Friday, January 21, 2011

That way of life has already begun

Snow! To my surprise, when I step outside, fresh snow has fallen, maybe 5-6 inches worth. I immediately contemplate a day’s plans derailed as i head to the church, wondering what I’ll find.  When I get there, the shoveling’s already’s been done. All the way. Even the crossing paths. OK, who do I thank ? Not Deacon James, he’s still recovering from pneumonia. It’s more than Gary Greengrass would do.I’m thinking Chuck  Mac Donald, my shoveling partner. So he went home. When I call him, he tells me that when he approached on the bus, there was a team of six guys already working away.  The city? Neighbors?  Anyways, thanks.
Someone has scattered a trail of bread along the sidewalk beyond the steps.  Given my current relationship with pigeons, I’m not sure how I feel about that. I consider sweeping all up, throwing it away. I look at the snow, decide to leave it.
Nadia meets me in my new office. She is a doctoral student at the Milano School of Urban Management and Policy at the New School. She’s made West-Park part of her dissertation. She’s been following  us and our story  for over two years, now. She’s been studying West-Park as well as my friend Heidi’s church at 100th and Amsterdam and a church in Bayside, Queens. She’s gone beyond academic interest to truly caring about how this all turns out.  
Over coffee and bagels  at Barney Greengrass, we talk. She’s been trying to figure out the big picture from blog and facebook posts and is unclear what’s going on. So I go back to the Landmarks vote last spring  and bring her up to date. This story never quite winds up where she thinks its going to. She’s clearly moved by our vision, the fact that we’re willing to take risks. That the story’s not done yet. And that we can imagine being a church beyond church. She sees a place of  interfaith collaboration. And a place where circus performers would  be welcome. (With a smile.) What can she do to help? 
She suggests that we look not only to seminary interns but to interns at NYU and Columbia and New School urban planning programs as well. What we’re doing is a model that students would  find exciting. And more, she’s part of the Islamic student group at NYU and would like to involve them in a clean up day. She wants to be part of our 100th anniversary process as well. 
I think about this for a moment. Beyond our church, we have made friendships. Many of the members of our planning team for the Centre are Jewish. Seeing something important that comes from their  own values.  Nazim from the Belnord, who says working with us is a form of prayer, and  Nadia are Muslims. There is something about this vision that goes beyond faith boundaries. That speaks to something deep and connective. Interfaith is a way of life, Rabbi Michael said. That way of life has already begun.
We need to nourish it. Be intentional. See where it will lead.

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