Friday, December 17, 2010

Opening Day and Another Brother


The day begins with a rush of activity. Craftspeople and artisans ready to get underway. Some lights out and I have to figure out how to get them back on without making everything go dark. Judith Hooper has done the hard work of organizing all this. Over 40 tables from a wonderfully eclectic multicultural group of exhibitors from New York Creates, including my member Leila Elias who has made me some amazing clergy stoles over the years, including an Advent one, an Easter 9-11 one and a rainbow one in honor of More Light. There’s Jamaal doing general support work and a professional looking security guard. I’m doing whatever’s necessary to help people load in before the 10 am opening time. Some exhibitors complain about their location,the lack of heat, but that was all part of the deal. Meanwhile, up in the balcony Piano Dan is getting Amanda’s Balcony Music festival underway. Stalwart Piano Dan will fill in whenever necessary over the course of the day to keep the music going. The musicians love the Bohemian feel to the whole festival.

In the middle of all this, I hear the doorbell ring. There’s an elderly African-American man, bundled against the cold. Thin, full beard, glasses. He asks if I’m the pastor. I say yes. He tells me that he read my story in the Daily News and felt he’d found “another brother.”

I invite him into my office. He tells me he’s the Reverend James Delasand, the Pastor of Mt.Moriah Baptist Church in Jamaica, Queens. Read our story at his buddy’s house after church. Felt God had shown it to him. He tells me of his own struggles. The third pastor of a declining Church. A leaky roof. Repairs needing to be done, not many people, less money. How do I do it? Well, I actually haven’t. Or am still in the process. I tell him my strategy. He said when he read the article, he admired my faith, my courage. The courage to step out and make an offering to God to see what would happen. Well, yes, and i still have no heat and only portasans outside. But it feels good to have touched him. He tells me he’s got skills in “repair work” and wanting to help when he can. Before he leaves, he asks for a prayer. I hold his hand and pray, and ask for his continued prayers for us. Everything’s now underway.

My former intern Eleanor has come to donate a couple of Macs. She remembers what it was like back when she worked here and produced a performance of a white and a black actor sharing their stories of growing up in “parallel lives” of opposite sides of the track. And then she had led a series of follow-up dialogues exploring the dynamics of race through our personal lives.  My Team member Mim has dropped by to show support. I duck in and out of the music festival. RL from the P&G is holding forth in his own unique style.

A team of church folk has arrived to set up our food table. Hot chili for cold folks. Hot dogs, baked goods, soup. Arcadia, Lilly, Samantha, Brandy, Hope all lending a hand. And later Marsha, too. And Luis, and Nirka, and...They’re here. (Next time, I’ll have to talk about styrofoam and our emerging commitment to green and sustainable.) And we’ve set up a table with pottery made by Andrea’s late mother Pat.

As the afternoon gets late, Amanda’s set starts and my son Micah plays Juan’s electric stand up bass and Piano Dan does his inimitable stylings. A bunch of the P&G musicians have shown up to hear her set. Andrea has come, as well as my cousin Nancy and her husband David. It feels good to have them all here to share in this event with me. Amanda has a pot of hot mulled white wine going as well as lots of candles on the stage steps. It reminds me of the Spiegelhall in former East Berlin. Seeing the musicians framed by organ pipes and our Tiffany window is a a great scene. Meredith Kaye Clark and Eric David close out the afternoon. Both are Broadway veterans, Wicked and Jersey Boys, with stage presence and a clear connection to their Missouri roots even closing with a Dolly and Porter number, Last Thing on My Mind.

Time to close up, lock up, turn out the lights until tomorrow. I do the lock up. It’s been a long, good day.

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