Monday, February 7, 2011

On our own now

Sunny day. Warmer. Steps are empty except for two African-American women well- dressed and with fine hats waiting for the bus to take them north for church. 
Arrive at SPSA to meet with our music staff and talk about our plans to go to volunteers in March for music and Christian Ed. And our desire to create community based decisions. We need to do this together. I momentarily left an envelope with checks in the men’s room. When I go back, it’s gone. There’s been a lot of issues like that here, including the Easter offering. Annoying to say the least.
Go upstairs to the sanctuary to join other West-Park folk arriving for our farewell. There was a day during my time when SPSA and West-Park were in very similar situations. Due to a variety of factors, they’ve moved ahead and created a healthy, vibrant community. Not my vision, but vital nonetheless. 
Experiencing all kinds of  feelings as I wait to speak. Pastor K calls me up. I recall the day we entered, the warm applause that greeted us. Talk about how we only intended to be there two years. Anticipated a triumphant exit and return to a restored building, renewed witness. And now we’ll have to renew that witness on our own.  I open my bag with my symbolic gifts. The gold paper crown thanking them for the royal treatment we received there. Our annual Dia de los tres Reyes Magos celebrations, our best sharing of who we were. Pastor K puts the crown on his head. The tarnished silver communion cup, weathered and showing the signs of time, of our struggle. But still silver, of value, of worth. Like us. And the pieces of red sandstone recently fallen from our building. The reason all this began in the first place. And who wouldn’t want  a piece of a landmarked building?
 Pastor K laughs and says they’ve got a few of those of their own. Hugs me. Asks all the West-Park people to stand. And I look out and to my surprise, see we’ve almost all come to say thanks. And again, warm applause washes over us. I thank them. Invite them to donate to our Souper Bowl collection. And to sign up to follow us on our journey.
I sit down. I still don’t like rising for the gospel. Not our tradition, all scripture being equal. He has a salt sermon, like I would have, though he goes a somewhat different direction. Waiting for the time when I  will share in consecrating and serving the eucharist. Images, memories filling my head and heart.  Moments, people. Experiences as we sought to continue our ministry here.
I remember new people coming. The Martinez family wedding. Baptizing Tim and Caroline’s first son and Ji Young’s daughter Miranda. With the old basin we brought with us. Kim’s viola. Celebrating Asian New Year.  Maria and her camera. Amanda’s first visit. Gathering around the communion table we wheeled down the street to remind us of home. Katherine by my side through all those liturgies. Amy and Juan playing, Philip singing, Andre's jazz psalms.
And loss. Filling the auditorium to overflowing with teenagers after Adham’s tragic death. Quiet services for BJ and Carol. The day Jim brought the specially carved box inlaid with Southwestern stones bearing Carol’s ashes with him to worship. All our nights in the homeless shelter. And so much more like an iphoto slide show passing through my head.  As I get up to serve, tears are welling up. We have been church here, despite all. 
I see P____ , dressed all in white, come  up and kneel before the candles, touch her fingers to the cross, to her lips. I watch the faces of those who come to kneel at the rail and receive. Many of our folks, resolutely reformed, receive standing. We don’t kneel. And I smile. 
Following church, we gather upstairs for our annual meeting. Someone has written “The 101st Annual Meeting" at the top of my newsprint tablet. And for West-Park it is.  And I remember the dramatic votes  that have taken place here. Determining our fate, setting courses even that we did not fully realize. Our annual family Good Friday Seven LastWords service, led by our youth, the lovingly hand made cross. 
Philip sings The Last Step of the Way. We all sing Sanctuary. We review the last year. The landmarks vote, the decision to return. Our future vision for the Centre at West-Park. Our upcoming 100th Anniversary celebration. I remind them of what we are of one mind about and what it will take to create a future. And of course, the boiler. The politicians. The need for action. And the daunting financial challenge ahead. A new slate of officers is presented, elders and deacons to be ordained and installed.  We recruit people to go with us to the IAF Assembly. We sing Halle, Halle, Halle, Hallelujah. Receive the benediction and are on our way. 
So many feelings. Like cutting an umbilical cord. Like stepping out on a tight wire without  a net. Stepping out of the boat, onto the water, believing we can walk and not sink as we move towards the one who calls us. There’s no turning back. We’re on our own now. On our own, but not alone. 
Warming. Sunny. For the first time in days? Weeks? Alternate side parking rules are back in effect. Remove the sign on the door from yesterday announcing our worship down the street at SPSA. Picking up trash left behind by melting snow. A vodka bottle. Streams of water pouring off the roof where  the snow is melting. Sandstone fragments will follow. The Superbowl is over.  The windows of CVS across the street are filled with Valentine’s Day red.

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