Thursday, March 17, 2011

Seventh day in Lent: Today we were going to study Belhar.

Today we were going to study Belhar....
All day long the steps have looked like an  auxiliary movie set. Which is exactly what we’ve been. Photo screens, equipment, lights, food tables.  On Amsterdam, trailers for the stars, Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. On 86th Street, restroom trailers (Should have  been our church.) Orange traffic cones keep passersby far away enough from Barney’s not to gawk. Extras and staff sit on the steps, waiting. Deacon James called me to alert me. Now I  see for myself. 
I interrupt my run at 5 to let Jim into the church. There are banners to hang, for Lent, for Holy Week. For Easter. I finish my run and return. I come back shortly before 6. Go to the  Israeli run copy store to get enough copies of our Belhar study for all who might come. 
At 6:30, only Jim and Hope are there. The window boxes have all been washed and cleaned. There are florescent bulbs in the light boxes to be changed and banners to hang. Jim and I climb up on the scaffolding on Amsterdam. Here and on Amsterdam I’ll bend and twist like a gumby or a participant in an aerial game of Twister. I’ll feel all this tomorrow. Jim keeps saying, it’s not that hard, but it is. Weird, professional banners and paper clips. People keep stopping  by and looking. Yes, we are open. Yes, we have a Lenten study going  on. Yes, we’ll be here Holy Week. That’s what the signs say. 
We finally finish. Go inside. Arcadia is inside the church  talking  to a young man named Greg from two blocks north. He’s been here for two years. Never saw the doors open. (That again.) He tells us how worried he’s been that the church was going to be torn down. That seeing the doors open felt like an answered prayer. 
He’s done an amazing amount of architectural research on the church. Knows almost as much as we do. Knows about the fire that took down the north tower. We listen to the story as he’s heard it, add our own information. The preservationists sure won the struggle to control the narrative. Yes, Romanesque. No, all Kilborn. Is the church house more historic? An Eidlitz building from 1884? No. Martin Weaver, the late dean of historic architecture at Columbia,  had said that anything of Eidlitz was obliterated by 1889. What you see is Kilborn, And yes, Eidlitz was eclectic, but this is still classic Kilborn. We get his name. Hope to keep him involved. He promises to come back. How do we harness all this energy, all this love that exists in the neighborhood for this building? Last Sunday a couple with a child walked in, looked around, left. What would have made them stay? How do we turn romantic longings into real action, real dollars? 
It’s  late. Too late to study tonight. I pass out copies of the Belhar Confession. THe 1988 statement out of South Africa. We’ll gather, study, discuss next week. My sciatica is acting up Feeling stiff already . They are still filming inside Barney’s. 

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