Thursday, December 8, 2011

100+: Honor the past, celebrate the future

There is mad activity all over the church. Cases of champagne arrive from Paul at the St. James Gate. Balloons, tables, DJ equipment, arriving. Last minute cleaning going on everywhere.  Hope, Marsha and a full crew from Occupy hard at work. Amanda and Teddy are creating a sign. She had wanted it to say: Gala Benefit $125 per ticket, Artists and Vagrants Free....but after consulting with Sarah, it changed to: 
Benefit Tonight: $125 Suggested Donation,Artists, Activists and Occupiers Free

Teddy hangs the sign

Even at that, Hope had questions. What was our message? Were we separating people on the basis of money? How  as a church, we had to be clear about welcome. For Sarah, the message was clear: if you are a member of this community who can afford it, you are expected to contribute money. And every other contribution needed as well.  
Hanging the sign
The boiler is still not on. Frantic calls being made to various offices at Con Ed. Finally contact achieved. A frustrating circle between Con Ed and the plumber begins. Where is the work order? Where is Blue Card from the Department of Buildings? Finally at 4:30, we give up. There will be no boiler tonight. Mim is taking Danielle to get diesel to fire up the temporary heater.  My frustration about falling into a bureaucratic morass is boiling over, but I have to let it go.
A group of Chinese women have come in to promote their upcoming cultural event. I think they may be connected to Falun Gong, but don’t know for sure, but it is sure not a good time to talk. Which is what I’d said on the phone before they came anyways...
The Mexican evironmental entrpreneur is asleep on the steps, his overflowing shopping cart nearby.  I try to wake him. Mi hermano, se conoce que no es permiso a dormirse duriente el dia. Y esta noche hay una programa muy importante.Necesitamos a tener las escaleras limpias, las puertas abiertas. Mi hermano, por favor.... Nothing works. It’s too late for Outreach. So ultimately I call the precinct. They come and gently remove him. 
Actors have arrived early and are being put to work. Folding napkins, lining up champagne glasses. The dancers have arrived. Sarah asks me to tell them the history of the church, so I do.  My Sweat Shop Free Campaign Workers have arrived.  Sarah has set up a dinner for all the participants on the third floor above Mc Alpin, Martin Bard of the Times Square Playwrights as head server. Singers, actors, dancers, church people, organizers, occupiers, all together.  

Dinner is served

WIll anyone come?
The doors are open. People streaming in. The lights go down. I stand to give the welcome. Look out. And it looks good. And I welcome everyone to Honor the Past, Celebrate the Future. And then Bella Poynton’s two person  play, Not by Might, Not by Power, but by Spirit, tells our story. 

And dancers lead people into the building where every room has something different going on...Amanda has organized musical performances in the chapel, Jane is in her office, people are making birthday cards for the elderly with Dorot, The Westside Campaign Against Hunger and Doreen Wohl are writing letters about food policy, Times Square Playwrights are presenting one act plays, Sweat Shop Free is holding a meeting, Laura’s performance art piece Threads is being presented along with Jack Salazar’s photos and Nick Etre’s paintings. In Mc Alpin, there are carrot cake cupcakes from WSCAH and champagne and sparkling cider. And DJ Nomad (Dan from Occupy) spinning vinyl and most exciting, Rachel performing high in the air on the fabric.
Andrea is concerned that too many aren’t getting it and heading too quickly to Mc Alpin, champagne and home. I talk to Sarah. People are starting to figure it out, engage. It’s working. And when the dancers lead everyone to Mc Alpin for the final moment, it’s a good crowd. 
I look around. Longtime friends like John and Annie up from Atlantic City. George, my mentor, one of the true saints.  A couple who visited from New Jersey a few weeks back for worship and just had to come back. (Bringing homemade pimento cheese with them.) Octogenarian peace activists. Our circle of friends, people like Chloe from the Interfaith Center of New York City, Ray from More Light, Doreen from WSCAH, Bernardo from El Taller, Emily from Stony Point, my friend Aaron from Woodshed...This is us.
I have Ray speak first with a letter from Michael of the national More Light movement. Then Gale Brewer reads the city council proclamation. And finally I give my you need us, we need you speech. It was beautiful....but I could have said, Open up those check books now if you want to see us here in January...we’re that vulnerable. My neighbor Rick, who's great at this,  said I’m getting better, but have to be  more direct. That’s me...

Then it was time to honor Sarah and Danielle...who were amazing and made it happen...
The formal part is over, Rachel is in the air again, people dancing to Dan’s vinyl. I take a glass of champagne, look out over the room. This is who we are. This is good. 

Rachel in the air
More photos will follow on Facebook....

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To read the West Side Spirit's story go to

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