Thursday, January 20, 2011

Money is not the issue

Hugo and I go to the coffee shop around the corner to meet our city council member. The coffee shop run by Palestinians, with the pictures of Jerusalem on the wall. Council member Brewer is breathless arriving from a meeting dealing with the new shelter on 94th Street. An angry storm of controversy is rising. We talk about the other issues of the day, the paid leave for municipal employees, the Fair Wages New York City (living wage) bill.  And then we turn to West-Park.
It’s been a year since designation, eight months since the council vote. There’s been one fundraiser, public appearances, good words, but promises yet to be fulfilled. We tell her we want to work with her  to make this happen. She says, “I know, money’s the issue.” “No,” says Hugo, “ money is not the issue, structure is the issue. Structure is the way to get not only money now, but to secure a future. We need a structure that brings together all the sectors for the purpose of developing a long range plan to sustain West-Park.”  We remind her that this is the way to fulfill her public promises during hearings and the vote.  We will work with her, do the work, but we need her personal involvement to open the doors. We tell her of the $50,000, which could be doubled if challenges are met, we have raised completely on our own. Now is the time for community cooperation. And she is the one who can make it happen. She understands what we want. Promises to meet with us a week from Monday. Maybe the boiler is one inch closer to reality.
Hugo and I talk. Yes, I have established presence. The congregation has begun to reestablish presence. To move forward we need to develop more relationships and cultivate the ones we already have. And yes, I have begun to act, visibly, but the congregation  as a collective community needs to begin to act together, to make clear  to all who we are and what we are about. 
Between the corner and the church, I run into Rudy. For many years he operated the gym on the the top floor of the church. Untold numbers of neighborhood children passed through his program, including all three of my boys. Church members sometimes felt slightly annoyed that the gym was commonly known as “Rudy’s Gym.” For years we had an amazing Sunday School program that included scripture based education and gymnastics.  He brought Cirque de Soleil and Big Apple Circus performers there to work out routines and practice at nights. He had an annual gymnastics concert where these performers broke away from their professional routines and just freely created. One of his friends, Sumi Kim,  did a captivating and intriguing  performance piece in the gym where she bounced on a trampoline, played the sax and did a monologue and then did a two person recreation of Bruce Lee’s last television interview, playing the lead role  herself.   One Sunday, I even had Rudy performing on the trampoline as a prelude to the service.  At its best, it was another early example of what we are now trying to create in the centre. After three years, he’s found a new place, a Lutheran church on 57th and 9th. He found  it on his way to visit Jack. He looks for churches with open doors. I tell him ours are open now. We agree to talk soon.
John has brought another theatre group and more theatre people to the church . Again a sense  of excitement and unlimited sense of what could be. A board member has a question. Would we want to censor, restrict artistic expression? I assure them no, as long as we have a shared sense of values, a commitment to an inclusive world.   I am anxious to start making some of these visions real.  Let’s start with the boiler.

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