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Friday, December 30, 2011

The fifth day of Christmas: Falun Gong, Con Ed and the Christian Missionary Alliance


12/29
The morning temperature has dropped down to 23 degrees and it is COLD in the church. Zach from #ows is waiting for me when I arrive. He’s there to clean out the fourth floor gym, leftovers from last summer’s Woodshed production of the Tenant and the reamins of the recently dismantled shower lining the walls. #ows will be using the space for community council meetings.  A young woman, Felicia, has joined him.
There are mysterious things around. A large metal grinding machine on the first floor. Work being done in the men’s room. Lights on in the boiler room. Later, I discover that a crew from Chris the plumber has been hard at work. Charles, from Chirs’ crew, comes to my office. He’s waiting for Chris and a Department of Buildings’ inspector to run a test on the boiler. Inching ever closer. 
Then Julie from the Chinese cultural presentation, Shun Yen, soon to be at Lincoln Center, walks into my office. I feel like she has been stalking me for months. Insisting that my congregation needs to have them do a presentation on 5000 year old Chinese culture, destroyed by the Chinese Communists.  I have  kept trying to explain why Advent and Christmas were very busy times and this was not the way we wanted to share the holidays.
What she doesn’t say is that their production is sponsored by Falun Gong, a Chinese new relgion, harmless enough, but seems but deemed a cult in the People’s Republic. They are constantly kneeling in protest prayer in front of the Chinese Embassy. She has this prepared speech she keep going through over and over again, like magazine sales peope or those annoying people from the energy supply companies that say they are connected to Con Ed and want to help you reduce your energy bill. The minute I hear this clearly outsourced phone voice start in with Mister Robert..., I just want to run. 
Jane walks in as Julie is going thorugh her speech. Sees that i’m about to lose it. I am beginning to sympathize with PRC bureaucrats. Jane throws Julie a question about the Cultural Revolution. Julie is stopped for a second but soon back on message. I take it you weren’t a supporter, Jane says. Somehow, we move her on. We may still wind up with a presentation on Chinese culture, like it or not. 
I’m wondering how my friends from the picket line in front of Saigon Grill, back again today, would handle this. I stopped and visited with them today on my way to  work.  Exchanged holiday greetings. With them, I would share the holidays.
Jane’s here to tell me there’s a confab going on in the boiler room, so we head down there.  There’s Chris, at least two Polish plumbers, Charles, and a neatly uniformed DOB inspetor. The news? We have passed the inspection. According to Chris, all that is needed is for the DOB inspector to enter his report  on the DOB computer which will talk to the Con Ed computer which will send a Con Ed hook up crew. Sounds simple enough, but I see too many holes there. Call Gale, says Chris. She’s got to help us through one, or two?, more hoops before the heat comes on. Jane goes out to to call Gale. 
Dan is in and out doing various volunteer activities. More #ows volunteers are showig uo, heading to the fourth floor. 
I thought Jane has left,but she’s still here.  I am trying to share a song with Jane, guitar, frozen fingers and all, when two smiling young people push thier way thrugh my door. Hi, can we come in? No, says Jane, we’re almost finished. You have to wait. The interruption has thrown me off.  
Turns out they’re  from the New Mission Korean Church. Yet another church group having to leave the public school where they have been worshipping, due to a Suprme Court ruling on separation  of church and state.  They had called earlier . I told them to call Danielle, make an appointment. But they show uo an walk in anyways. I want to ask if they’ve been trained by Falun Gong. But no, just the  Christain Missionary Alliance.  But I do give them a tour.  Sigh. 
Zach wants me to see what’s been accomolished. In the fading afiternoon light, I can see he’s done a great job directing his crew. It looks..and smells...good and clean. 
I am too cold. It’s time to leave. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The fourth day of Christmas: Everthing happening at the same time


12/28
Carcasses of wasted umbrellas litter the sidewalk near the steps. The front Dream. Real. Hard. banner has been badly battered and is hanging limply as it flaps in the wind. Yesterday’s rain storm leaves its marks.
Anthony comes in to talk about the boiler. You know, Gary used to work for Con Ed, if that will help. I tell him thanks, I appreciate that, but we seem to making progress. Anthony looks out at the sanctuary.
What is Sanctuary NYC?, he asks.
A new faith community, church that worships here on Sunday afternoons.
Oh. He’s silent. How many of the old ones, you know, the old ones from before, still come?
Not too many, a few go way back, I say. Maybe two dozen who’ve been here over fifteen years? It’s hard.....
He’s quiet. Makes me sad to see a house of God so damaged, to have to go through this, makes me sad.  Quiet again. You haven’t given up....that takes courage. He goes out. Gets gary. They look aroud together. Waves goodbye. 
Jeff comes in to continue the discussions planning the work for the evolution of #ows’ housing. Current communities will be ended. Community living covenants will be drafted among carefully selected groups. Each will be unique to that particular group. Anyone not willing to live by the agreements all shared in creating can not be part of the community. 
Dan swoops in on his skateboard excited that he has met two young skaters on 86th who’d like a lesson. He’ll get a ladder to bring the banner down and be available for wahtever else is needed. 
Then a lot of things begin to happen at once. I’m trying to track down where we are with the boiler issue. Micah’s friend Nina has come for a tour of the church, so I break away from Jeff and show her around. I want her to understand where I work. What the place is like. Living in Berlin, she sees the esthetic connections. 
Martin arrives for another look to try and finalize plans for where Noche Flamenca coud fit in.  He has brought his two brothers, both with their own skills.  Jason is waiting for some friends of his friend Kelly who might have some ideas.  
Nan arrives with this week’s checks to be signed.  Jason needs his resume to be printed, but its not working so I send him to the Bengladeshi copy shop. 
It’s getting late, I need to go see Micah and Nina before they leave to return to Berlin. Martin is still thinking, needs to take another look. Jason has returned and just as I’m about to walk out, he says, they’re here..
I tell him to start the tour, I’ll be up. I go back to Martin. When I get up to the 4th floor, there’s Jason, his friend Kelly and a dynamic woman, Isabel, who’s giving things a serious once over wth a clear snese of what needs to be done.  I’m getting anxious about leaving when we’re joined by Isabel’s daughter. I apologize, explaining that i have to run to see my son before he leaves for the airport.  The striking young woman introduces herself as Rosario. Rosario Dawson. She really wants to help.
Walkihg up the street, I’m thinking, so i just walked out on Rosario Dawson...
But of course she and her mom will understand, it’s about family. 
I’ll come back in a hour or so. To see Jason again. Talk about plans for Martin Luther King, Jr weeknd.  And then I’ll go for coffee with Jane. When too many things are happening at once, I need to wait for my head to clear, to stop spinning. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The third day of Christmas: A full box of two dozen jelly donuts


12/27
A full box of two dozen jelly donuts. These would be sufganiyot, Israeli donuts left over from the last night of Hannukah. 
Someone is waiting when I arrive. Are you Con Ed? I ask.
No, I’m waiting for Con Ed, comes the reply. And after all these weeks, for the first time, I meet Chris the plumber. We wait and we wait. Finally, Chris calls. Ten thirty, ten thirty they say. Another hour. I’m going out, I’ll be back. 
A large man named Joe is leaning in the doorway. Pastor, I want to know, can I stay here? I’m with Occupy. They kicked me out of SPSA. Two women said I was haraasing them. Lurking, they said. I didnt even know they were there. How could I lurk? But they said I had to go. The one, she was only there because I stood up for her. Then she does this. And they they said they found me with other people’s stuff. I was only trying to help, you know? I just don’t know. I just don’t know. Can I stay?
Well, no. Unless there’s a community....I can’t.
He looks sad. While I’m trying to resolve this, someone else walks through the door. Looks like he could be a cousin of Chris the plumber. I’m Con Ed, he says. It’s not yet 10:30. So I walk him downstairs, start to show him around, hoping Chris will show soon. The longer I stretch this out, the more anxious I become. Finally, as Con Ed is getting ready to leave, Chris shows. The one time, he says, the one time, they're on time...
So I leave Con Ed and Chris alone together because Dan has come in. Needs to rehearse  his DJ routine for his upcoming New Year’s Eve gig.
And a young Asian woman named Alice comes in. Wants to see the art gallery. I take her to the chapel where the New York Realists  are. No, she says, this isn’t it. So I take her upstairs to Mc Alpin. There, her sister, Peggy Chiang, has two sculptures and an image on exhibit. I leave her with her sister’s art work.
On the steps, Anthony and Gary are watching the street. I stiil have no idea what happened with Chris and Con Ed. All the donuts, and the box, are gone. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas 2011


Christmas.  Marc has brought a CD he made with a selection of classic Christmas music. He puts  it on and the sound fills the sanctuary. I step out for five minutes to get a cup of coffee at Barney Greengrass. The restaurant is filled to overflowing. It's a longstanding tradition for Jewish neighbors to gather here on Christmas morning for a sturgeon breakfast. When I get back to my office, I discover that the Christmas Eve offering I left on my desk has disappeared. It wasn't that much, but it makes me sad. That and my missing cell phone makes for a down start to the day. I can only hope that whoever took the money really needed it. 

Marc wants to see things take off. Not sure why more people don't come. I don't have an immediate answer for that but need to deal with the issue in the New Year. Somehow translate the weekly life into our Sunday morning life. John  arrives, happy that we are open. I know we must have had another Christmas Sunday morning during my time here, but I can't remember it. I think all the way back to my only Christmas in Oakdale when I invited everyone to come as you are and had hot chocolate and cookies while we sang carols. I'm happy when I see my son Dan come in and then Laura, a young woman from the neighborhood looking for a service. Well, when two or three are gathered together...

I light the Advent candles. the Christ candle. We read the scriptures together. The gospel lesson is John 1,... in the beginning was the word...We talk about how in Genesis, the world was created  by word, and God said....and how the Bible as we have it is a living word...and how we are living words. ...The word became flesh and dwelled  among us....God in us...And how the darkness has not overcome the light...even when  it feels that way...And we sing Joy to the World and I give the benediction. 

Turns out Laura works for the city in energy conservation. I tell her  our new boiler, our commitment to bring our building back green. We will talk again.

Dan and I head home. Tracy has told me there'll be a special Christmas Day picket in front of Saigon Grill.

It's Christmas.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Eve on 86th Street


12/24
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

Married





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.  (http://occupyfaithnyc.com/2011/12/21/video-ows-nativity-scene-removed-by-trinity-wall-st/ )
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

A green sweater. A copy of Gray’s Anatomy. And two jelly donuts.


12/23
A green sweater. A copy of Gray’s Anatomy. And two jelly donuts. 
Yesterday when I was talking with Anthony and Gary, a little woman walked up with a big bag. Took out a Metropolitan Museum bag. And tied it to our door. And walked off. Inside were dozens of Christmas cards, that is the front of each, the signed part cut off.  She was goin gdoor to door doing this. 
Today will be a race against time. The last workday before Chirstmas Eve. Last chance to get the heat on.  Teddy and Kiran are here to work on the door. To see what needs to be done with the showers. I’ll be busy all day long in an endless circle of phone calls between Con Ed, Chris the plumber, Councilmember Brewer. I’ve reached out to Ted to reach out ot his friend again. 
Later Jane and her husband Mike, visiting from California, will stop in to check on the status.  No. Not yet, I say. Waiting for clearance from the DOB. (Among other things, the old stop work order still hadn’t been lifted.) And apparently, our expeditor headed into the bull pen (where expeditors wait) not realizing a call to our councilmember woud have opneed a clear path. Now the issue is can we get our expeditor into the DOB before 2 PM? We’ll claim that, says Jane. We’ll think good thoughts. 
Leila has brought some of the  scarves and jewelry she has created.Some last minute shopping for family. Her crafts are always beautiful. 
Latest word from the council member is that connections have been made, details are being worked out. 
One of the mothers of an occupier has come back again. To check in on her son. To see what might be possible. Before Christmas.
A Polish plumber/electrician is downstairs in the boiler room working. Con Ed is coming, he says, Con Ed is coming. 
I go to do an errand. On the way back, almost to 86th Street, I see RL. We shake hands, exchange greetings. Back inside, in the office, I see he’s left two bottles of wine, one for me and one for Danielle. Bless you, RL. 
Another plumber has been sent by Chris to waith for Con Ed. We wait. And we wait. At 4:45 PM, the phone call comes. They’ve all gone home. They won’t be coming. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Curse you, Con Ed


12/22
Dan the DJ is waiting for me when I get to the church. Last night was a better one. Just wants to drop soem things off before heading out for his day, a possible job out there. 
Teddy and Jeff are the next to arrive this morning. Teddy’s here to work on plans to repair the front door, damaged the first night of Occupation when someone tried to break in. Jeff is there to continue our conversation, our negotiation, about putting together a more sustainable Occupy community at West-Park. We’re talking about budgets and money, repair work to be done. 
Meanwhile, anxiety about the boiler continues. Curse you, Con Ed. Chris my plumber is beside himself. It’s been over two days and no word whatsoever. So I have to go higher. Call in Councilmember Brewer. Let Ted know so he can contact his freind in management. It’s just too close to Christmas. And again, it’s warmer outside than in. It’s madddening. 
Diaan Ainslee has called to check out our space for her acting classes. Turns out she’s an old veteran actor, director. Decades ago on Broadway, recently directed a regional Jesus Christ Super Star, and then Vagina Monologues for the JCC. Clearly passionate about her work, her students. I show her all the rooms, all the spaces. She can imagine teaching in all of them. Loves the session room, the expanse of Mc Alpin, the Balcony Theatre. I can see in her mind’s eye, she’s already working here. They call me Hawkeye, she says, I don’t miss a thing. 
Two AFA guys have arrived to check out the fire alarms. I show them down to the basement. It’s hard running things without Danielle. Another Polish plumber has arrived to run the pressure test on the boiler. Does that mean we’ve heard from Con Ed? Chris gets upset just hearing the question.
Hope comes in so I can go to the Met with my family, but phone calls keep coming. Councilmember Brewer, Chris the plumber, and yes, as I’m about to enter a gallery, Con Ed. The call of course drops before I can get it and that’s it.
Back at the church, Jason comes by. His new cell phone has arrived. We, of course, are his address.  
Hope goes home. I lock up. Though I will be back. I’ll be back. There will  be more phone calls....an Occupier's mother, a congregant on the verge of eviction...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pre-occupied


12/21
Teddy, Jeff, Jason and Dan from Occupy are all here. Teddy is here to work on the door that was damaged. Long conversation with Jeff and Jason about working out a longer term realtionship. We again do a full tour of the building to talk about best sleeping, eating, meeting places. 
Lots of issues re.housing. The idealistic goal of building new communities running into human reality. The Eden time of Zucotti didn’t last long. And now that we’ve entered into an extended time, long debates as to how to do this. Realities bumping into ideologies. For example, at SPSA, Dan has had two back packs stolen. Even more frustrating, he had received a beautiful hand woven winter hat from a craftsperson at the festival as a gift. Gone. 
Issues of safety, security, safe space over against those who resist any authority, any rules. Yet with no rules, ther can be no humane sense of security. Learning community building from the ground up. And without these kind of agreements, we can’t move forward. Sanitary issues, privacy versus communality. Jeff had wanted large communal tents, not smaller individual ones which gave more privacy, but less security.  How will we accomplish that in a church?
We’re dealing with what one writer has called the US Poverty Diaspora. Young people put on the road voluntarily or by parents. Unemployed or unemployable. Queer youth aged out of shelter systems. Mentally ill, homeless. The marginalized, the rejected. Pushed into or attracted to the movement. And the movement has collectivley tried to respond morally, humanely and functionally. Out of this, new realities will grow.
And this church is the only Presbyterian church housing people and the only church in Manhattan seeking to develop creative and sustainable working relationships. Like I said, you need us....
The conversation goes on. Nan arrives to work on financial issues with Hope. Get those thank yous and year end appeals out. A plan has been made. 
Sarah arrives to review the gala, talk about next steps. As a young businesswoman, she too, sees a system that no longer works and a liberal establishment that can no longer provide a moderating alternative. Gone and bought into the corproate class driven paradigm. Real workig reforms not possible. A committed capitalist who believes what was is done. She looks at West-Park’s relationship with Occupy as the most important work we’re involved in. 
It’s cold in the building, we go for beef borscht at Popover’s. Then I pick up the thank yous at the Bengladeshi print shop. Sit and sign them all. Deliver them to Hope on the picket line. Outside, it’s almost balmy, September like. Mim will pick them up, finish the job.
The CD with pictures from the gala has arrived. Seems like a long time ago now. 
Two days, forty eight hours no word from Con Ed. One simple question to be answered. Size of meter pipe to be installed. That’s it. No answer. Con Ed hell again.
Later sons Dan and Nate will walk with me. We’ll cross the street, talk with Pascal, get a tree. No free one this year. The free one went to Occupy. Walking home, carrying our tree, we stop and talk with the pickets at Saigon Grill. Nate wonders how anyone can still go in and eat there. Some coming out do stop and talk with the workers. 
Still later, I get a call from Dan. Issues. I head to church to meet him. The Mexican can and bottle collector asleep on the steps. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Exorcised: a prayer for Minister Mike


12/20
I’m at the church. No plumbers. No Con Ed. OK, what’s going on?
I windup spending all afternoon at an Occupy Faith meeting at Judson with people from around the country....Oakland, Chicago, DC, Portland...A real mixture. Old school progressives who’ve been waiting a long time for this. Representatives from the Council of Elders, Civil Rights era veterams passing the torch. Serious liberation theologians. Activist priests. Long haired bearded post evangelical emergent counterculturals with their Occupy Christmas plan. (http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2011/12/occupy_faith_pl.php)  Hardcore radicals from Oakland and seminarians. Day of coordinated action? Launching a campaign? Organization vs. movement? Lots of questions. Proposed strategies. A constant reminder that this movement belongs to everybody, not anybody. 


Occupy Faith

Back at the church, Martin has come in directly from his flight from Madrid, with his mother Luli, his wife, and two children. Needs another tour of the building. It’s time to decide what is possible. 
As I am sendin them off, the door is rattling. I open it, a disraught looking young man comes in. Father...he says...I need you.
OK, what’s up?
I have given my life to Jesus. I work all the time trying  to lead people to him. Up in skyscrapers. Down in the streets. I am called. I am anointed. But I am cursed by witchcraft. Powerful witchcraft.  Will you help  me? Pray for my release....bless me.... 
 I send Martin and family on.  Ask some basic questions. What’s your name? 
Minister Mike. 
Where you  from?
Brooklyn
Do you know the source of the withcraft?
Yes, I do. But no one would believe me if I told them...I will say nothing...
Have you been to see your local parish priest?
Yes I have. But their exorcisms fail. I need prayer warriors. I need you to give me a prayer. I have taken vows. I was moderate, but now I abstain from alcohol. I have become celibate. I have not masturbated...
Minister Mike. Listen to me. Look at me. I can pray for you. I guarantee nothing. I can only add my prayers to those of others who pray for you. To surround you with our prayers. OK?
He nods. I lead him into the sanctuary. Under the glowing light of the Tiffany window Jesus, child in his arms. He bows his head. I bow mine. Put my hands on his shoulders.
God our Creator. Father God. We thank you for Minister Mike. We know that he has turned his life over to you. Fill every place inside if him with your loving spirit. You know he seeks to serve you. To be an example. To lead others to you. You know he struggles with a heavy burden. You know that he struggles with powers and principalities. Fill him with your loving Holy Spirit. Gather all the prayers of those who love him. Surround him with the power of those prayers. Protect him withthe power of those prayers by the sustaining power of your Holy Spirit. Protect him with the full armor of the your love. Help know and understand the power of your grace and forgiveness. I place my hands on his head. Be with him on his journey. Bless him, protect him, keep him safe on his journey. These things  we pray in the holy name of Jesus
We open our eyes. He looks up at me. Father, I have a tatoo, bless my tatoo...He pulls up his sleeve. Show me the cross tatooed on his forearm. I place my hand on it.
Bless this cross for Minister Mike, O lord. May it always remind him of  the promises he has made. But let it also remind him that just as it is always with him, you are always with him. Everyday, every moment. Let him never forget your love.  
He seems less agitated. Calmer. Now I need to bless you. There is so much evil in me. It will stay in this place after me. And he opens his prayer book, reads a prayer, makes the sign of the cross to me. And I cross myself. I walk out with him. At the door I reach out my hand, look into his eyes. Peace be with you, i say. And also with you, he says. 
As i am seeing him out, Martin and his family are coming back. Hey, thanks. Can I see you tomorrow? I came straight here from the airport. It’s cold, man. I tell him my wife and son spent Christmas in Madrid two years ago. Beautiful. I’ll be back tomorrow. I shake hands all around, see them out. 
The side door bell rings. I open the door. It’s John, from the first Occupy.... work group. And a woman. He looks worried. Can i talk to you?
Sure.
Rememeber me?
Yes, from Occupy..., the first work group. What’s up?
That woman, that blonde woman, Sandy, she said you maybe weren’t so happy with the way things worked out. Maybe something was wrong...
No man, it’s good. we’re talking everyday. Working every day. Talking about a longer term relationship. 
Really? 
I nod. It’s ok. So he too, for some unknown reason, needs absolution. It’s ok.
Thank you, thank you, that means so much. And he and his woman are gone, heading west on 86th Street. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Con Ed is here and ready to go to work


12/19
To the church early. Mystery: when I left last night, I thought all the lights were off. They were on as I arrived. And someone had left three food platters from Gourmet Garage inside the church. I find this somewhat disconcerting. Con Ed is here and ready to go to work. Into the basement. All over the boiler. And into the ground. The jackhammers are digging under the sidewalk. Soon pipes will be being laid down and connected. Ted the Polish plumber has arrived and is turning valves and adjusting things. Work is underway. We’ve cut through six weeks worth of red tape in six days. Thanks to Gale. Thanks to Ted. In the end, as always, it’s relationships. And it’s beginning.
I’m catching up on my writing. DJ Dan has taken down the brown paper sign and the Craft Fair banners.  Amanda and Aaron stop by to say good bye on their way out of town. She leaves her New York guitar with me for safe keeping .John H walks in to talk through strategies re. the upcoming meeting on air rights and is glad that I seem to have a hold on the legal parameters at hand.  
Danielle comes in. Her last day of work before she heads home for the holidays. There are acknowledgement letters to get out. Year end requests. All the grind it out work needed to keep going. Tonight there will be a meeting of the Center’s Executive Committee. Budgets to be created. Financial reviews. We’re still on edge.
And Marsha and I meet Mitch from the coop to the north. They want to help. They actually supported us in the landmarks struggle. But they want to also lease air rights. Air rights that range from valueless to invaluable depending on how things shake out. A proposal will be drawn up. We’ll see.
And still there is the question as to how to rebuild a viable congregation out of all this.  It is a living, breathing church. But still so far to go.....
When I left to go to the Eecutive Committee meeting, we put the food platters on the steps. By the time  leave the meeting with Mitch, they’re all gone.

Monday, December 19, 2011

a brief note of thanks

Yesterday we passed the 10,000 mark in visits. Thank you to all of you around the world who are reading. I often see the name of a country and wonder who's there...if anyone should ever wish to contact the author, Robert L. Brashear, for any reason, the e-mail is  rlbrashear@aol.com. Also, always feel free to comment....
Thanks for reading
Bob

Three days of peace, love and music. And crafts. and art. Day 3: Advent4: Let it be.


12/18

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Getting ready for worship in the balcony. Just like last year. Teddy and DJ Dan helping me.  I look out at the balcony rows, see who’s there. My people, Occupiers, it’s a good congregation. Feels good for this fourth and final Sunday in Advent.  I invite the girls up to light the candles. And we begin. 
Before our prayers we chant Magnificat, magnificat, magnficat anima mea dominum. Hope asks me to translate...my soul magnifies the lord, I say. And I ask how our souls magnify, make visible, the Lord, or the Spirit, or what is good and should be. And we lift up our prayers for intercession, including as Occupier Jeff says, the rich who reject community, and someone facing a heart transplant and those facing violence and....we pray.
 The scriptures, Luke 1: 26-38 and Luke 1: 47-58, are the Anunication, the angel telling Mary what will happen,  and the Magnificat, Mary’s song.  I ask what the biggest news of the week was. And of course, it’s the end of the Iraq war.  And we remember trying to hold it back. That we in New York city did not want our grief to be used as an excuse to invade. Dana’s Not in Our Name concert. The Lysistrata Project peformance in the balcony theatre with formerly incarcerated and homeless persons, who knew who would pay for the war, perfomed in the balcony theatre. Protesting across the street from the UN with the Buddhists and getting arestd at the US mission. 
The losses: conservatively over 150,000 Iraqi deaths, including 113,000 civilians. And 4000 US troops dead and more than  31,000 casualties. As we now know,justified by lies. But....it’s over...
This week is the week of Occupy the Pulpit, I recognize our guests and speak of the conflict with Trinity (Wall Street) Episcopal. Classic liberal church and also one of the largest property owners in the Wall Street area. The struggle over thier Duarte Park. The hunger strikers. Even Archbishop Tutu has weighed in.  
And we remember last year onthis Sunday, our friend Rick Ufford-Chase from Stony Point joining us. How he heard about us worshipping in the cold and knew he had to be here with us. And how we spoke of the Church that will be. What we are becoming and already are.  
And finally, Mary’s song....the set up...the angel’s  visit. Just  how is this going to happen?, she wants to know.  
Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" and then 
The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.
(Well,  that certainly explains it..)
I ask if there have been any #OWS pregnancies? Births? Thinking of Mary’s kinswoman ,Elizabeth, we remember our pageants. The competition to be Mary and the year we resolved it by having a Mary and an Elizabeth. And the bottom line, Mary says, Let it be to me according to your word...And we people’s mike that...let it be...to me...according to your word.
Let’s go back...why her?  Becuase of her lowliness? Or because she said yes...did others say no? for how many centuries? What are you being asked to say yes to?
And her tense, the Lord has done...great things for me. Already done. Already accomplished. (Like what, exactly? What great things has the Lord done for you?) She lists them, and I ask especially my Occupier friends to listen. He has:
scattered the proud
brought down the powerful ( Well not yet...Archbishop Tutu in South Africa, long beofre the fall of apartheit, would say, we have alrady won...how? One of my occupiers says we walk by faith and not by sight...Because once enough believe it, it is inevitable. It cannot be prevented. It is already real. And in the hearts,  where it most matters, it is already acconplished. I remember the words on the side of the Verizon building that night on the Brooklyn Bridge: Be not afraid. We are winning. 
filled the hungry and...sent the rich away. That’s pretty unambiguous. I remember  Nicaragua,1982, the season of Purisima, of Advent. A street mass...fire crackers, the priest with loudspeaker on top of his car. A woman reading these words. Then saying how this had happened in her life. The overthrow of Somoza. How she had learned to read and that this was now her song. 
And I finish by saying whether in politics or our individual lives, there comes that moment when you have to say yes, when you have to say Let it be. Just let it be. And of course, Andre sings Let it be...slowly, soulfully And there are amens,and applause, even from the Crafts fair below. 
We sing our Advent doxology (to the tune of O come, O come emmanuel..) and finish with Soon and very soon...
Let it be, to me, according to your word. 
The session meets. Approves two overtures to New York City Presbytery for the next PC(USA) General Assembly. One is affirming the right of a church to open its doors for same gender marraiges in states where it is legal. Along with the right of the pastor to decide according to conscience. The other reaffirms the policy for single payer and possibly divesting from for profit health care businesses.  And we talk about boilers, court cases, Christmas and Three Kings. 
Jane and Jeremy

Down in the chapel, I hear Jane and Sanctuary NYC starting up, the strains of What if God were one of us? A good Christma song...
Peter Galperin
Amanda and Bob
The afternoon lineup begins with Justin Robert James followed by Peter Galperin.  And then  Amnada does a set and then I do one more. And one last time she joins me in harmony. I wanted to record, but the comouter with Garageband has run outof juice. Well, maybe next time. And Piano Dan finishes out the music. 
In between, I’m going around thanking our craftspeople. And shopping. And talking with the mother of one of our Occupiers who has come all the way from Cape Cod to check up on her son, and say thanks for being a safe haven, a community. 
And now there’s nothing left but to clean up. I ask DJ Dan to take hot cider and fresh cake to Pascal and Dominic the Chirstmas tree guys across the street. Ah, the legend grows, he says. And he returns with a small Christmas tree. For Occupy Wall Street, he says. 
So, how was it? Maybe there was more spirit last year. A greater sense of adventure. Of  boldly reoccupying the church, even in cold freezing enough to see your breath, no heat, no bathrooms. This year, with the 747 blower going, the warmth  was fine. And bathrooms too. Felt more like, well, a normal holiday event. More traffic. Maybe more sales. Less like courageous pioneers.
It’s down to Ted and I. Lights off. Doors closed. Walking home, I stop to talk with the picketers at Saigon Grill. Of course, Hope is with them. They believe they’ve got the owners on the ropes. I remember last Christmas Eve, the Chinese picketers wearing Santa Claus hats. It’s 23 degrees. Time to go home.
Ted and Judith

To read about last year's Crafts Fair, Balcony Muisc Festival and Advent 4 with Rick Ufford-Chase, go to:

http://west-parkpress.blogspot.com/2010/12/opening-day-and-another-boither.html

 http://west-parkpress.blogspot.com/2010/12/its-about-being.html 

http://west-parkpress.blogspot.com/2010/12/advent-iv-today-we-lived-in-church-that.html