Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A unique organizing model is emeging

The day begins with a burst of activity. Deacon James has arrived and is sweeping. Hope is here. John and Teddy from Occupy Wall Street are here ready to get to work to help  us get ready for the upcoming gala. They’ll start in the Chapel, fixing the hole in the floor, scraping some peeling paint off the walls, fixing bathrooms. Anthony and his partner Gary are sitting like sentinels on the steps. 
The representatives of the National Movement Against Sweatshops, Justice Will Be Served and Sweat Shop Free Upper West Side have gathered in our sanctuary to prepare for  meeting with a representative from the New York Foundation. We’ve applied for a grant to fund an organizer for this project. 
The group includes a veteran union organizer, Chinese and Latino workers, a Barnard grad student organizer. We talk through our strategy. 
The foundation rep arrives. We make our case. This has been a unique organizing story. It began with the Saigon Grill workers demanding justice. They attracted the attention of a Chinatown based union. Which reached out and connected with NMASS. Mexican workers in the neighborgood noticed what was going on and wanted justice in their workplaces. As the coalition grew across racial ethnic bounds, Justice Will Be Served emerged as an umbrella. 
The concept of a sweatshop free neighborhood began to grow. Members of the faith community began to be drawn in. And then as the outreach to businesses began, locally based small business people joined in. The only demand was to get businesses to agree to just obey the existing fair labor laws. Other issues, like closing escape routes for owners like the Saigon Grill owners would emerge. 
The Foundation is impressed that what we are developing is a community based approach to joining labor, the faith community, small businesses and residents together to build a more just and humane world in one neighborhood. In some ways, it just happened. But what is emerging is a model that can be replicable in other neighborhoods in the city. Competition will be tough, only 7 out of 17 applicants will be funded. But what we have here is special. It’s living out the vision of Occupy right where we live. 
Meanwhile, Sandy has come back to furhter pursue the vision of a community of Occupiers in residence that could develop a presence in one local neighborhood. Where a new kind of community could be built. Where we could begin to build models of what a new way of relating  economically might be. 
The vision almost makes my head swim. I could see the church being a place where the Occupiers could meet the workers could meet the faith community, the neighbors, and engage in serious conversation and dialogue. And maybe even theological reflection. Hope joins the conversation. Brings a cautionary note that none of us knows where we might be come January. Life is that tenuous. And then we return to concrete, practical plans for the day’s work. John will supervise. Sandy will remain as well  throughout the day.  Later Jason of #OWS will arrive to discuss possible meeting place arrangements. I feel excited that this is moving from political theatre to serious discussion of alternative models. 
The boiler work has progressed to about 75% completion. We just might make it by Monday. All that’s left is to devote the afternoon to an all court press to get people out  to Monday night. 
As I leave to go home in the dark, the doorways are filling with homeless people settling in for the night. Our independent environmental entreprenuer  has his shopping cart of bottles and cans with him.
The temperature is dropping, it’s getting cold. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

An intersting proposition

Sandy from Occupy Wall Street comes to see us with an interesting proposition. She’s an architect and has been working as a volunteer helping arrange housing for Occupiers. She’s had a tour of our church,knows our situation. And understands full well the issues involved in housing the Occupiers. 
What she wants is to create a more stable environment. Build a community that will last awhile. Bring twenty carefully screened Occupiers to be housed at West-Park. In return, they would help us with renovation. She has brought John, another architect, to talk with Hope and Danielle and I. They are ready to begin immediately, help us get ready for the gala next Monday. And when housed, the Occupiers could interact, be in dialogue with and be involved with a particular community. It’s an exciting idea. One with possibiities. It will take some thought. 
It’s part of post-Zucotti Occupy. Part of moving beyond defending a particular piece of turf. Part of expanding the movement, engaging communities. While building new models of community.  As I leave for another appointment, Sandy brings in the other professionals she has brought with her. 
When I return, Gina is there with her actors. She comes in to talk about our shared 412 roots. Her dad had run a medical facility down the road from my family home in Washington, Pennsylvania. And she grew up in Mt. Lebanon, the only place in Pittsburgh we ever owned a home. Where all three of my boys were born. Another member of the Pittsburgh diapora. 
As the day grows late, an older slight Latina woman named Rosa comes in. She’s in bad housing situaion, needs to get out. She’s been referred to Dorot House, down on 85th. I have a social worker friend there.  And Hope knows all the right questions to ask and what shewill ned to do to cut through the bureaucracy and get into a safe situation. I giver her my card, tell her to use my name and ask for my friend when she goes. She seems greatly relieved.
Rudolfo again. Still hasn’t made it to the east side and Jan Hus. I explain that there is not much that we can do. That he has to go somewhere where they can give him real asssitance. I repeat that I’ve already called Felix, who speaks Spanish, at Jan Hus to help him in a comprehensive way. But where will he sleep tonight? Danielle and Hope both have recommendations. We all continue to believe that he can get it together if....
We’re set for a clean up night. Marsha arrives. Then (fistbump, Sunday morning) John. Then Leila.  Hope, Danielle and i. We find the vacuum, which some how stillworks. Move ladders, tables and other random furniture items to better storage spaces. And the big metal gates that covered our doors until last December, we move them, too.  
As we work together, it almost feels like fun. There’s a good spirit. We check our list, a lot has been accomplished. We’re done. For the night. 
As I head home in the dark, I see Rudolfo. He’s found someone, a woman, to spend the night with in the projects.  Shelter, warmth, at least for the night. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent 1 2011

Marc is the first one there. I ask him to put on some beautiful music as I go to get the bulletins.  Then Amy arrives. Then a visiting couple. Maria is back from Puerto Rico. And one of the Sweatshop Free workers has come to sit with Hope. 
I remind folks that just a year ago, we were still outside the gates, the big iron gates still closed off our sanctuary. We sang on the steps and then came inside. We sing some of the same songs, God Welcomes All, Strangers and Friends; Emmanuel, O Come, O Come Emmanuel; Ven Emmanuel...And just in time, Arcadia arrives with purple Advent candles. And I talk to the children about Advent. 
I say that our song Sanctuary is a good Advent song. About preparation. Preparing ourselves to be a place where the Chirst child can be born, can live. How the song traveled from us to West End to the Jewish congregation Romemu to Jane and her Sanctuary congregation. 
Our Scriptures today are Isaiah 64: 1-9 and Mark 13: 24-37. And I ask, So where are we at the beginning of this Advent season, 2011? Bill Wylie-Kellerman tells us  that Isaiah's prayer has the smell of exile all over it: a sanctuary ruined, a dream too long deferred, and a people trying to remember who in hell they are. Is God absent or are they absent-minded? Who has abandoned whom?
Then I say that Isaiah accuses God of anger, absence and alienation  (Laurel Dykstra)  “[F]or you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity” (Isaiah 64:7).
And I have to ask, Does any of that feel familiar?
Advent is a time to remember, to re-member, to reclaim who we are...namely, children belonging to God...
How do we do that? One answer is intercession, being in solidarity with solidarity with, as Paul says it, all that groans.... Bonhoeffer writes that to intercede is to feel another's need so deeply that you simply pray their prayer. 
And we pray for disruption...a break in the expected, in the what is...and you recognize it when it happens....a tearing of the heavens, a break with business as usual, the world of occupy... This rupture is an act of hope..
Jesus’ picture of Advent includes darkened skies and falling least one commentator says that Jesus was talking about the falling of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt...
We cannot be overly romantic about Occupy... the social worker who stayed with us says that of our guests 1/3 are  idealistic students, 1/3 lost souls, and 1/3 hardcore homeless...but friends, so it is with every revolution...
Coordinated evictions, undercover cops, destroyed books, self censured press coverage, all tells me that  someone is taking this seriously...And reminds me that  the forces of domination will ALWAYS fight to hold onto power...
To affirm that God is working out salvation regardless of how hopeless the present seems almost impossible. How do we do it?
One answer, resistance...Last Friday was Black Friday, the day stores hope to sell so much that they will be back in the black.  Did you see the stories of people camping out,waiting?  Occupy Walmart? Bestbuy? Of the woman who used pepperspray on a rival shopper? This day has become for Sojourners Don’t Buy Anything day. It reminds me of our own Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Now...
The break comes with the hope that things can and will change. The break comes with the painful trauma of crying out in our utter frustration and despair with things as they are. That our limited human vision can be broken open to the hope that comes from beyond ourselves, the possibility that crashes through impossibility.  (Conrad Hoover)
All it needs is a glimpse of possibility...Like when I give tours of the church, those over 30 say  O my God with  sense of despair. Those  under 30, the same O my God...only with possibility...
All this talk of end times. My friend Father Dufell always reminds us that We face our own apocalypse...But for us now, it literally is a do or die time.(How many times have we been there?) ..We feel the frustration, disapointment, sense of absence...sense of we did our best, have been abandoned...
The potter and clay. Can we hear that in a corporate sense?..As a we?..What would it truly take to be a we....
Could the Potter who formed the cosmos be taking any less care, just now, forming the community of faith for the work of wholeness and harmony we call shalom or salaam? Within that kairos ( a time of disruption, of breaking in)  community—and because of it, for countless others—we will rise or fall together. (Roth)
As the prophet says, Thou meetest those that joyfully work righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways (Isaiah 64:4-5).
And above and beyond all else, as we awake, we awake to a story of LOVE. 
And so, what are we to do?
  1. Resist
  2. Intercede, and in the end, just as our motto says, 
  3. Just love....
You/we will decide...what will be....
(Many ideas for today’s sermon were insired by Sojourner’s Preaching the Word )
The Session gathers. After discussion, our agreement with Jane is passed. And we discuss the proposla from Noche Flamenca and also the Cordoba Initiative. For one moment, I feel like we are going to make it. 
I go to tell Jane the good news. Her choir is getting ready. 
On my way home, I stop across the street and welcome the Christmas tree people back. Pascal is back again. This year, I tell them, we have restrooms. And WiFi. They are welcome. And heat is on its way. I pass Victor and the Saigon Grill strikers as they leave the picket line. Chanted sounds of a Jewish funeral come from inside the funeral home. It is a beautiful day.  Advent has begun.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Another adventure in plumbing

A day for cleaning up. Hope and Marsha are waiting for me and Arcadia arrives later. And then Hugo with his grandson Carlitos on their way to the chuldren’s museum.  There’s much to be done before the big event a week from Monday. I spent Friday night e-mailing everyone I could think of to invite to the gala. And hoping that it’s not too late. 
I’m doing my sweeping. We are carrying things out to the steps. A box of new shoes, including Timberlands (or Tim’s as the young ones say). The stack of plates with newspapers in between. A box of Cup-a- Soups. A box of new pants and shirts. 
A visit to the basement and I hear water in the boiler room. The new boiler is 30-40% installed. But a pipe is dripping. Slowly. But steadily. And a faucet is running. The faucet is easy to turn off. The pipe, not so easy. I call Danielle to see if I can locate a shut off.  Thus begins another adventure in plumbing. 
Theo has stopped in, home from art school in Minneapolis. I ask him for five minutes to try the shut off valves I can’t reach. First I need a flashlight. So over to CVS to get the batteries. Outside, I see two of my Occupiers still haunting the Upper West Side. These two are named Rain and Requiem (Is this  Occupy Wall Street or Occupy WWE?). None of Danielle’s shut off valves work. And Theo has to head for the airport. 
 Jeremy comes in to set up for tomorrow and once again I draw him in. He  goes to the hardware store to get a plug for the leaking pipe. We plug it. And now the water pours out of another pipe further down.  Attempted solutions fail one by one. Including something very creative with a candle and a wooden trough leading to a drain. And repeated trips to the hardware store. But nothing works. 
During one break in the plumbing adventure, Jeremy turns on the sound system and sings a surprise Happy Birthday to Hope. 
Hugo has returned. Jeremy tells him of his uncle John who knew Hugo back in the ’80’s Sandinista days. (And today Arcadia is his dental hygienist.) Hugo uses his muscle  to try the valves. But that doesn’t work either. We trace the pipe back looking for an origin. And track it past old valves that don’t turn into the ground where it disappears. We track down Tony’s number, give him a call. Get his machine. 
Finally everyone has to leave. Danielle has called the boiler company. Someone will be here in 30-60 minutes. Everyone else goes home. I wait.  But soon enough, Teddy the Polish plumber arrives, wife in the seat of his truck. Leak? he says. 
I take him downstairs. Show him the leaks. No problem he says. I try to find out what the problem is. Why this keeps happening.  No problem, he says. There is something about an old system and a new system. Next thing I know he’s got a power hack saw going and cutting out pipes. The hot water heater seems to be involved somehow. I look at the pipes he’s pulled out. Will we have to replace those? I ask.  Boss fix all, he says, this is America. No problem. Monday. And he also asks for Danielle, the church boss, he says. (She likes that.) No more leak. Water turned back on. And the restrooms work. Well all right, then. I see him out, wave good bye. 
On the steps, the clothes, the Cup-a-Soups,the plates,  the shoes, all gone. Not a trace. Even the boxes gone. 
Tomorrow is the first Sunday in Advent. 
The installation of the new boiler has begun

Friday, November 25, 2011

The day before Thanksgiving

The day before Thanksgiving. Looks like the Christmas tree people are arriving early this year. I always enjoyed seeing them arrive the day after Thanksgiving. I am so not ready for Chirstmas trees and music in stores and... Have to remember to pick up some sturgeon at Barney Greengrass for the morning after Thanksgiving breakfast.
It’s pouring down rain as I walk back with Katherine from a south Indian food lunch, rememebering our many Christ the King Sundays together.
Cat and Amalya are here for a tour. They’re working with Laura, one of Katherine’s students, who will be doing a spirituality experiential performance project here in December. So we do the whole building. And like every thirty and younger something person I show the church to, all they see is the beauty, the possibility. And the romance. I show them the FRAG exhibit in the chapel and they completely get it. 
Talk with Gina the gala play director. Her 412 area code tells me ...Pittsburgh. Even more, she's from my old neighborhood. 
Marc is in to further discuss his idea of a cd listening party with his killer sound system. Just so it doesn’t interfere with Laura’s rehearals. Luis arrives with his van to pick up chairs for the Ayala-Martinez-Santiago-Vega clan Thanksgiving. 
I find a backpack in my office. Call Danielle. Not hers. A little inspection tells me it belongs to Russ. My vanished Occupier...I call the #OWS housing coordinator to try and find him. Wait around hoping he will come before I have to go. Rudolfo is hanging around outside with a woman. Finally I can wait no longer. Need to go home, get ready and go to SPSA for the annual neighborhood interfaith Thanksgiving service. We clergy will come together. We will do songs, some always the same, some new and different. Chirstians and Jews and Sufis and Buddhists and Jane. I wonder with Katherine not there, who will do the Native American reading and I will laugh when it will turn out to be me. And Father Mike (the real) Tyson will do the Farmworker prayer I originally brought to this service and therefore had to read every year and Jane and Jeremey will do the Sanctuary song they got from me. That’s what will happen. Happy Thanksgiving. 
An oud player and Pastor K

Fatheer Mike, Pastor Elise and on the end, Tony

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

When you bring the Occupation home.

An aluminum pan of hard rolls.

The boiler has arrived and is ready to be installed. Only awaiting Department of Building approval. Councilmember Brewer says that she is on the case. 
Danielle and I working on overwhelming number of issues related to the gala, to the boiler, to operating funds.  It’s a tense time, even with Thanksgiving approaching. 
Two men come in, one who used to live in the neighborhood and a historian. Actually, he tells me, an agrictultural historian, but one who loves history nonetheless.  I take them into the sanctuary, review the social and architectural history, show them Norm’s historic display. They wonder at the ruin and the beauty.

Deacon James walks in for the first time in weeks. He's been struggling with the effects of chemo. But is reporting for duty and doesn't want anyone taking his job. 
Off to meet Jane at Starbucks and review yesterday’s negotiations.   
I meet Pat and her husband Larry on the street along wiht her charge, a young girl in a baby carriage. I tell her about our housing Occupiers.  We talk about Occupy, the controlled coverage of the press, the stories ignored, hidden. Like last Thursday’s march of 35,000 over the Brooklyn Bridge. She talks of her sister, the investigative journalist who has been going with her to Zucotti. But where can she run her story? And I talk about the power of blogs. 
Pat wants to know why Obama doesn’t stop it. I look at her. Who’s the President? I ask. Has he sold out, buckled under? she asks. Long ago, I say. 
 Late at night, I come back. Around twenty Occupiers, soaked, loaded down with backpacks and food, are waiting under the scaffolding, ready for shelter for the night.  I am greeted by Sheila, a sixtyish social worker who is in charge. And Ron, a union organizer sent for security. 
I bring them all inside, go through the history of the church, how it reates to Occupy, Then I lay out the groundrules. There are questions. One asks about the Christian flag. Another wants to know if there’s an open laundramat.  Ron wants to know where he can buy supplies. I ask if anyone’s going home for Thanksgiving. Nobody is. 
We’re in the movement, says one young African-American man, perhaps a bit too cheerily. We’re here to occupy.
Sheila and I go back to my office. I’m a veteran, she says, been in this for years. She’s got that slightly worn activist look about her. It’s kind of thirds, you know? I look at her puzzled. You know, one third idealistic students, one third lost soul hangers on, one third hard core homeless. And yes, I do know. 
It’s all too easy to romanticize. I think of the old (hell, my age) lefties at WBAI happily saying to each other, We’ve waited a long time for this, and Never thought it would take this long. 
But when you bring the Occupation home, you know. It’s not all bread and roses. There are edges, always. And I remember what we called the Sixties. The lost, the wounded, the violent who joined our hippie peace and love circles. I remember the crazy cast of characters who crashed on the floor of our off campus apartment every night during the days of hitchike nation. From serious filmmakers and artists to drifters and scam artists, all part of those days. Always like that when the lid of Pandora’s box gets pried open.
You know, says Sheila, they tried real hard, to welcome the homeless and broken, to treat them with dignity, equality, bring them into the circle. Heal them with democracy. They’re so young. But they did try. They never turned away.
Look, I say, we read in the Daily News how the NYPD was pushing all the park people, homeless, crazies, drug sellers to Zucotti. Then using it against the Occupation as an excuse to raid and evict. It’s so cynical. It’s not Occupy’s fault that the city pushes people to the margins and leaves them there. 
She goes through the story of the city’s converting the thousands of sro’s into private condos and euro hotels. Where do the people go, she asks, where? She shrugs her shoulders, We do our best, you know?
 I thank her for what she’s doing. No one could --or would-- host without the Sheilas of this movement.
Outside on the steps, our homeless guests have gathered for the night. One I don’t recognize. Pedro with his shopping cart of bottles and cans. 
Bloomberg, beware, Zucotti Park is everywhere. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An answer that just isn't there


A box of coffee mugs has been left by the door.
So when I  arrive today, Gina and her actors are rehearsing the gala play and a circle of Occupiers are rapt in attention watching them. It’s a good introduction to thier host. 
The pieces of the new boiler are on 86th street being loaded in through the street level door. It has begun. 
Marsha and Hugo arrive for our negotiations with Jane and her financial person Susan and her funder Ingrid. The conversation goes well. It looks like we’re ready to step out and make a commitment. We will try it...we’ll see what happens.
Marc has an idea about inviting people in for favorite music listening nights using the full sound system. Sounds like a great idea. He’d also like to get together and just play some music. And I would love that, too, if I can just get a moment to breathe.  Sunday, he laid a perfect red leaf on the communion table. 
Three of our occupiers are headed to Hope’s. She’s opened up her house to them. They were impressed to learn the socai history of the church.  
The day is growing late. I’m trying to leave. I think the place is empty. But first I find Leila in the Chapel measuring walls for her next New York Realists exhibition. And then I find another artist in the Session room. He’s got an installation opening in December. Needs to pull up some floor boards. Is it ok? Well, in the interest of art, of course it is. He is going to need another half hour or so. 

And then Mr. Martin comes in, ready to fix the Selmer piano. 
And then I find Russ. He was a late addtion to our sleepover group last night. There is much pain in his face.  I ask if he knew the others who slept here or whether it was just random. Random, he says. he’s looking for a place to sit and read. He’s got a stack of books that survived the raid. He likes the table in the Session room. I ask where he’s from. Nashville, he says. I tell him I know Nashiville, my oldest son went to school there. I ask him what he did there. I was a teacher, he says, I still am a teacher, he adds. I tell him I have to leave. He’s welcome to come back around ten. 
So I’m going to leave with Russ and an installation artist and Leila still there. I need to get to WBAI to get interviewed about the Dominos boycott. And then to my friend Greg’s cd release party in DUMBO, under the bridge. 
There is a certain pathos in the occupiers I have met. Along with romantic and optimistic students there are also folks who are clearly wounded and even lost. I’ve seen this before. It’s a natural collateral reality. Post 9-11, there were a lot of volunteers who wanted to live in 9-11 world. They had a hard time when the opertion finally shut down.  There was no meaning to their lives outside of 9-11. And so it is with Occupy. If for Jesus’s sake, you want to stand in solidarity with the least and the lost, then you stand with the least and the lost. That’s it. That’s what you do. No questions asked. 
I head to WBAI. Russ’ face haunts me. Looking, searching, for an answer that just isn’t there. 

(To listen to WBAI broadcast, go to

....first twenty minutes on last Thursday's #OWS march on the Brooklyn Bridge, then Rev. Brashear and Justice Will Be Served workers...)

Occupy West-Park



Marsha meets Sanctuary folks

Ingrid and Leila


A stack of dinner dishes with newspaper between each plate to keep them safe. 
Jane’s Sanctuary people are the first to arrive . As they arrive, one of my members makes a wry comment about Occupy West-Park. And Rachel, who I haven’t seen for awhile arrives.  And of course Hope and John. When I see someone for the Presbytery’s Administrative Commission take a seat in the  pews, I’m thankful that Jane and her folks are there. But I can’t avoid the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. It’s hard to get over the anxiety, the sadness, and be there for who is there. 
Today is Christ the King Sunday. Or as we call it now, Reign of Christ Sunday. It is the end of the  church year. The crowning of the year. The last  Sunday before Advent. And I can’t do this Sunday without thinking about Katherine. How we first came together around this service, what was it, thirteen, fourteen years ago? I asked her  how to preach this Sunday in a time of feminist awareness . And then when I heard her, asked her to come herself and say her own words. And that was a beginning. 
Another portal Sunday, that leads from one season to the next. And it’s about , what it all comes down to, is the bottom line.We’ve been building up to it . We’ve had the the wise and foolish virgins, the investor slaves...but this is it...the final word. 
There is strong stuff here. It begins with judgment. In Ezekiel 34 we read: 
I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice. (Justice will do the destruction.)
I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.
It’s about bullying. About pushing around the weak and vulnerable. Just because you can. It’s all a build up to Matthew 25. 
First, notice this. is about nations..., not individuals...not about beliefs, not about saying the right the right answers on the quiz. is about feeding, clothing, health care and healing and presence...even for those in prison..And above all, it is about WELCOMING strangers...
A lot has happened this week. Occupy evicted. A hundred tents were destroyed, clothes, Occupy Legoland, one digieridoo, and 5000 books. Sweatshop Free Upper West Side  held a rally to launch a citywide boycott of Dominos’ Pizza. Mexican, Chinese and West African workers all came together to stand in solidarity with oe another. And on Monday night, there will be a rally for the  Living Wage at Riverside Church. (Our own Caleb will be in the Living Wage chorus.)
Something is happening. And the coordinated raids, circumscribed  news accounts and  undercover cops all tell us that someone is WORRIED.
So what do we know?
  1. Day to day decisions are important. The choices we make choose for or against justice. 
2. There is a call to “direct democracy,” lived out at the neighborhod level. What we have known as community organizing. Beginning with one-on-ones, relationships, then house meetings. Then assemblies. Just like the Occupy...General Assemblies. 
  1. There can be no we/they in this. Ultimately we are clear that  that judgment is up to God. There are children of this congregation currenlty serving in the NYPD. Take care, pastor, one writes, be safe. What conversations can we have? What dialogues? And in the end, who are they
There is no time for self-righteousness here. There is only time for solidarity, across all boundaries....
I need to speak to the judgment end here. t’s not about being cast into hell, some fiery place with devils, etc. It is about the fact that whoever separates themselves from others separates themselves from God and is already in eternal loneliness, eternal separaration. And that itself is hell. Nothing more is needed.
And in the end, we do what we do not for reward, but simply because that is what we are to do.That is all. 
After church, the Session meets to discuss where we are. Serious questions are raised. It is increasingly clear, as is is not making it. Radical change is called for. But what does that mean? The abyss is closer than we lime to think.
I stay for Jane’s service. I’m still trying to get it. Her theology is not all that different from Katherine’s. The focus is more prsonal however. She is the subject, or the vehicle through which so much flows. And it seems so damned natural. And I will always be suspicious of too much happiness, too much joy. Even though I pray to God daily to open me to the possibility of joy and the grace to receive it when it comes. I’m too much a Christian existentialist, a sacred humanist.  Is that why it’s so damned hard?
And then.  The music. There is an old African-American woman with a dobro and an old bearded, mustacioed white man with a guitar. From the first funky sounds on the slide guitar on Let us break bread togther on our knees, I know exactly where this is coming from...the streets of New Orleans. And it’s there again on Wade in the water and Down by the Riverside...and I break the Commandment about coveting. As I hear that funky NOLA  street sound along with Jeremy’s piano and an upright bass and drums, a little world beat mixing with NOLA, well...
And I remember how I met Jeremy at a Woodshed speakeasy. And how a left behind purse led to Jane and Jeremy singing together in our sanctuary and now...well, I’ll stay on the thank you road and leave it at that. 
Later we’ll join in a potluck meal. Marsha, Hugo, Leila and Berik and I representing West-Park. The potential shared human resources are impressive.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 My prayer is for true collaboration.
On my way home, I get a call from Occupy...they need housing for evicted Occupiers. I quickly get Session support and agree to meet them, put them up for the night. For some reason, Judson has been shut down.  After hours, our guests finally arrive. A married young couple form Boston and their friend. (Another guest will arrive later.) She is in a wheelchair. She and her husband met in Portland, Oegon, of course. That northwestern pole in my life. Welcome strangers. I am happy when the social worker, a middle aged, straight, motherly though not matronly person arries to help. A medic too, is on call.  Welocme, strangers...The occupation has come to West-Park

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Either that or ghosts

A day. As Sarah is meeting with a lighting designer, (from the cutting edge St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn), I go downstairs to take a phone call in the yard and find the day’s first water disaster. The industrial sink in the kitchen, which Woodshed would have loved to see working, has filled with water and overflowed, the faucet still running. I am puzzled...this faucet hasn’t worked in years.
Upstairs, Tony from Sanctuary has come to check out our 747 temporary heater and see if there’s another way to vent it. As he’s checking that out, Leslie from P&G has come to take a tour of the church and see if she could lease/buy space to build her dream pub/performance space, her 87th street space having fallen through. I give her the whole tour, realizing this is seriously a tough one to pull off. Tony is dutifully waiting. Looks like we don’t need another venting system after all, just run it into the church house.  But is there enough diesel for Sunday?
And I’m waiting to talk to Sarah and Gina has arrived wanting to do notes from her play run through the other evening. I review issues of fact, issues of tone. And fill in historical details for her. And talk about the spirits that could haunt this space like the spirit in the play and if I make it out alive I’ll be lucky. She’s moved by what she didn’t know, the tweaks will be easy.
Still waiting to talk to Sarah, Tracy calls. Monday when I’m supposed to be at the Living Wage rally at Riverside Church, she needs me to go on WBAI  to talk about the Dominos boycott. At first it’s a tough call, but then I realize, with Living Wage, I’m a body, with Sweatshop Free,  I’m a voice. Sometimes just being a body is enough. Being a voice is better. 
Finally get to talk with Sarah. She’s been such a part of this place, we need to find a way to keep her involved after the gala is over. 
Then there is the person who used to work with us in childcare until we ended that program but kept getting paid for months after. We wouldn’t even have known had she not asked for a raise.  More pay for not working. The Session (board) was nonplussed. Wanted it ended. Hope and I thought about it, offered the opportunity to work and continue to be paid. Now with her check, she wants to know where her raise is. 
Hope and Leila are putting stamps on thousands of postcards when thsi controversy arises. As Hope engages, Sarah comes running in, another leak has sprung and is pouring through Mc Alpin. We have to find out where. We trace it to the fourth floor bathroom and the padlocked toilet. 
As I’m coming down the stairs to look for a flashlight, Jeremy has arrived. Soon Jeremy, Leila and I are checking it all out. Danielle is back from the post office and volunteers to go over the top, but Jeremy finds a way to remove the lock. We find the leaking pipe. But thing is, there hasn’t been water in this bathroom for over five years. 
Jeremy wisely calls Tony who’s back in a flash, figures it out and heads out to get the necessary plumbing supplies. In the midst of all this, the door bell rings and its Boxer Mike and his Dalmations. Raised voices still heard in the front. Tracking down a bad smell, we find garbage that has been hidden and organize a crew to get it out. Danielle’s husband, Nate,  is patiently waiting for the chaos to subside so that they can leave. 
Finally Tony fixes the leak. The angry worker leaves. Mike and the Dalamtians are gone. And Jeremy goes home. And Danielle and Sarah and I head to the basement to try and figure out what is going on. Near as we can figure, seems like the boiler people opened some water  lines that had been closed for years. Either that or ghosts. No other expanations.  Danielle seems to think she’s found another shut off valve. 
I’m thinking that a new Mexican bar has opened up the street