Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Eve on 86th Street

Teddy and Jay and Jeff are there to work on the door, continue the work on the bathrooms. Talk of famiies elsewhere. The feelings the day brings. And Dan is there to help me with the wedding that is to come. The early part of this day will belong to Tim and Gregg. Not wanting to wait any longer for Alabama to come around, they have come to New York City to get married. 

Jay, Tim, Gregg, Dan

Tim, Dan, Gregg


Teddy and Dan hook up the 747 blower, get the heat going. Dan helps get the communion table set up, decorated. I go to the Bengladeshi copy shop to pick up bulletins for tonght and tomorrow. When I get back, Dan is giving Tim and Gregg a guided tour of the church. We gather around the table. Dan  has put on a suit. He and Jay are the witnesses.  I share with them the social history of the church. And at noon on Christmas Eve, Tim and Gregg exchange their vows. 
I go out to do my last minute shopping. Stop in at Barney Greengrass to get pastrami salmon for tomorrow morning.  Close up the church until later. Stop and visit with the pickets at Saigon Grill. Head home to do the tree before  our service. Stop and talk with them again on my way back for services. 
The doors are open. Who will come? Most of our members are heading home for Christmas, where they came from before New York City. And most of our Latinos celebrate at home. Well, at first it's just my family. I consider just giving Micah and Nina a tour of the church then heading up to the picketers. But then Jahan from Occupy comes in. And then Sarah, her rommate Jereka and Jereka’s mom. And then more Occupiers. And a member of my friend Earl Kooperkamp’s church at St. Mary’s in Harlem.
I light the Advent candles. Micah plays the carols. And we read the Christmas story in Luke. No one’s real clear about the poitical situation of the day. I explain that this was a different kind of Occupation, a military occupation of Palestine by Rome.  The writers of the story knew the prophets, felt like it connected to the days of Babylonian exile. And I talked about shepherds. How in those days, the only folks who lived outside the city were the shepherds. Even farmers lived inside the gates and went out to the fields during the day to return at night. How shepherds were seens as perhaps,sketchy folks. Like Occupiers. Marginalized. That while there was nostalgia around David, these shepherds were outsiders. And they would be the first to know, the first to hear the angels. See the light.
And of a baby born in a manger. A place for cattle. Animals. Because there was no room in the inn. I talked about Occupy Faith delivering a gift to Trinity Wall Street. Seeking the right to encamp in their Duarte Park. The hunger strikers. The gift was an Occupation tent, opening up with the Holy Family inside. That’s where we began, said Rev. Michael Ellick of Judson Memorial. Where there was no room. At the margins.  We need to remember that--- not inside cathedral walls, but on the margins. With the poor.  ( )
And I finish by talking about light and darkenss. How I grew up with the drama narrative that the world was in darkness and then Jesus came and presto changeo, light. Well, not exactly. The light was always there. Sometime hidden, sometimes dim, sometimes bright but always there. In the prophets. In Jesus. Now in us. And like every night of Hannukah, (tonight the fifth), and the Advent candles, the light must always grow, increase. And that is up to us. 
And as we sing Silent Night, I light my candle from the Chirst candle and pass it on. One by one the lights grow from the front to the back of the church. Now’s the time to take your candles out, be light in the world, I say. 
So many memories. So many years. Good and bad. Starting with traditional lessons and carols type services. Making special music with the incomparable Larry Woodard. Our own version of I saw three ships. Bill Schimmel’s radical recreation echoing Simon and Garfunkel’s Silent Night/Six O’Clock News. Bill reciting Christmas in the trenches. Katherine and I struggling year after year to create the perfect Christmas Eve service and when we finally threw out the old  and in a day did it. Singing carols on the steps the year we were closed. In front of the gates. Coming back last year in the cold. So many memories. Sometimes more people, sometimes less, always the light....Will this be the last West-Park Christmas? Still hangs in the balance....remains  to be seen. 
Outside Pascal and Dominic are packing up, ready to head home to Quebec. The picketers have left for the night.  Homeless people settling in the doorways.
We exchange the peace with each other. Lock up the church.
Merry Christmas....

Nate, Dan, Micah, Nina, Sarah

Sarah, Jereka's mom, Jereka

Nate, Bob, Dan, Micah, Nina

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