Tuesday, March 8, 2011

365 days a year

A sunny, cold day. On the way to Marsha’s, I notice that the Pet Jewelry Store on Columbus has closed. I wonder  what that says about the economy. The two stores on either side of Councilmember Brewer’s storefront are closed. And quite a few more. Rising rents creating a scene of abandonment. Some have been vacant for months. Longtime family businesses, gone...
We put in a solid two hours working on the website. Even though we know the story, the legacy is still moving. The church’s More Light statement from 1978 still inspires:
This local congregation will not seek one particular element from a person’s total humanity as a basis for denying full participation and service in the body of Christ. Nor will this community of faith condemn or judge our brothers and sisters who declare their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and promise discipleship to him. We affirm that in meeting each other in Christian love God’s spirit frees us all to live and grow, liberated from the oppression invoked upon us by ourselves and others.” 
And somehow the church’s peace activists working with SANE and FREEZE (who officed in the balconies) managed to organize what had been up to that point the largest demonstration anywhere, one million people in support of the UN Special Session on Disarmament.
And in response to the 200 day encampment of  homeless, “Kochville,” from June  to December 1988, Pastor Robert Davidson, Rabbi Marshall Meyer of Congregation B’Nai Jeshurun and Father Daniel Berrigan joined together with young activist Marc Greenburg  to create the Interfaith Assembly on Housing and Homelessness. This was not a soup kitchen or shelter, it was  a movement to create transformation for individuals and society. Programs were developed to help people reclaim their lives and to become housed and employed once again. And rooted in that experience,and the belief that affordable housing is a key component to ending homelessness, to press the city for policy change. A witness that continues to this day. (
We reflected on how God’s Love We Deliver grew out of  the devastation and despair  of the AIDS epidemic. And in our own time, our response to 9-11, including on site volunteer work, hosting work crews from around the country and  establishing a Hub Church center to respond to needs of families of victims that fell between the cracks. It’s a legacy too important to forget, a challenge to live into.
We will have a website that represents who we have been and will be....coming soon.
On the way from Marsha’s, I exchange greetings with an independent recycling entrepreneur checking through the bins on 85th Street. 
At the church, as I open the doors, I see Deacon James. “Just in time,” he says. We both remark on the amount of new red sandstone debris.  A woman approaches, “So, what happened to your tenant?” she says pointing to the steps, and smiling.  I look at her quizzically. “You know,the man who lived there?” “He’s got his own place now,” I tell her. “So what’s going to happen with this church?” I tell her we’re open every Sunday. Then she hurries off to catch her bus. How long will it take to get the message out, we’re here, we’re open, we’re alive. 
Deacon James and I finish Amsterdam and swing around to the wind tunnel of 86th Street. “Let me show you my secret,” he says. “the city’s got street sweepers right? Every day, right? Let them do their work.” And he sweeps some of the bigger debris off the curb. We finish the street. I give him a hug and say thank you. “365 days a year,” he says. And heads home. 
                                                                 * * * * 
Today is Mardi Gras. My dream? Next year, carnivale, a party, a last celebration with food and music before Ash Wednesday. Not just Shrove Tuesday pancakes, but something I once heard from a visiting Brazilian theologian, something more dionysian than ascetic. A celebration of life. Next year. Hold us to it. 

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