Sunday, November 28, 2010

The First Sunday in Advent


The first Sunday in Advent. To come. What is to come? Will we be ready?

A beautiful, cold late November day. I greet Francois and bring his coffee. I’m sweeping as Jim and Holly are getting the church ready for services. It will be our first time all the way down front...where we worshipped before we locked the doors and moved out.

This will be an adventure. No heat. No bathrooms. I feel this is crazy. George, that is the other George, says “Hi,” walks in, looks around. “I see hope here,” he says. And the people show..including Maria Collado, back from Puerto Rico.

We gather outside on the steps Sing “God welcomes all,” “Emmanuel, emmanuel,” “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (with Barbara Lundblad’s words), and in Spanish, then “Lift Up Your heads, Ye Mighty Gates,” and with that, we light a candle, throw open the gates and enter. And like so many Advents before, light our first purple candle. And I have dressed for the occasion, black robe, purple Guatemalan stole.

I feel strange, looking out at my people wrapped and bundled against the cold, gloves on. I feel shaky, like being on a tight rope with no net. We are back in our building. How is it I believe that simply coming back in here in the cold will get the heat back on? During the service, people walk in, look around, leave. We read scriptures. And I preach. About trying to be awake, alert, present. To each other, the community around, George, Francois, Gary Greengrass.

We take up an offering. We’re also gathering food for the Westside Campaign and Jan Hus, collecting pennies for Penny Harvest, and new children’s pajamas. Then we sing “Soon and Very Soon,” and we make our circle, the service is done.

As we are talking with one another, a man identifying himself as being with the Department of Environmental Protection comes in and demands to inspect the basement. Maria who worked for the DEP questions him.There’s been an “anonymous complaint.” Claims we’re doing work in the basement. Raising asbestos. I am very annoyed. What’s up with this? Anonymous complaint? And it’s Sunday. Worship time. Would they do this to a Catholic church and priest? Synagogue on Saturday? Finally I take him down. He takes a quick look. Says he’ll report he found nothing.

Outside, Pat and her husband Larry are talking with a neighbor, Victoria from New Zealand. Turns out we shared a very similar relationship with Tracy. She had done internet research trying to track down his family. Had personally taken him to detox. Bought him new clothes. (I’d wondered about that.) I told her how the Reachout folk had come to take him to the hospital. And I wonder how he is. I tell her of upcoming events. Hope to see her.

Walking down 86th, Rudy comes up side by side with me. Says he wants to talk through the events of the last years. Come to resolution. That will take some time. I think of the years of his gym program at the top of the church. His amazing annual gymnastics “concert.” In some ways, the very essence of what we were trying to create. But that conversation will take time. And conversations, relationships are at the heart of our work.

First Sunday of Advent. There’s hope here.

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