Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Herculean task

Today is so cold, bits of trash soaked in this week’s rain are frozen solid to the sidewalk.  I decide to move my office down 86th to Starbuck’s for awhile.
First there’s Jim W. A long time member of the church. He was a loyal follower of my old predecessor Bob Davidson.  Jim worked at the front desk during the ’80’s;  the peak of the explosion of homeless on the streets and the crack epidemic in our neighborhood. He had backed Bob’s plan to leave 86th Street and merge with Rutgers church down at 73rd. Back in ‘94. And when the plan failed to be approved by a 55-45% margin at West-Park after Rutgers had approved it by the same margin, Jim and his wife Carol elected to stay at West-Park instead of joining the exodus of leaders who went to  Rutgers anyways. The struggle had been bitter. And personal.
Jim had been one of the funding members of our Men’s Spirituality and Writing Group which had emerged out of work John Hudson had previously done with our congregation. It continues, in some form, until today. Jim had a way with crisp, dry prose in short stories that read like late ’50’s New Yorker. 
Losing his wife Carol after all those years had been very hard on him. They had kept each other going. She had been an Elder and the most generous of people in every sense. Together they were our congregation’s delegates to the Interfaith Assembly on Housing and Homelessness. Given his history with the pro-merger group, he’s been skeptical, to say the least, about our vision of bringing the church back where it is. I felt good about moving him from out and out rejection of our plan as crazy to being able to describe it as a Herculean task and express support for me in that process. 
In fact, the purpose of today’s meeting is to work on a grant to go to his  aunt to secure funding for our boiler project. His effort to do this despite  his deep questions about the project speak to his faithfulness. We spend the time working on  revising the proposal. I’m very thankful  for his stepping forward on this.
While I’m finishing with Jim, Jimmy arrives. He came to worship two weeks ago looking for some place else, but felt “God led him to us.” His face is warm, expressive and open and I’m not surprised he had  a career in the hospitality industry, working in managerial capacities at hotels all over the world, in Egypt, England, Spain and Germany. He’s from an AMEZ background and carries some of that sprit with him, though he sees God as bigger than any of our understanding  and that every house of worship is God's home.  It comes to me that his skills  could be very helpful in our 100th anniversary celebration. He seems to be  excited by the idea.  Later, I think that I need to remember to tell him what an important concept hospitality is in the Bible. 
Finishing up in the church, Hope and I talk. Our pressing the Interim Executive Presbyter on the insurance issue seems to have gotten some attention. He seems ready to help. 
Maybe we made some progress today. But Jim is still right. The church, the Centre, the whole project---it is a Herculean task.   

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