Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maundy Thursday: The street comes in

The roofing crew is waiting for me when I arrive at the church. Amanda arrives shortly thereafter and we head to Joe’s for coffee to plan the day. Danielle is there when we get back, ready to work, she’s anxious to close the deal on the bathroom. 
Up on the roof


We’re working on the June concerts. How they’re not just about fundraising or celebrating the past but about collaborative relationships that demonstrate what the center is supposed to be all about. Rochone arrives and the creative planning begins. 
On and off during the day, people come  in to sit quietly and pray. A German with a camera comes in to take photographs. 
The plumbers have arrived. Danielle and I go up to the bathroom with them. They have a plan. They’ll get us  a quote by 2 PM.  A working bathroom. With hot water.
Jane Galloway has come to meet Amanda. As I expect, they connect. The Pittsburgh/Portland/New York connections swirling around. The idea of a real collaboration seems like a natural.
The crew chief wants me to see the work completed in the scary pit in back of the sanctuary, but the time is not right. Amanda and I off to visit Bernardo at El Taller. 
Back at the church, the roofers have left. The plumbers have made a proposal. We accept. Amanda and Rochone work on the concerts. Danielle and I head down into the darkness to check out the work. Jim meets us there to deliver the bulletins for tonight, early Easter and the Easter service itself. 
Danielle and I make our awkward way  through the crawl space. Reach the door. Open it up. The drain has been found. The water drained. Months of standing foul water gone. The crawl space feeling drier already. Nevertheless, Danielle has no desire to come back here any time soon. 
Let’s see...roof leaks repaired. Drains reopened. Drain pipes replaced. Proposal on the bathroom accepted. Oh, and a contract to move the Beckstein piano back to the sanctuary. All good. This part of the day’s work is done.
                            * * * *
It’s Maundy Thursday. Jane has arrived first. Then Hope. If this is what it is to be, I’m prepared for that. But the people keep coming, the community is gathering. Just as we did on Sunday, the liturgy must begin with actual work. The setting up of the table, the preparation for the meal in the sanctuary. 
Four people have come into the church. Hope has invited them to join us. They are from Lebanon. The young man in graduate school at Columbia. They are Maronite Christians from Lebanon. It is their tradition to pray in seven churches on Holy Thursday. We are the first.
The table is prepared. The community gathered. I begin by reflecting on Maundy Thursday. The word, Maundy, from the Latin mandatum, as in commandment, as in Jesus’ “new” commandment to love one another. 
I share my memories. Of communicants’ class. Receiving our first communion on Maundy Thursday. How Holy Week depressed me as a child. All that time in church. The years we shared this night with the Good Shepherd-Faith congregation. With their special Maundy Thursday haggadah. And tonight,back in our own space. 
We all share memories. Of Jane’s doctoral project with a Maundy Thursday ritual. Of the tradition in our own Hispanic fellowship, back in the day of Iglesia Presbiteriana de West-Park, of their reenactment of the passion, the wooden cross they built for the occasion. The costumes, the carrying of the cross. 
Arcadia recalls the processions in Nicaragua. I recall my conversation with Bernardo today about the State Department’s disruption of their production of Carlos Mejia Godoy’s misa and the later threat to their 501 C-3 status for staging a political, not a cultural, event. Part of Reagan’s war on Central America. It took them years to pay off the fine. They are harassed still.  With Obama, worse than the Bush years. 
We share Exodus 12: 1-14, where the holiday of Passover is established. How our Jewish neighbors are in the week of Passover. The connections between Passover and the Last Supper. And we sing O Mary don’t you weep don’t you mourn..ala Seeger, Peter, Paul and Mary; Springsteen, Arlo. 
We read together John 13 where Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. My first experience with foot washing back in Bridgeport at an Adventist church. My discomfort. Recall West-Park’s first foot washing service, led by Deacon Ken in Mc Alpin Hall. Ken, an Episcopal Deacon in residence with us for a year. (Now living in Portland.) How until we left, it was an annual part of our gathering here. 
But tonight, I recall the Good Shepherd reflection on hands in the city. Our feet are covered. (Most of us, most of the time.) But our hands. What do they touch? The poles on the subway, the rails on the bus...and so we ritually wash each others’ hands. 
And then share a simple meal of tuna fish (it’s the Puerto Rican tradition to fast from meat, Alma says,) cheese, fruit, grapes, matzoh. 
In the midst of our meal, an Asian woman came in. Says that she’s with Military Families Against the War. They’re putting a sign up in front of the church. Wants us to know.  I say, God bless. That’s what I love about our doors open to the street, the street comes in. Feels like we’re in ministry with the city. This openness is a sign of what we want to be.  How was it ever ok, any other way?
And we share communion with matzoh and Kedem grape juice, reciting the prayers Jesus would have said. We sing  De rodillas partamos hoy el pan, let us break bread together...
And then we read Jesus’ words about loving one another. We reflect in silence. Hold hands for the benediction and then sing Amen. And to end the liturgy, we clean up.
For once, I allowed myself to experience the moment just as it was. And it was good. 
Maundy Thursday

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