivers. She wants to see the space. Feel the space. Understand the space. At the end, we sit and talk. She’s got ideas for a major installation. It will have to be maybe a year away. As she leaves, I give her one of Angelo’s angelitos. ( She’s done some amazing things with paper boats.

Pat O drops in for an update. Tomorrow, we’ll do a full redo on what we need to be looking at congregational development wise.

The man who plays the piano who brings me coffee delivers his large coffee with cream and sugar and heads to the Beckstein.

Tricia’s Othello continues to develop. She’s getting closer and closer to her open rehearsal performance.

On my way toy meet Russ J at St. Bart’s for the annual Tree of Life conference on Palestine. Tonight will feature two young women Israeli women conscientious objectors.

Friday, October 24, 2014

From other steps: Marquand Chapel, Yale Divinity School


Yale Divinity School

Random notes from Yale Divinity School 2014 Convocation and Class Reunions:

Peter S. Hawkins, Poetry and the Psalms: Singing a New Song
* King James has the poetry, the translation we carry in our bowels
* George Herbert’s 1633 lyric metric Psalm 23, the God of Love my shepherd is…unofficial Scottish national anthem. (
* Gerard Manley Hopkins created his own Psalms, like  Pied beauty: Glory be to God for dappled things…(

....and for a bonus, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah

Christian Smith Parents: the Real Pastors: The Absolute centrality of parenting in passing on religious faith and practice to the next generation
We have moved from religion as a communal solidarity project to a personal identity accessory

The Justice Imperative:How Hyper-incarceration Hijacked the American Dream by Marilyn Kendrix et al.
* We have 2.3 million behind bars
* We have more incarcerated than the top 35 eurocentric nations combined
* In Connecticut, there are 16,500 inmates, 46500 on parole, a total of 45000 in  the system
* Connecticut spends a billion a year on  Department of Corrections
* Even though we are a nation of 2nd chances, formerly incarcerated have penalties that go beyond time. Ineligible for public housing. Unrentable by landlords. Ineligible  for food stamps. Employment  discrimination is legal. Most rational thing to do is to reoffend and be sent back. 60% are back in prison within one year of release. Costs us 52,000 per inmate per year.
* We are the world leader in imprisoning our own people.With 5% of world's population we have 25% of world’s incarcerated.
And none can vote after felony conviction
Like a new Jim Crow (

 The Blue Note gospel: preaching the prophetic Blues in a Post-Soul World by Otis Moss III, successor to the controversial Jeremiah Wright at Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago
* The church is capitalism in drag
* Society of a neo-religious capitalism
* The blues expresses America from the underside
* The blues is catastrophe expressed quietly
* The blues expresses tragedy without despair
* The gift of the black church is joy in the face of desperate sadness, to express tragedy without ultimate despair, the ability to dance in the dark….

Giving the invocation at Woolsey Hall
My prayer of invocation at the alumni dinner:

Oh God, creator of the universe, of all that is, we praise you. We thank you for all around these tables. For the meeting of old friends. For memories of when ideas were exciting and study brought us close to you. Let these days rekindle the passionate desire to question, thing and learn. Help us remember all who brought this food to our table tonight. From planting to serving.  We thank you for the opportunity to renew our friendships and remember the times we spent together here. Let us enjoy this night together. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

And I guess that I just don't know

Closed all day Monday for a movie shoot.
Today….the sleeping man is out there under his white comforter between our steps and Barney Greengrass. Excuse me sir, but you’re going to have to....
Look I been respectin you by movin off your steps but you got no call getting hp in my face…
And I’m sayin you still can’t sleep here during the  day.
I’m off your goddam steps…what you’re problem…
It’s still our property..
Fuck your property and fuck you motherfucker. He gets up off the sidewalk, comes up on the steps and gets in my face. Raises a fist. Now you pushin it motherfucker..
Don’t think you wanna do that, sir. It’s not good for you. Not good sleepin’ on the sidewalk. Not good.
Fuck you motherfucker.
I go inside. Tell Leila the sleeping man is uncooperative and downright nasty. Turns out he was nasty to her too. So I call Project Reachout and they agree to stop by.
Pat O comes by to help put the week in order. To help analyze last week’s emotional meeting. Figure out what’s next. I tell him the good of last week’s Sunday service.
Karen is in the sanctuary, playing her music.
Stephanie comes in to schedule the rehearsal times for her choir.
Carman’s Danish artist friend Nanna comes in. Shows me her installation boats on the edge. Paper boats in the sea off Copenhagen. She’ll come back Thursday for a full tour.
I hear back from Reachout. They came by. Got the sleeping man’s name. He refused their offers of assistance. Refused even to accept their street sheets. OK. My way is clear. Our rules are simple. You can stay on the steps as long as you work with our partners to get housing. Otherwise, you got to go. Even still, I wonder. Wonder how Jesus’ parable would change if the man along the Jericho Road called the Good Samaritan a motherfucker. Called Jesus  a motherfucker.

Then thank God that I'm as good as dead
Then thank your God that I'm not aware
And thank God that I just don't care
And I guess, I just don't know
And I guess, I just don't know