Thursday, April 7, 2011

Twenty-fifth day of Lent: Needs work,but a start

A large yellow caterpillar digger is chewing up the earth and making a pit right beyond the cut  lines Tom showed me yesterday. Right in front of our steps.
I meet Rochone at Popover’s to talk about the June week, our 100th Anniversary, an open house, the concerts Amanda is planning. We’ve got two months. Time is short. Anxious to see what she can do.
Three blocks north of the church, I drop by the apartment where Samir lived.  Leila shows me the Beckstein he brought from the church when we moved out. A beautiful instrument. Formerly the rehearsal piano of Jens Nygaard and the Jupiter Symphony all those years they rehearsed in our sanctuary. 
Jens was a great musician who had struggled with bipolar disease and had even been homeless for a time. He never forgot those days. And was always ready to support our work with the homeless. I’ll never forget his surprise for me when I turned 50. He drew me into the rehearsal. Then the whole symphony played Happy Birthday. When Jens died, his wife, Mei Ying, donated the Beckstein to West-Park. I’m honored to have known him, had him as a part of our life. 
So Leila and I are trying to work through the process of getting the piano back to the church. I look around. Haven’t been here since the day Samir was found dead. I remember the salons  he used to hold with music, poetry, food and drink. I see a flier from Perimplin, the opera he had worked on for decades before he finally produced and performed  it at West-Park. Yet another part of our story. 
Head back to the church where Jane Galloway is waiting with her advisor and  friend from southern California, Angel Perreia. He sees my Forbes Field groundskeeper jacket and says, “Bill Mazeroski,” yes, Maz who hit the homer in the bottom of the 9th in the 7th game of the 1960 World Series to defeat the invincible Yankees and imprinted my young life with the dangerous idea that anything can be possible.
We do the litany of the 1960 Pirate lineup:                                                                                          “Smoky Burgess behind the plate..”                                                                                                          “Backed up by Hal Smith, who hit who hit  should have been the winning homer in the 8th...”                                   “At first base, Dale Long?”                                                                                                                       “No, he was earlier, it was Dick Stuart and the pinch hitter supreme, Rocky Nelson..”                                     “I saw Stuart play for the Hollywood Stars...and of course  Maz at second...”                                                           “And Dick Groat at short...”                                                                                                                   “Don Hoak at third...”                                                                                                                               “The Tiger...and Bob ‘the dog’ Skinner in left...”                                                                                     “Bill Virdon in center...”                                                                                                                         “Yes, ‘the Quail’....and utility man Gino Cimoli...”                                                                                  “Bob Friend and Vernon ‘the Deacon’ Law on the mound.”                                                                  “And in the bullpen...”                                                                                                                                           “El Roy ‘the Baron’ Face..”                                                                                                                          “With his..” Angel holds up his hands, separates his first two fingers widely.                                                            “Forkball”                                                                                                                                                “Yes, forkball...”                                                                                                                                      “And the greatest of all, the Great One, el incomparable, Roberto Clemente...”                                                     “Ah yes....”                                                                                                                                                    “I would sit in the right field grandstand, you could almost reach out and touch him..that was my childhood...” I think of Marty. The unique configurations discussion.
Jane looks at us and smiles.."I knew you two would connect...”
I prepare them for the raw space they will see. Tell them the story of the water damage, the failed vision. We tour the church. Jane sees several spaces she would love for an office. 
We talk about what true collaboration might mean. A covenant relationship of shared values, not just rental space. The new thought religious movement has always been hard for me to warm up to. Too ethereal, too...spacy? Yet Jane strikes me as authentic. A groundedness that comes from struggle, experience, life in the world. I feel we could work together.
It’s raining harder. After a late afternoon visit with Jack, I’m back to open the doors again. To go back into Belhar. Uli with us one last time. Reading its words, we think of its birth in the midst of apartheid. Uli wants to know why the Presbyterian Church felt the desire to consider this as one of its official confessions. I realize I don’t really know.
Hope suggests it may have to do with the history of division in the church. We talk of the segregated church that came from the civil war split of northern and southern churches. The almost absurd specificity of twentieth century Jim Crow laws in the South. How that legacy affected the church. What was left unresolved in the 1983 Reunion. Reconciliaiton without reconstruction... 
Belhar’s witness against division or discrimination  of any kind. As being antithetical to the gospel. A denial, in advance, of reconciliation. We reflect on these words:
...that God by his life-giving Word and Spirit has conquered the powers of sin and death, and therefore also of irreconciliation and hatred, bitterness and enmity, that God, by his life-giving Word and Spirit will enable His people to live in a new obedience which can open new possibilities of life for society and the world; 

How can we believe this based on what we still see around us? “It’s a statement of faith,” Hope says. I say, "Like when Tutu said, we have already won...” “This is even harder,” Hope replies.
We realize that in our own context, reconciliation that does not engage seriously the divisions of not only race, but class, can only be another false reconciliation. Liberals can be just as elitist as conservatives. 
Walking up the street, I’m thinking, maybe this is our mission as a church:
To be a community of global discipleship, lived out locally. Where our community is not just context but calling. Where we celebrate our city, our cultures, questions. Where our differences create both an obligation and an opportunity for blessing. Where, as followers of the path of Jesus, we welcome as partners all who would join us in the work of building a more just, humane and sustainable world.
Needs work. But a start.

Walking home up Amsterdam, the Saigon Grill workers are on the picket line again. Uli flashes his No Sweatshops button. I raise a fist in solidarity. They smile and cheer. Beside the doorway of the restaurant, glaring at the pickets, at us,  two large, ominous looking men, like extras from The Sopranos or a Scorsese film stand silent sentry.

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