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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

We are the welcome committee


7/15


More Light Stoles

Steve and Teddy are waiting for me when I arrive at church. Good to be back after two weeks gone. Steve is practicing the songs he’s been playing all week. Hope soon arrives. 
As we’re gathering, I get a call from Jim W. Started to church but got sick and can’t make it. I’ll need to follow up. 
I ask Steve to play Nearer my God to Thee to get us started. We sing God welcomes all and Tutu’s Goodness is stronger than evil. 
I lift up the stoles from General Assembly. Explain how they were knitted by over 1500 volunteers from the More Light movement around the country. How they used to be symbols of protest, symbolizing lgbtq people who were excluded from service or had to remain silent. How anyone from the national church staff was forbidden from wearing them because they represented a challenge to existing church policy. But now, since last July, they represent the victory of our new inclusive policy. The stoles now represent who we have become. As my pastor friend Ray from across the park says, That in itself is worth celebrating. 
I recalled how Bishop Gene Robinson, in addressing the More Light dinner,  had said that the one who cast the deciding vote had told him that what changed his mind was realizing  that he’d believed the church was the selection committee when in fact the church is to be the welcoming committee. God does the selecting, our only job to welcome. So maybe these stoles can be symbols of our welcome committee. 
I also spoke of how Michael Adee, the current executive Director of More Light was leaving for a new call to work with the faith community globally for full inclusion of lgbtq people. And how Michael had said that what began at West-Park was now spreading across the world. That’s us, the mustard seed again. 
Amy arrives in time for us to sing Sanctuary. After prayers, John, as usual, reads the First lesson, this time 2 Samuel 6: 1-5, 12b-19, where David’s exuberant dancing offends Michal as he exposes himself. We sing Psalm 24 to an Israeli melody. Then I read Mark 6: 14-29 after Luisa reads it in Spanish.
There’s a lot to talk about. Last night was the 100th birthday of Woody Guthrie. I’m Glad he came form Oklahoma. They finally were willing to claim him as a native son, mark his birthplace, put him in the Hall of Fame. And I’m glad he lived on Mermaid avenue on Coney Island. 
It was there that he, fed up with Irving Berlin’s God Bless America, wrote those verses to This Land is Your Land they don’t teach our children. Verses about the tyranny of private property  and welfare lines and where he wrote this song;

Christ for President
Let's have Christ our President
Let us have him for our king
Cast your vote for the Carpenter
That they call the Nazarene
The only way
We could ever beat
These crooked politician men
Is to cast the moneychangers
Out of the temple
Put the Carpenter in
Oh it's Jesus Christ our President
God above our king
With a job and pension for young and old
We will make hallelujah ring
Every year we waste enough
To feed the ones who starve
We build our civilization up
And we shoot it down with wars
But with the Carpenter
On the seat
Way up in the capitol town
The USA
Be on the way
Prosperity bound

And it was the week of the Penn State report...but more on that later. And I’m back from the Presbyterian General Assembly. We came up short on marriage equality by 4%. But  as my friends pointed out, the seminary students  and youth delegates voted 67% in favor. The battle is won.  And we held fast  ordination equality for lgbtq people. 
We fell short on selective divestment from Israel, Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard for their activities on the West-Bank.  And we held fast on women’s health issues. And expanded the push for single payer health care by starting a divestment process on for profit health care companies, a motion that began with West-Park urging New York City Presbytery to back Western kentucky’ lead. 
Increasingly the major divide is not so much not so much  right and  left  but  more rich and poor....We need to begin to take seriously class issues. And move beyond easy  liberalism to a praxis that is combination of spiritual and social action. 
Then there’s that story of John the Baptist. Anyone remember Oscar Wilde’s Salome? Or Strauss’ edgy hyper sensual opera? Or Aubrey Beardsley’s disturbing illustrations?  I can never think of it and not remember the woman in New Orleans with a tattoo of Beardsley’s vision of Salome with John’s head on a platter. 
What was the real issue? According to Josephus, secular Jewish historian of the time, it was because his growing popularity  was a political threat.  As  far as Mark? He recognizes the political implications. No one can be leader of the Jews without recognizing Jewish law. 
But underneath this, we find what Ched Meyer calls the shameless method of decision making among the elite , a world in which human life is bartered to save royal face....( Binding of the Strong Man: Meyer, 216).
Which brings us back to Penn State.  The worst was the janitor who was afraid of speaking for fear of losing  his job and the reality that he would  have.  How respected men stood by silently while children suffered. I think of how my father (may he rest in peace) respected Joe Paterno. Gave us a Christmas tree ornament of Joe Pa. How hurt he would have been.
And then a friend reminded me of our own church history. (It’s easy to criticize the Catholics) and how when we were younger, ministers guilty of sexual misconduct were quietly allowed to just move on to the next presbytery. No on ever thought of the victims.
The haunting question is, What would I have done? Would I have had the courage to speak up?  And you? And more, how do we create a community where our children will grow up knowing to do the right thing? Not afraid? That is the question. That is our challenge. 
We finish our service with Siyahamba: We are marching in the light of God, and recalling its anti-apartheid origins and how it was adopted by the  More Light  movement. 
After the service, an older woman wants to talk to me about a theatre project related to Occupy issues. And Rachelle is still haunted by the night that Teddy fought with the drug addict. His name was Shawn. She says he’s still in Rikers. Why? Why can’t we help him? All that blood! How she had to talk Shawn’s friends out of coming after Teddy. I mention the 300 empty heroine glasines. The needles they found in his bag. I understand, Rachelle, but this was serious. Coming after Teddy would not be a good idea.  Perhaps it could have been better  handled a different way. I can’t judge. She nods,still disturbed.  
Session meets to talk again about Glen’s plan and Jamie’s proposal. Enough for one day.



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