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Saturday, November 22, 2014

The day ended with Cymbeljam



Our neighbors Susan S and Melissa from the West 80’s Neighborhood Association are in to make arrangements for their holiday get together at West-Park. Good memories of last fall’s candidate’s forum.

A woman has come in and is praying.

On the way back to the church from our last Israel-Palestine film, the documentary by Lia Tarachansky On the Side of the Road ( This fall’s series has focused on the Nakba, or catastrophe, as the Palestinians refer to the loss of their land. We were lucky to have Lia with us tonight at St. Michael’s.

About halfway back. I run into Sean. What’s up? I thought you had a place?
Yeah, I been there all week…I’ve got about a 90% chance of my own private room.
That’s cool, but we got to deal with your stuff.
Yeah, I know. When I get my room..
It’s got to be soon, Sean. Can’t be there.
I know, Bob. You goin there now?
Yeah. But you need to get back home. It’s cold.  See you soon…

Back at the church, I make it in time for the final acts of Sam Gibbs’ Cymbeljam…A rather unique creation. In the chapel. He started with riffs out of his production of Cymbeline. Dressed in a Robin Hood like costume complete with bow, like ome of the Duke's men from the forest of Arden in As You Like It. The opens the stage for a Shakespeare jam/open mic. From songs to monologues to stand up rooted in a play, and even stand up, performers are freestyling Will. I make it in time for a stand up act that interpolates the Seven ages of man speech (As You Like It, again...)into Seven ages of women and a couple of wild monologues including Prince Hal. Sam may be onto something here…

I see a guy wearing a College of Wooster hat and think he may be from my school, but no. He found it in a bar and because he trained with the edgy Wooster Group theatre decided to claim it and wear it every day…

Stop by to see RL and catch up on the week before heading home…

Thursday, November 20, 2014

And still freezing cold....


our first Sunday  concert: Priska's work

Charles is showing folks from the Journey Church around the building. They are one of the post-denominational emergent churches. Looking for space. Happen to be Dion’s other church. Wondering how that might work out….

Priska has been working on some fliers for me in her own unique art style. There’s a brightness. And a bit of whimsy. RL walks in and she is genuinely glad to see him after so long back in Switzerland. Something about the way she interacts with him reminds me of her art. I’m super anxious about getting sufficient publicity for our first Sunday morning experiment.

Off to Starbuck's to catch up with Jane and review her new venture TRIBE.( She has finally moved past the Sacred Center and Sanctuary NYC experiences. An adventure in California with leadership Long Beach that involved  climbing a very tall tree has had a metaphoric significance. She is finding the appropriate container for what she wants to do. For her gifts.

Sean's stuff is still there in the corner of the sanctuary.

Charles working on attempting to bring a better sense of order to the office. 

Pat O is in for a review of where we stand on just about everything. Need to keep the momentum moving forward.

And still freezing cold….

The whole series

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Drenching rain, freezing cold


Steady drenching, chilling rain.

The Revcoms are hard at work cleaning up. Before they go everything will be spic’n’span. Cleaner than when they arrived. Like the Scouts. They worked very hard and succeeded in drawing betweenn1500-1900 people to Riverside Church as well as the sponsorship of notable people like Don Shriver, former President of Union Seminary. There is clearly a hunger and thirst for something better out there. I will save a critical analysis of the dialogue itself for another time. For now, the volunteer workers deserve serious props for getting people out and creating a spotlight moment.

Someone comes into my office, tells me there’s a man in a wheel chair outside. Sean.  He tells me he’s hooked up with housing again It will happen tomorrow. Stuff going out, too. I hope so. I hope he follows through on accepting housing. Tells me they’ll give him a single again.

Jeremy comes in, ready to rehearse with Hindi popsinger Purnash. Our itinerant and eclectic global resident musician Jeremy has yet another gig that stretches boundaries.  He tells me his friend Stephanie, a church conscientious objector, told him being here Sunday was her most positive church experience in 20 years.

As I get ready to leave the church, on my way to an event with the Andrew Goodman Foundation,
I find Alex at the Beckstein, a broad smile on her face as she explores the keys and begins to test her rich voice. Happy to see her.

The Goodmans are bringing to a close the 50th anniversary year of Freedom Summer and the murder of Goodman, Cheney and Schwerner. Proud we could be part of it last June. ( And be partners in their ongoing work.  It will be a reunion of old Civil Rights hands. But more important, a vehicle to keep the work going with a younger generation.


Freezing cold.

Working in the chapel, I hear the sounds of Hindi pop and Purnash making their way down through the thin floor.

Midafternoon, Chris comes in and tells me Sean’s social worker and ready it take him on. I show her his stuff in the corner of the sanctuary. Oh, I didn’t know about that. We’ll have to come back later. Looking again, you know there’ s very limited storage.

Anna reports Sonny has died. Pancreatic cancer. I remember him asking Danielle to record him singing so they’d have something to remember his voice by. A year ago, he sang in church the same day as Bread and Puppet. 

Off to Presbytery. Way out in Jamaica , Queens. Freezing cold.

Deborah: a reflection on redemptive violence


I’m surprised to find a young man inside a refrigerator box asleep on the steps. That hasn’t happened in awhile. And behind him I see crutches. Sorry, but you’re going to have to leave…services coming up…
Uh, it’ll take a few minutes, OK?
Uh, yeah, sure. I ask Stephen S to see if he needs help getting it together.

Jeremy’s first Sunday back. He’s warming up and getting ready. Russ is first to arrive after our adventures yesterday passing out fliers for West-Park at the Avakian-West dialogue.

Our first hymn is Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee, aka Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, to which Jeremy adds a little Eric Burdon and the Animals We Gotta Get Out of this Place. (….It actually does work, though we sing it straight…and a nod to Eddie and the Otters for that idea, though that’s another story…

Jeremy has worked out a sung response to our Psalm 123: To you O Lord we lift our eyes.

Our reflection scripture is Judges 4: 1-7. Just a teaser on the story of Deborah. One of those places where the lectionary cops out. So I have us do a readers’ theatre of the rest of the story.

I was originally going to stick with Matthew, but when I heard about their discussion last week about the difference in perspective between men and women, I knew I had to use a rare story that was driven by a woman’s agency.

This was the time of the Judges. The confederation of tribes had leaders who were both adjudicators and military leaders. She wants to take on (and take out) Jabin, King of the Canaanites. (Who were indigenous to the land, by the way…) Her commander Barak is hesitant to go without Deborah, so she agrees to go, only she warns Barak that Sisera, Jabin’s general, will fall to a woman.

Sisera’s army is routed. He flees to the tent of Jael, whose people are allied with Sisera. After calming him and giving him milk to relax, when he falls asleep, she drives a tent peg through his head. And when Barak arrives, she shows him what she did.

This is clearly an FX/HBO style story. Mature audiences…Language, violence, sexual situations…shifting alliances like the houses in Game of Thrones, or the gangs in Sons of Anarchy. As Marsha reminds us in community organizing, there are no permanent friends, no permanent enemies…

Russ  raises the issue that what we’re dealing with here is the myth of redemptive violence, biblically based. Our American culture is saturated with it. (See above). Even in the dialogue between Avakian and West, neither spoke definitively on the violence issue. And the tu quoque argument about the violence of the empire gets us nowhere.  

Marsha likes that Jael’s action is direct and to the point. John R says, That’s reality…God is not the kindly grandfather, God is just God, the Bible is what it is.
And for Jeremy, that’s why he chooses not to rely on the Bible. And Russ speaks to how these stories become the mythic narrative that supports what is.

There are a number of points to make.
1.   We all have a hermeneutic, an interpretive key by which we interpret everything else. What Cornell West said yesterday for him, IE, God is love,that goes for me too. Anything doesn’t make sense through that lens has to be witnessed against. As former Riverside pastor Brad Braxton once said, sometimes we are called on to preach against the text. We are called to witness against, create an alternative to a culture of redemptive violence.
2.   The time of judges was a time pre-monarchy. In a time of covenant based confederacy, the emergence of a woman’s leadership is much easier than in a hierarchical monarchy.
3.   Which is why historically, women’s leadership would emerge in horizontally based church structures while vertical hierarchies have been more resistant to change.
4.   We need to be about the work of creating communities of covenant relationship, committed to love that is effective, not sentimental and resist the culture of redemptive violence. Our own embodiments of the beloved community to which we are called.

Our final song of the day is Soon and very Soon…While we are singing, Pastor Kadisha has entered the sanctuary with his daughter. He joins us for our final circle of blessing, with little Xavier joyfully singing Amen.

Jeremy rocks out with one more Beethoven/Burdon riff…

Pastor Kadisha will have his first service here this afternoon.

The Revcoms are upstairs celebrating yesterday's turn out, over 1500 at Riverside Church.