Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dumplings in a dream


Some days...we wait all day long...waiting for the word...a day late...but...we’re sure ...but...

The text comes from Jamie....They have decided not to proceed....There’s supposed to be an explanatory e-mail coming...I call...the funder wants to raise money to buy, not lease....I try to explain that the idea itself was so right, so necessary to the moment...can we be creative, can we......  Answers are inconclusive.

The Session meeting we had called to discuss the deal will now have to have another purpose. My heart is sinking. 

Steve drops by. He has completed his report on social media. OK, we’ll still discuss it. I’m having trouble focusing. 

Outside, Edward is asleep on the steps. Not today. I tell him he’s got to go. He stands. Wavering back and forth. And goes.

The full session arrives. Anxious for news. I’ve only begun to explain the situation when I realize that it’s time for Steve’s presentation. He’s prepared slides. A power point. Very professional presentation. So we break off our conversation. Hear the presentation. The Session is impressed. We’ll have to form a committee. Now back to the matter at hand...

There is disappointment. As to the bigger picture, there is some denial. But mainly acceptance. It would be easy to throw in the towel, but....Hugo is adamant that we need to go back to the community. Politicians. Promises, made, still unfulfilled. Our position has not changed from our first negotiations. What we needed then, we still need. The missing bridge has never materialized. That has to be made clear. We need to shake every tree. Follow up every lead that’s been out there. And it must be done. Fast. The sands in the hourglass....

I remember an old Yiddish proverb, dumplings in a dream are a dream, not dumplings.


Nate is hard at work with Martin. I’m trying to swing back into action after yesterday’s disappointment. The Center Board wants to see if something significant might be salvageable.  The vision was that important. 

I’m on the phone again. 

RL and Michael his attorney are at RL’s office. (The Gate.) I go to join them to talk about how to secure a space for RL to have his studio/rehearsal space. Since yesterday, that’s now easier. Sadly. But RL’s another piece of the puzzle. Wish the rest would fall into place. And I’m anxious for him to get his open mic night started. I need to play. 

The off to see the Private Theatre Company’s production of Strindberg’s Playing  With Fire at a SOHO club. The play was prepared at West-Park, the young cast lunching in the steps every day. Their trailer filled with West-Park (uncredited) and Berik’s painting, amazingly fitting. Somehow the title is also fitting.

The video:

When I stop by after the play, Rachelle is there. And Damaris. And two shiny smiling young people. Rachelle is going  about these marvelous beautiful young people. Turns out they're from one of those churches that causes (for us) brand confusion, don't ordain women and certainly don't welcome gays. I still don't get it. Rachelle is going on and on. No, not tonight.


Last day before going back home for a few days. Trying to keep my spirits up. Melisa will come back from her time away to further develop her proposal. Upset to find two men I don’t know asleep on the steps. And it’s after noon. I tell them they’ll have to leave. Call Teddy. 

He’s been working straight through, his city job, West-Park, Martin. he needed a break. Slept in. He’ll get the place in shape by tomorrow. Handle the theatre benefit tomorrow night.  Steven comes in to get the keys. To open up for Sunday. Get the church set up. He’s also practicing the music. The bulletins are done.

Jeremy rehearsing with two musicians for his upcoming gig.

Meet Jane for coffee. Still wrestling with what true collaboration would look like. How West-Park would pair with her New Thought faith community.  New thought but ancient wisdom. Roots in the gnostics but also Mary Baker Eddy, Norman Vincent Peale. Religious science.  There is an international Association for Global New Thought. But Jane is really creating something uniquely her, with strong roots in AME, UCC....Interfaith, intraspiritual, with a social ethic....The clearer w are about our vision, the easier that could be. I understand the intuitive more than the programmatic. She says, you'll know by doing...

Barely enough time to get home an change before meeting Katherine. See Edward heading towards the steps. Can’t deal with this now. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

We'll accept it as a gift


The day begins with my longtime attorney Harris reviewing the details of the deal we're ready to make. When he hears about our prospective partner, he's very excited.  He says This is the right time, the right city and the right neighborhood.  And he immediately begins helping to develop a  strategy to build community, religious and political support. 

Back to the church after an Occupy Faith meeting. Lots of good ideas...we really do need to develop a statement of principle that recognizes that this is a different moment. A moment of both global crisis and hope. And about transformation, a new way of living. I continue to be concerned about the grayness of our group. Somewhere out there young people of faith are creating their own realities and responses. I need to know what's going on.  The scattered atom particles of Occupy are being attracted like  metal filings to a magnet to the weekend of September 14th leading up to the 17th, the one year anniversary of the Zucotti occupation. As many events as there are atoms are being planned.

A friend of Chris the boiler guy has come to have me resign documents from last winter regarding the boiler. Apparently an error or two.  Many, many copies to sign. And one document needs a notary so we need to head down the street  to Chase to find one. Turns out she does some kind of healing work and would be interested in renting space. 

Earlier I had noticed Edward and Charlotte on the steps and can't avoid dealing with them any longer. She is stretched out. He beside her, sitting. Edward, you guys have to go, I say.  She's resting, he says. I start to say, Doesn't matter....but she opens her eyes and says I'm having a fucking asthma go fuck yourself... Edward pats her leg, says, Don't...calm down now...and looks up at me.  And she starts to hack and cough and gasp. A half empty 40 behind her.

Look, I say, she's got an apartment. She'll be better off there. You need to take her there. If she's really bad, I'll call an ambulance.
 Nah, nah, he says, I'll take her. And slowly,still coughing, she begins to rise, steadying herself on the scaffolding rails. Only after I see them  head to the corner do I wonder if he may be banned from Capitol Hall due to the earlier incident with Mike the Boxer. 

Inside, Karen is playing the piano. Jonah is listening. He's anxious for me to hear him play. Tells me he's back and forth between the Upper West and Lower East Sides.  Tells me he's got a job as an associate music director at a church. Can't remember the name.  So I listen. His fingers move easily. Light, semi-classical. Maybe....I ask Does he read musoic?.He says yes. I open the hymnal. As he struggles his way through, I know this won't work. I'm better on guitar he says. So I go get Amanda's New York guitar and bring it out. Uh, I'm better on classical he says. And he plays some decent classical on the tough metal strings.  I've had all kinds of experience he says. The playing is decent, but...
And I sing...I look at him. But I'm shy. Always wanted to sing in a church choir, you know, like Bach? I love that. 
Me too, I say. I ask him how he's doing. 
Great! he says with that too broad smile. I want to say, Dude, go home. It's not going to work here...I'm tired of wandering lost souls. But so it is. I tell him I'll be gone for a few days. Will call him next week.I go to put the guitar back. He's  outside the Session room, listening to Martin's flamenco music. 

Marc stops by. Says with amazement that we got through the weekend rains with a dry basement. The drains worked. He doesn't know why. We'll accept it as a gift, I say. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Widening the circle of inclusion


Still working on details for a long term relationship with Noche. Nate and Teddy hard at work hanging mirrors in the session room...Donna drops in to see if there’s any mail for she and Dave. Things seem to be working out well in Harlem.

Tonight’s Bible Study has us back in the 6th and 7th chapters of Mark. We’ve got Jesus on the other side of Lake Geneserat overwhelmed by people seeking healing. Again. Then comes this long complicated back and forth with the scribes and pharisees over his disciples eating habits. He takes on the fact that they have added to the Law of God with their own laws, interpretations. And finally he goes after the food laws altogether. What’s at stake here is ritual purity, but also that these rules help create definition, separation, ethnic, national, cultural identity. And Jesus is after integration, removing barriers.(The pathway from traif, IE non-kosher, food to viewing one who consumes non-kosher food as traif is not a long one...) Fact is all our traditions need ways to say who we are as opposed to whose not we. The food laws have  the further benefit of inspiring a mindfulness to eating as opposed to just mindless consumption. As well as humanitarian concerns. But Jesus is more concerned about the heart of the matter. Expanding the definition  of we. An ever expanding circle of inclusion. 

He also takes on the practice of pledging your property and goods to the temple (corban) as potentially leaving impoverished elderly without support. (And thus breaking the commandment to honor your father and mother.) And what follows is a long list of what wrong heartedness can lead to: avarice, envy, licentiousness, slander,etc. And we notice that all these are relational...not about what one believes but about what one does in relationship with other people. 

He heads north, over the border to the region of Tyre and Sidon. By the text, he’s there to get away, not continue his mission. But even here he is pressed to perform. Do something for a woman, a syro-phoenician woman. A person who is not only a woman, but an other...Like the earlier woman with a hemorrhage, her approaching him is more than inappropriate culturally, it’s offensive. But approach she does. And he tries to send her off with a cutting comment about food not intended for dogs. A typical ethnic slur. 

And she is not deterred by this. She persists with her comment....but even the dogs can get crumbs from the table. And this stops him. Because of what you have said, your daughter is healed. Not because of her faith, but because of what she said, this skilled debater, used to taking on learned scribes and pharisees, has just been bested by a pagan Arab woman. 

We’re all aware of how embarrassing this story is. How linguists translate the word dogs as puppies. (Does that really help?) But we feel it fits. That Jesus has been preaching. About how actions speak louder than words. About inclusion. And now he has to face that reality himself. 

Perhaps he was tired. Annoyed at one more demand. Been there. It’s not the tenth needing person’s fault that they weren’t there first. My annoyance is not related to them. And her word back to him helps him to understand what he was really saying, really asking of his followers. Where it gets real, so to speak. If Jesus is both fully human and fully divine,then he doesn’t always understand everything. He has to have these moments  of growing awareness. And open the door for us. Week by week we marvel at the literary quality of Mark. How well thought out it is, how intentional the placement of events in sequence is. How rich the text is. Wonder at what we haven’t seen before. That’s what we mean by a living word. 

It’s been a good night again. Time  to wrap up. Head back up Amsterdam. Home. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Words on wisdom

I am determined to have a better Sunday. No matter what. I'm very happy to have Andre back and his voice and song. Steven was there practicing when I arrived. Willa was back. And Don. A new visitor from the neighborhood. And I am feeling calm, ready to welcome and appreciate who is  there. 
We begin with 1 Kings 2: 10-12, 3: 3-14, the end of David and beginning of Solomon. Then Ephesians 5: 15-20. And finally John 6: 51-58, part of a seemingly endless series of variations on the Bread of Life. With Psalm 111 in the middle. 

I ask if anyone has picked up a theme here. That with the exception of John, what’s in front of us this morning is wisdom...What is it? But more importantly, who has been wise in our lives? And I’m struck by the number who think first of their mothers. And how often old women seem to embody wisdom. And how fitting that is, given the Greek word for wisdom is Sophia. And is feminine. 

Solomon could ask for what does he ask for? (I love his self-description: I do not know how to go out or come in...) he asks for understanding mind to govern your people.....the ability to discern good from evil... would that our presidential candidates would pray for that.

And Andre breaks in and says, Do you not believe your President prays for that? I stop and think for a minute. I believe he does, Andre. I believe he does.  He may not always do it once he knows it, but I d believe he wants to discern good from evil. 

OK. Time for a side bar discussion about Presbyterians. Our name comes from presbyteros, the Greek word for elder. (Like the word for old eyes, presbyopia...) We are governed not by bishops or priests but by and women lifted up by their fellow members to be  wise and discerning....NOT pledged to a particular position on anything. By our tradition, here is how we are to make difficult decisions on issues:
  1. What does the Bible say about it?
  2. What does the tradition, including other traditions, say about it?
  3. What do the best sources secular, academic, scientific have to say about it
  4. And then we STUDY...and PRAY for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and decide where we are to be
  5. Then fight with everything you’ve got for your issue
  6. And then go to bed with the thought you could be wrong

This comes directly out of our theology. That none of us knows the full mind of God. That all of us are fallible. That only with all of us can we begin to  approach the right decision. And then not with compete certainty. 

And we claim, and not unfairly, that our way of governance had significant impact on the form of government chosen by our newly born country. We have not actually a democracy, but a republican, where  representatives are selected to be wise and discerning, not ideologues. In a computer age, we could do decision making by computer. Plebiscites. But that wasn’t the idea. It was supposed to be you could disagree and still not break relationship. Because of struggling together. Not anymore. 

OK....because Solomon asks for wisdom, he wind sup getting the rest, too. Doesn’t necessarily wok out that way, but beginning with wisdom the rest is more likely to follow. 

Psalm 111 tells us, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom... now this is not fear
like in Batman, the Dark Knight Rises, though there is a good point there..Bruce Wayne kept tying to climb out of the pit but could not. The wise old men told him he no longer feared losing his life, only when he wanted to love enough to fear again would that push him to climb out of the pit. 9e could have an extended discussion on that issue, but won’t...)

No what the Bible refers to is not FEAR, but AWE...that is acceptance of mystery, of the something beyond us...of our creaturely nature, place in the universe....

Ephesians adds:
make the most of the time because the days are evil...
While driving back form Philadelphia yesterday, I heard an interview on NPR. Xavier Le Pichon, the man who explains tectonic plates to us. He recalled when he was seven and under Nazi occupation, his mother would  say to him, I don’t care what might happen tomorrow, you’re doing your lessons today. And that very attitude of not giving in to time, of using what they had,  may have helped them survive.  I think it is not so much THE time as it is  THIS time...

(And that it’s better to be filled with the Spirit than Spirits (interesting the word they come up with to describe what alcohol is, no?)

As for eating and drinking Jesus, it’s not like what happens in True Blood, the vampire series with its vampire religion,  not that but taking him in, seeking a oneness with face questions and be willing to ask, What Would Jesus Do? Yes really that.

So to summarize:
  • The source of wisdom is fear (awe) of God...respectful of the mystery
  • We seeking oneness with Jesus so that we ask the right questions
  • Seek wisdom, discernment....the rest will follow
  • We are called upon to make  the most of the time, this time...OUR time
  • evil or not, these are OUR days, let us live them 

Andre sings I want Jesus t walk with me acapella. And we sing Lead me,guide me to finish. 

We linger with each other awhile. Steve and I stand on the steps. He was happy to learn the back story on Presbyterian decision making process.  I’m thinking that it’s the willingness to be wrong opens us up to the willingness to take risks. Which is the only way we can do this....

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Yeshua comes for a visit

We’re getting ready for a critical meeting with our proposed partner. Teddy brings me outside. There’s an 83 year old man, Antonio, beside the steps with two large dogs. I try talking to him. He’s got a long convoluted story that involves an SRO, a landlord, a catholic church....I can’t put it together. When I come back later, there’s a young attractive Latina with designer sunglasses talking to him.
She looks up at me. He brought those dogs with him from Puerto Rico, she says. I tell her I’ve tried to get his story. And can’t. You’re not going to, she says, he’s not stable. He’s been on the streets in this neighborhood a long time. I explain that I’ve got to go to a meeting. He stares at me with eyes that pierce and burn like coals. 
All our important people have gathered. All their important people have gathered. They’ve got their real estate rep. We’ve got Jamie. We’re out of time. Can we come to agreement and create a term sheet? Jamie has written clearly all our bottom lines. Makes clear these are not for negotiation. Their guy whispers it’s a fair deal. We agree that Jamie and their guy will meet later this afternoon to try and get it done. It is so close. If we pull this off, we can just barely make it.... can begin to turn our attention to building and growing....if....
Zeljko joins me from Serbia via Skype. He’s finishing work on his documentary about the Serbia anti-aircraft gunner who shout down an American stealth bomber and the pilot who got shot down. He’ll be coming to New York in October an would like to show his film to bet money to finish it. He could bring his other documentaries too. 
And....we’ve got another project. He was taken by Sarah’s slogan for the Center: Dream. Real. Hard. And in our conversation  I had spoken with him  about how what makes New York City special is that everyone who comes here comes with a dream. From immigrant food service workers to artists to run aways to people who couldn’t  survive in their homes or their towns, entreprenuers, occupiers, ....All of us, dreamers. And he would like to  do a documentary about those dreams in October. At West-Park. We’re working on this together. 
Today Nate has joined his brother Daniel working with Martin. It’s great having them both working here. 
Steve has developed an impressive proposal to upgrade West-Park’s stalled Social Media presence. Glen joins us for part of that conversation then we have our own conversation reviewing Dem Dahk Days...He lost a lot financially. But learned a lot too. The next play should be better, but it looks like the Disappeared may need some more work. The playwright's  got another project ready to roll, however....and Glen is determined to see his Little Theater project through. 
Jeremy G comes in to wrap up details for his production in late October. 
OK. The name tag was enough to put me on guard. My next visitor is dressed in a black suit with a fedora like Men in Black. White shirt, no tie.A hipster goatee.  And a name tag that says Yeshua. The caution flags are waving. 
His smile is too intense. Hi, they told me the pastor was in... 
I am.
He points to his name tag. What is this? he asks, it’s a name my grandmother used to call me. 
Doubt that, I say to myself, then to him, It’s the Hebrew for Jesus...
Well how did it get to Jesus from this? still tapping himself on his chest. 
It starts with Yeshua, becomes Iesus in Greek, Jesus in Moishe becomes Moses, Eliahu  that...
And God’s first name was Jehovah, right?
Well, not exactly. It’ a long story. It’s YHWH, we say Yahweh. Jehovah is a misreading of the Hebrew...
Write that down for me, I have to remember that. And he unpins his name tag and hands it to me...
So if Jesus came back today, how would you know? Would anyone believe him if he said, I’m Jesus? 
I’m preparing myself....Happens all the time. And it’s not about what anyone says. It’s what they do...we’ll know....
Well what about the Book of Revelations? Doesn’t it say....
First of all, it’s s...and it wasn’t written to be a spooky prediction was an outcry from a people experiencing horrific persecution. It felt apocalyptic...written in  code to comfort those living through 666, you know? It’s not spooky. Seven was the number of perfection. It says sometimes evil can be so close to good you can barely tell the difference...John wrote..
John the Baptist?
No, John the apostle, John of Patmos...
I think if Jesus come back he’d be with the poor, the lonely, the addicted...
And I agree...
Are you angry?
Well I’m fucking angry. Fucking angry.  It’s a beautiful world. And people fuck it up. we hurt each other...I’m fucking angry...and his eyes have that intense look.
I don’t understand a  lot of it. There’s mystery...

Did you know, when i want God to talk to me, I look n the mirror, right into my own eyes. Staring into my own eyes, when o speak, it s the voice of God speaking to me...Look. Another question. I’m a gay man. What if Jesus were gay? Had sex with men? And people knew it and didn’t like it could that be why they killed him? 
Well, no and yes. Crucifixion was for political insurgents. But then there was all that in John about  the disciple who Jesus loved....But it doesn’t matter. Nothing spooky. Nothing complicated. Jesus says God is love and those who love abide in God and God abides in them...that's it
That is so beautiful...tears are streaming down his face...thank you, thank you, you have helped me so much....He touches my arm. Picks up his walking stick. Heads to the door. Turns back, looks at me....tears....says, Did you know, if you look into a mirror and look directly int your own eyes, you will hear the voice of God...and then out the door....
I feel exhausted. I go in to see Danielle. Her last day before heading home to Iowa for a week. Mental illness...I say....wears me out....what is it...this month...I listen. I go into their worlds...look at things through their eyes....sometimes it’s hard to get back...Jesus gave his disicples the power to cast out demons in his name.If only I could do the name of Jesus, come out!!!...there are things to wrap up before she goes.
I’m heading home. See Edward heading this way and pretend I don’t. 
Stop by to visit with the Saigon Grill pickets. Want to have another meeting at West-Park next Friday. Concerned about building awareness of the Domino's boycott. Teddy has a lot of ideas. Get the t-shirt operation up and running again. Get the Columbia students wearing  t-shirts and talking abut it...OK. We’ll meet. We’ll talk. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Where we are

KT is looking for a place for her summer camp for kids to have as an alternative to the Park. It’s pretty ad hoc and we wonder about insurance but I’d like to make it work.
A representative from Project Reachout comes in. We need to write a recommendation letter for George, a Latino who has been sleeping on our steps. He has these tear drop tattoos under his eyes. Was pretty out of it,but thanks to Teddy’s intervention,  has gotten it to where  Reachout is finding him a place to live, his own apartment. We celebrate yet another victory. It continues to be true that 89% of those who visit our steps wind up housed thanks to Project Reachout. And I am happy that Teddy is becoming an effective advocate for the homeless who knows how to work the system.
P_____’s box springs were removed last night. She continues to be sick and sleeping in her now empty apartment awaiting the sheriff. 
Steve stops in but today is not going to be a good day to work on the proposal for West-Park and social media that he has developed.  
Dan and Teddy are contributing to paint and developing  a plan to hang doors for Martin and Noche. 
I’m hanging around waiting for Jason and his Open Space organizing meeting. It’s almost a half hour after starting time I’m ready to leave. Jason arrives just back from eco-socialist gathering in eastern seaboard ectopia Vermont. His tent and backpack are soaked from the rain.  We go down to the backyard and hang his stuff out to dry And talk about where we are. 
The problem is big. Myriad atomic groups working on their own issues,all important. So much ego driven activism. We are  the true anti-stop and frisk movement. We are the true living wage group. We are the true housing justice organization.... Jason has had it with self-serving organizations. Some out of Occupy have begun to play the game of putting themselves in line for progressive grants, liberal support, etc. How do we get people to set petty egoism aside and begin the work of creating  true mass movement with the  big picture in mind? 
A woman has biked up from midtown. Agnes, an activist from the Bronx, has arrived with her own objections to how Bloomberg,confronted by growing homelessness due to a vicious end to housing subsidies and a mass eviction agenda is pushing  multiple bed homeless shelters into neighborhoods overnight unannounced. In her own neighborhood,registered sex offenders are being slipped in to an sro between two elementary  schools, Jason is trying to get her to see the big picture. I ask her about community organizations  and she responds how churches  and others  have given in to offers of jobs while selling  out the community’s  broader interests. I’ve been here too long. Time to leave.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It is the critical moment

Dan is busy painting as Martin continues his project to brighten the entry way to the church...Jeremy G is negotiating a space to do his semi-immersive production of a play based on Arthur Miller’s the Crucible, yet another  in the ripples flowing from last summer’s the Tenant...Gregory, the Sentinel, is keeping his watch. 
It is storming rain again. As Luisa arrives, the rain is stopping and we go to the back for coffee and conversation. I learn of her story from a small town in the Dominican Republic to the city streets of New York City. She is big hearted, caring, creative. Having witnessed the whole scenario with P____ on Sunday, she has ideas and wants to help. If only rational conversation were possible. She looks around the patio, our backyard, has a vision of a beautiful garden with vegetables, a grape arbor, beautiful flowers. And I can see it. There’s a city program....As usual, I know it can happen, but with so few people....
The rain has created a strange situation in the basement. Marc shoes me how the water has shifted fro the front to the back of the boiler room. And at one point, the drain in the rear was actually spouting water, not draining. He’s got the sump pump working at full speed and fans blowing to dry the place out. Will we ever win this battle?
Glen has arrived with his little dog to clear out the last of the remaining items from Dem Dahk Days...there will also be a read through of tonight’s presentation of the Disappeared, a play about the Dirty War in Argentina proposed as a production for West-Park.  I have enough friends who lived through it that it would make for a great panel discussion. And an opportunity for a discussion with our neighbor, B’Nai Jeshurun. Their former rabbi, Marshall Meyer, who brought BJ back to life, had risked his life confronting the generals, standing up for los desaparacidos. We need to do this. 
Steve and Jay
(photo by Marc Stager)
Steve and Jay come in, excited. Jay has been accepted to Bronx Community College. And his VA benefits will help him find housing as well. We’ll call this a victory.
The Center Board arrives for a crucial meeting. We are nearing the point where its go or no go with the partner we’ve been trying to create a deal with. They’re a week past deadline. We call them from the meeting. They want to have another conversation. Jamie, in her hardass professional mode, lets them know that’s not good enough. We have to get somewhere by tomorrow. Our backs are against the wall. If this doesn’t go through, we will have to put the church house on the market. Which we do not want to do. This is it. It is the critical moment.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Yes. That end of the stick.

The day is filled with Dan and Teddy working for Martin painting all the doors and woodwork around the entrance and the studio to try and make a more welcoming place. I really enjoy Dan’s presence. 
Samantha comes in needing a recommendation for a work study program. The recommendation comes easy as I’ve watched her grow and mature over 17 years. Representing us at national church youth meetings, Presbytery meetings, never afraid to speak up. And creative. 
RL wants to talk to the one who really runs things, IE, still trying to get his rehearsal place and studio together. 
No Bible Study tonight. The chapel is currently a work room. And I want to try and catch a performance of Matthew Webster’s Kingdom Come, which he rehearsed at West-Park but I never got to see because of an emergency meeting. 
While Nate and I are waiting in the line for Shakespeare in the Park tickets for Into the Woods, I get a call from Dan. Apparently it’s been a rough start to the morning and he needs to talk with me as soon as I  get there. And is there any way we can get Teddy tickets? (Well, actually, no....)
As soon as I get there, Dan comes in. Teddy had earlier encountered Edward and Charlotte pissing on the steps. As he turned the corner, he encountered a fresh deposit of feces, right where the dancers would  have to come in. (Dan was watching all this) A 9-11 call went in .Because Teddy wanted  the police to see what  was going on. But after an hour, they still hadn’t shown up and Martin needed a path cleared. 
As Teddy was beginning, they showed up again. As he tells it, in a straight forward way, he said, Look, I’m cleaning up your shit, would you maybe help me out?  And what followed included a series of fuck yous and other curses along with spit hurled at Teddy. And Teddy lost it. (Been there.) Dan said he’d never seen Teddy so angry. (Been there, too) And said to him, Teddy, just chill, just chill....and then she gets up in his face to challenge him and he looks at her and walks away. (Later he says, ah she was just posturin.’ ) Then Dan and Teddy begin the arduous task of clean up. Martin chips in to buy a hose. One that can stretch from the basement all the way to the steps. We haven’t had that in years. At one point, Dan thought Teddy was ready to turn the hose on the couple. And they quickly took off. 
Scrubbing. Clorox. Pine sol. They even did the walls. Time that could have been used moving forward, 2 1/2 hours, taken up by having to fight the way back to status quo. 
And as he works, Teddy gets angrier. We’ve got other people in the house and he consistently winds up with the shot end of the stick. (Literally) And he’s fed up with it. And wind sup going off for a nap. 
Dan is kind of shaken by all this. Has lots of questions. About sharing work. Accountability. Responsibilities. The nature of homelessness. Why we haven’t gone like BJ and SPSA and put up No Trespassing signs. Yet. (Well, no one’s set the steps on  fire yet, like at SPSA...) I wish I had more answers for him.
As for the accountability issue, that’s up to Danielle and I to get people to honor their agreements. And all should  share equally. I’m happy to hear Danielle talk about the steps. An effort to show some modicum and compassion in a neighborhood that increasingly would just like to ignore the homeless population. The mentally ill and addicts. They don’t fit the expectations of those who are trying to recreate Westchester in the Upper Westside.  I’m sorry but in this time, this is a part of what make a city a city. To choose city living is to choose complexity and being disturbed. You can’t wish it away. 
And we tell Dan that 80% of those we meet (more or less) have found housing or a rehab program through the work of our Project Outreach friends. We couldn’t do this without their help. The goal is to not close the steps but to not surrender the either. Another thin line. 
Later Teddy has rested and come down for conversation. Steven agrees to get some more help for the morning clean up and crap patrol. And at the first sign of Edward, call 911. And if they don’t show, call again. I’ve experienced enough of alcoholism to know that when it gets to this stage,  the situation is critical. I remember  the day last year when Edward had me call him an ambulance. When it arrived, he hugged me as he entered the back. 
Back outside, the Prophet is struggling to stay awake.



The day starts off with mixed feelings. Frustrated because I can’t reach Andre. Want him here. Steve practicing the day’s music. P_____ comes in saying something I can’t understand.  Two older men come in. One a retired minister, Douglas Beatttie, from Vestal, New York, near Binghamton. Turns out his great-grandfather was a deacon at West-Park back in 1889. Can’t stay for services but would love to see the historic record. Also turns out he was the first principal at PS 87, where all my kids went.

Rachelle comes in after a long absence. Wants to get her stuff out. Her SUV cart. (At last!) But the Hammond organ has it blocked in. Can’t move it. Someone has touched my’s not the same... I’ll ask. Need to get ready for worship now. 

Could be the smallest attendance at a service I’ve ever had. Throws me  off. 

Anger’s the theme for the day. We’re reading 2 Samuel 11: 26-12: 13, Ephesians 4: 1-16 and John 6: 35, 41-51. 

I start by asking is anyone angry this morning? And then What makes you angry? For a lot of people, it has to do with injustice. And people not living up to expectations. Maybe the expectations not being appropriate. 
I go back to our continuing story of David. One of those blood and guts Old Testament stories. The back story of his son Absalom. Name meaning Father of peace. His sister, Tamar, had been raped by his half-brother, Amnon. David’s first son. He was angry that his father had not been able to protect his sister. So he plans his revenge. Sets up a hit on his brother at a family gathering. Then flees. Goes to his maternal grandparents. Then David welcomes him back. And Absalom goes after father. Drives David out. Sleeps with his father’s concubines. Nathan’s prophesy of what David’s  actions had set in motion coming true. 
David had lost the support of his people. Had nothing left but his mercenaries. But David outsmarted Absalom. Drew his forces out into the forest. And Absalom dies, suspended  between heaven and hell. And David weeps for his son, Absalom. O Absalom, my son Absalom, if only I had died instead of you. Over 3000 years this anguished cry rings out, from the human heart of the story. Just as David had wept for Saul, even as Saul had tried to kill him. A great man of Israel has died. It’s got all the impassioned human complexity  of Coppola’s Godfather trilogy or an HBO series like the Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire. Families are like that. 
So what do we learn about anger? Ephesians says,  Be angry but don’t sin. What does that mean? First, that there are things that deserve anger. That anger can be the appropriate emotion. But it can devour you, eat you up, consume you, lead you down deadly paths. 
Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Easier said than done. John R says can’t do it. And I, too, know what it’s like to lie awake, tossing and turning, angry. Not able to let go. That’s why we forgive, not for the other, but for ourselves, to not let our own lives be consumed by the wrong the other has done to us. (Reconciliation, well that’s another reality all together.....)
When I coached soccer, I always taught my players to keep their heads. If you could get your opponent angry, they’d get out of their game. Just where you want them.
And Don’t open a door to the devil.... that’s what it does... opens the door for truly evil things to happen. 
Right in the middle of my sermon, there’s a commotion. Steve goes to check it out. A truck has arrived with all of P____’s earthly goods. No I say to him. Didn’t see that coming. So I’m distracted watching Steven dealing with this in the back of the church, but I return to my reflection. 
What do we do? It begins with  putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Healing can only begin with honesty, with truth. 
Thieves must give up stealing; why?  rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. It’s about sharing. Not just neutrally giving up stealing, but moving  to positive sharing...
 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And so we ask, what do our words say? What do our words give? If we listen to ourselves, do we hear grace
 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. That’s what our anger, our hurting does....grieves the Holy Spirit, because what we do to each other we do to God....
And then... Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Last Wednesday in our study group, we marvelled at how mean church can be. At every level. Why? Maybe at some level we enjoy it, we get off on it. Ever see how excited people get with gossip? And it’s not just church. Steve, remember how mean Occupy meetings could be? The interpersonal attacks, invective? And how much of reality TV is about the entertainment value of conflict? Yes, at some level we enjoy it. There’s almost a visceral eroticism with anger.  
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
I like that phrase, fragrant offering....far better than washed in the blood, far better than the cross, from a Mel Gibson torture porn passion, Jesus as a fragrant morning, like baking bread, like the inside of a conservatory at a botanical garden filled with orchids, like....fragrant offering...
Imitators of in love....
And again, that’s why we need one another...why spiritual is not enough...I can do that alone...but religion, like I said last week, knitting  the ligaments together...we help each other get by, let go, move beyond...moving from anger to love....
The end of the service feels rushed. I head to the back. Confusion has broken out. They’re unloading all of P____’s things. Bed. Box springs. Furniture. Boxes of clothing. You can’t do that here...I say. But Reverend... The people who spent holiday weekends cleaning out the church are flipping out. They are committed to opening up the church to breathe. To change the energy. To give it breathing space. And they can see their work frustrated again. P_____ is panicking. It’s just a few days....How many?....Until the 31st....That’s three weeks...Please, I’ll move them out...Where will you go?....I have a place...Where?.....I don’t know....
P_______ feels surrounded. You are so are all against me...o my God, o my God...she’s rocking back and her own place of anguish, cut off from us. 
I, too want and need the space to emptied out, opened, breathing.
You can’t do this, someone says.
She’s being evicted, I say. 
And so are hundreds of others, someone says. Are you going to help them all?
No, but this one is in front of me. This one is one of mine, one of us...And I will not put her out on the street.
Someone walks out, frustrated. Then returns. How about a storage rental  space? So Steven starts making calls. Seems to have found one. I’ll pay for it if I have to.
P ___ feels l’ve  have sold her out. Abandoned her.  Gone over to the other side. I watched them....they killed Rev. Davidson for the manse...and they will kill no longer have the Holy Spirit in you. It won’t protect you. Something terrible will happen to you before the end of the day.  You’ll see, you’ll see...
Turns out the van driver wil ls tore all her things at no charge. But he’ll steal half my things...she says. No he won’t, I say. You have to trust...And so they load up all her things. Everything but the box springs. Driver says he’ll come back for them. Tomorrow. She comes back to me. He needs $20 she says. So I give her the 20. She kisses me on the cheek. And they’re gone. The box springs in the foyer continue to stare at me. 
I want all her things gone. I want all things left over for play performances gone. Rachelle’s stuff gone. Want it gone. 
On the steps with Teddy and Steve. She called me at 6:30 am, says Teddy. Wanted me to move her refrigerator, her, ...sorry, I just couldn’t deal with it. 
It’s OK, I say. I hadn’t wanted her to move at all. To confront the landlord. The sheriff. Now she’s moved out all her stuff. Has no place to go and no capacity to make a plan. After 38 years of supporting herself, paying her bills, raising her kids. Being driven over the edge of what was only a fragile sanity to begin with. This is not how it’s supposed to work. 
Well. you had the right sermon topic today, says Steve. 
I feel defeated.Frustrated. Angry.