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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Thirty -first day of Lent: An evening with Osagyefo Sekou and Cornel West


3/29    
We spend the day getting ready for tonight’s event with Rev. Sekou and Cornel West.  Finishing the program. Getting food for the reception. Rafael reviewing security plans. (There’s already been one threat.) Waiting for Sekou’s books to arrive. 
I see Rafael outside talking with Anna and her dog. She is apologizing, wanting to resolve old issues. Sees things diferently now, The clinic folk have arrived and will be offering medical services until time for the event. Seats reserved for them up front.
Rev. Sekou arrives and then a litlte while later Cornel West with his bodyguards and they go to the chapel, tonight’s green room. It’s almost time.
We walk out together, I welcome the crowd, talk about the historic legacy of West-Park and the hopes for the Center. And give a shout out to Presbyterian Welcome, our own lgbtq advocacy group.
Then Rev. Sekou takes over. Warms up the crowd by launching into This little light of mine... Tells his story. Talks about where we are now, a dangerous time. Preaches. Talks about the similarities and differences  between the lgbtq struggle and the black struggle. Quotes Bayard Rustin, the out gay man who was Dr. KIng’s primary organizer as to how gays are the new niggers. And then it’s Cornel West’s turn. The passion and power ever present. And then they engage in dialogue with one anoither. 
Many issues are explored.Like:
  • Violence vs. non-violence. Sekou critiques the so-called black bloc who use anarchist rhetoric to justify destructive activity without the historic context or understanding. And that when the police start swinging, its people of color who will get it first. The need to understand the impact of yoru actions on others. And how in the US in 2012, only a non-violent strategy can capture the American imagination. West understood that for King, non-violence was not just a tactic, but a primary commitment. We need a movement, or a segment of the movement ready to make that commitment.
  • The Defense of America Act (so well descibed to me  by George on the steps ) is a terrfiying step in the direction of crypto-fascism. The right to take into custody anyone who might seen to be a security threat. The right of the President to order assassination. It’s little known, little discussed. The corollary laws like the stand your ground act which allowed Trayvon Williams to be murdered by a vigilante in Florida. 
  • The necessity of crtiqing Obama. That he could only be possible by the historic struggle of black folks and needs to be held accountable to that struggle.
  • That the Occupy Movement is like the Good Samaritan, coming to respond to the beaten down, robbed among us, those pushed  to the margins.
  • That neoliberals may be the most dangerous of all because they have allowd the debate to be dragged to the right  and space for debate on any isssue so constricted so as to be almost meaningless. Leading to what West calls moral constipation. 
  • West spices his talk with pop culutre references, clearly loving jazz, the ultimate metaphor for democracy, each voic beig heard, mad improvisation...                                                                                                       
  • As West says, no one should want to be a leader. Leaders get killed, What we should strive to be is a lover, one who loves the people relentlessly. And about joy as both a theological  construct and a spiritual  phenomenon. It’s what keeps us going. And unafraid of death. The gift of the black cultue is to be able to express joy in the midst of suffering, an expression of freedom in opposition to everything that denies it. 
  • As to the vision of the Center, Cornel had this to say:
Aesthetics have substantial political consequences. How one views oneself as beautiful or desirable or not desirable has deep consequences in terms of one’s feelngs of self-worth and one’s capacity to be a political agent.
They take questions on cards from the crowd. New York City’s draconian version of the DAA is the current crisis around stop and frisk....One old lefty rises and launches into a fiery monologue and I get a little nervous, I see Rafael starting to move, but it  all works out ok. When the questions are over, Rafael moves West and Sekou up and out and we go upstairs for the reception time. 
I’m constantly amazed at Cornel West’s human warmth, making every person seem valued, beautiful and important. And I’m especially happy to see him with my son Dan who needed this refresher course to take back to college with him. I see so many different kinds of people. Many friends. Reliigious. cultural, poliitcal folks. It’s been a great primer for  rmy occupy folks. And a revival for us progressive faith community types.
Another night. Rich in being what we are supposed to be. A place of discourse. Exploration, Transformation. 








To see the full gallery of photos from the evening, go to: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.341944759186088.76386.100001117006760&type=3

To learn more abot Rev. Sekou, go to :
http://www.revsekou.org/apps/blog

Friday, March 30, 2012

Thirtieth Day of Lent: We have to do a better job with our children


3/28
Waiting for Sekou to come in and finish plans for our event tomorrow night. As he’s coming in, Rafael lets me know that someone needs to talk to me as a pastor. It’s one of the occupy women, not one who lives here right now. One who’ve I’ve been unsure about. With children. She’s very upset. And tells me her story. One deep with a painful history of childhood abuse. I call Jessica, one of our social workers,  who promises she will be there for her.
This has begun to be an all too familiar story. Perhaps it’s not surprising that an amazing number of the young occupiers who have come here from around the country, both female and male, have histories of abuse. What my friend Jed, who used to run the Larkin Street Mission in the Tenderloin in San Francisco, used to call not runaway kids, but throwaway kids. Abused by parents, relatives, driven away from home for psychic survival. Part of what Kelly called the poverty diaspora of America. Over the decades they’ve shown up in the Haight and Greenwich Villages, in the Lower East Side Rent era early 90’s squats, and now Occupy. They find each other, support one anther, find a way to care for one another. We have to find a better way to care for our children.
Sekou is working with Rafael to outline security needs. We’re hustling to order books. Hope and Donna and a whole occupy crew are vacuuming and cleaning everything. The tension and stress is building.
Jamie is working with Danielle to dig out old building reports to help with the 
insurance issues. Two visitors come in to just have a look. Teddy is feeling like he needs a break, maybe a real bed for awhile. Rafael is putting his crew together, he takes great pride in doing what he does well.
Walking by late at night, on my way home, I hang and talk with Teddy and Req and Rose and Chris and Rafael awhile. Req is working on a plan to have movies nights, maybe two a week. Maybe one classics night and one 99% movie night for topical films. With soft drinks and popcorn. He’s also creating for us a QR barcode for the Center and the Church. I still need to figure that out.
Walking home. Abused children on my mind.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Twentyninth day of Lent: Getting the picture


3/27
It’s nearly noon and Wesley and Antonia are still in front of the church, blocking the doors and spilling into the street, early blocking the sidewalk with almost an apartment’s worth of stuff. As I approach  and say, Wesley, Antonia....she drops what she’s carrying  and goes running down thr street. Wesley says, now look what you’ve done, you’ve scared her off and goes running down the street to catch her, their  apartment’s worth of stuff  still in front of the church. 
I realize soemone’s beside me and find Elizabeth, the free lance Fulbright photographer who had  come in to the church last winter  to photograph occupiers, hopin gto be published  in the New York Times Metro setion.  She’s finally back to catch up.

Wesley returns, angry with total frustration. What am I supposed to do? he asks, what am I fuckin supposed to do? You don’t fuckin give a shit, you don’t fuckin care , all you care about are your motherfuckin church doors..
No, Wesley, I do care, but you can’t be here all day, closing  off our doors...not to the church or anything else ..... look around, it just doesn’t work.
And he’s got his own litany of working, trying to keep her safe, no place to  sleep or even rest...shelters won’t allow them to be together, though anyone can see they go together...an insearable pair...says he’s got an open case with Goddard-Riverside and they don’t do shit...
in the midst of this monogue, a police cruiser draws up. Two precint 24’s, a man and a woman, step out and ask Wesley what’s going on. He goes through the same rap again. The male cop is all been there, done that. Clearly heard it all before. He does come across as legitimately caring. And may be as frustrsted as Wesley. Says he’ll check back later, try to help him out. Wesley just throws up his hands in desperation, OK, OK man, I’m gettin out, Im gettin out..
I take Elizabeth to Popover’s to give Wesley timeand to catch up with her. Her frustration is finding a publisher for her work. The Times didn’t feel her quiet and introspective look into the occupiers fit thier story line. In addition to the occupy project, she’s got several others, mainly concnerning women and war, and is about to speak to a comverence about her Fulbright work in Bangladesh. She wants to know what’s been going on. She talks about having to carve out a unique space as a journalist because she’s so short,she can’t shoot over people’s heads in crowds. So she wants to slow the story down, get below the surface  narrative. Make it personal. And so she takes time to get to know. She talks  about her nights at West-Park, slowly getitng to know people. Not attempting to  intrude or push into their space. Finally,the formal, seated portrait idea emerging.
She aks me how I feel about mine. I look worn and tired, I say, amazing how it captures how I felt that week. She says that friends who see the portraits say mine is their favorite. Don’t know how to take that. But I appreciate it. I still want to do an exhibit of her Bengladeshi photos. For someone so young, she’s got a piecing yet caring eye that searches  into evrything , wanting to understand. Seeing through her eyes adds to my understanding.
We walk back to the church to see if anybody wants to see their portraits, She sets up her laptop. Surprising how many have gone, gone for one reason or another. She wants to come back to the church and do portraits of those she  missed last time around, like Teddy , Requiem, Runi..it’s just finding the right time..
Sh’ll be back over the next couple of days. We talk about the current media reality whereby anything that does not stay within the given narrative is excluded. Control of the narrative still oin the hands of the powerful. Creating new narratives has to push its way in from the margins. 

To see Elizabeth's work:   http://www.elizabethdherman.com/
To read about Elizabeth's nights at West-Park see 1/26 and 1/27

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Twentyeighth day of Lent: Hemmingway at the table


3/26
There’s a couple just in to look around. A older musician who’s been here before drops in to leave a donation. A middle aged white man just doesn’t want to believe that there’s no food here. A Mexican comes in. Has one of the street sheets that tell people where to go for what.  I tell him he’s looking for SPSA, dos bloques al oeste, al derecho de aqui. He asks if I am el sacerdote de la iglesia. I say, Si. He wants to sleep in the church. No es posible, I say. 
A little while later, Rafael comes in. There’s a Mexican guy asleep on the steps.
The one with all the bottles and cans?
No. Another guy. Younger. Think he was just in here. 
So I go out. It’s the same man. Mi hermano, no es permiso a dormirse en las escaleras de la iglesia. He looks up at me. Me siento mucho pero se necesita moverse.
He slowly gets up. Looks at me. Gathers his back pack. Moves on. Rafael looks at me, Hey pastor, su espanol,  mucho bueno..
Gracias, mi hermano.
Another inspector arrives with two associates. While we’re on the tour, I ask Chris to go upstairs and make sure everything’s squared away.
When the visitors leave, I need a break. 
Tonight’s Bible Study is different. I’ve chosen Hemmingway’s Today is Friday, a short one -act reflection on Good Friday. Three Roman soldiers drinking in a bar with a Jewish wine seller. We read it with John H and John R and Arcadia palying the roles of the soldiers and Don the wine seller. We find it's an extremely tightly written play, words carefully chosen. Perhaps each a different aspect of Hemmingway. The admirer of a macho performance on the cross, a cynic who may or may not have thought something else might just be possible, a third suffering from exisential sickness. A sense of gloom over everything. The longer we go, the more we find. Exegeting Hemmingway’s theology. Use of language, words, images. The theatre experience of Don and John H really adds to our dicussion.
Hemmingway’s only play. Written in 1926. When he was an expat in Paris. Later, as I thought about it, I could imagine Hemmingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, sitting around a table or in Stein’s living room reading this play just as we did. Good way to end the day.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fifth Sunday in Lent: Written on the heart


3/25


Wesley and Antonia are slow moving out this morning. I need to remember to talk to Project Reachout aboiut them.  Rafael is encouraging them to move along. A young former occupier with an aggression problem and a broken hand was also found on the steps this morning but is up and gone. 
Steve is helping to get the place ready. Candles placed and lit. I’m off to pick up the bulletins.
At least three visitors this morning. A mother and her boy. A young  African-American woman. A young woman who Andre guesses is an actress.
Amy can’t come today. Andre not here yet , so I start the service alone.  John reads the passage from Jeremiah 31 about the new covenant. Andre has arrived. We do Psalm 51 together. Andre leads us in O for a closer walk with God. Marsha reads our epistle from Hebrews. Our Gospel this morning is John 12: 20-33. 
I ask if anyone knows about the vilage of Le Chambon sur lignon.  During the time of the Nazi occupation, (back when that was only a negative word), beginning in 1942, this town, of  maybe 2600 people , under the leadership of pastors Andre Trocme and Edouard Theis,  saved between 3000 and 5000 Jews  That means every person saved at least one or two people, hiding threm in  in their  homes, their barns. When the Nazis were nearby, their gusests would hide in the forest. And when the Nazis left, they would walk into the forest singing a hymn to let them know it was safe to return. 
The pastor’s cousin,  Daniel Trocme, was sent to the Maidenank Concentration Camp where he was executd. Otherwise, the people evaded the Nazis. How did this happen? Why did they react this way? For one thing, they were Huguenots, Protestants. They were  different.Used to ostracism, prejudice, themselves. Outsiders. The French filmmaker Pierre Sauvage, was one who had been saved as a child in this village. His film, Weapons of the Spirit, was created to find that answer. The people of the village wanted no credit for simply doing what was right.  Finally one pointed to the words above the door of church:   Little children, love one another...He asked, How could we see this every week and  do other?
We are talking about a New covenant.  One that is written not on stone, not in a book but written on the heart, this time...they shall all know me....There is no precondition, no obedience required..It’s not a new Torah,  but one put in a different place...In those days the heart was the home of will and intelligence. Feelings came from  the guts...
And it was to be inclusive, from youngest to oldest, and ALL classes....So what does it mean to be written on the heart? 
I recalled my conversation with Eugenia. Her lifetime of commitments, involvements. What she learned from being raised in this church...The VALUES that were communcated. Like with the people of Le Chambon. It’s the same thing week after week until it becomes a  part of you. 
The Gospel seems to be about preparing for something coming. And seeds. I recall our potatoes from a week ago. Wonder where we might plant them. Planting seeds..there is this idea that something must die first...
Some Greeks have come to see Jesus. (Most likely this is to show us that he was to be here for Gentiles as well) Strange, they seem disappear from the story. Still waiting at the door as the others go on with their discussion. 
There are these troublesome words in 12:25   Those who love life,will  lose it, who  hate life, keep it...I want to say no, that’s wrong...I don’t want you going around feeling my life sucks...Andre says, that’s not what it’s about...
Look, even Jesus would just as soon avoid what’s coming if he could. But he knows that facing that moment is why he’s here. No its about all those fears that keep us from doing the right thing. That keep us from taking the risk. What the people of le Chambon were able to overcome. 
Jesus says that when he is lifted up (remember last week?),people will be drawn to him irresistably...That’s part of how it gets written on your hearts, by seeing it. In Latin America we used to talk about the propaganda of the deed, acts whose meaning were  so inherently clear that everyone would immediately understand. 
That is what can defeat the ruler of this world. That is the forces of intimidation, seduction, manipulation, anything to take you away from your values. 
That’s the greatest thing we can do for our children, is to live our life here in such a way that they will understand what is expected. That the covenant will be writtn on their hearts. That when their moment comes, they will do the right thing. 
Today we finis with O Jesus I have promised and then  we make our cirlce and sing Amen. 

The young woman is an actress, from West Virginia, come to the city to study theatre. We introduce her to Don.
Jamie wants to talk  with Don about possibilitities, but we have to have a meting  with Rev. Sekou about the upcoming event with Cornell West and him on Thursday. So I let them go wishing I could be part of their  conversation.
After our meeting with Sekou, I stick around for Jane’s service.  I had agreed to be ready to preach for her  if she was not able to make it back form the coast, but she’s here. It’s their fifth month anniversary and the  thanks to West-Park and me were effusive. In my brief reflection, I reference the Jeremiah covenant on the heart and le Chambon. 
Late in the afternoon, the Dark Lady Players are celebrating Our Lady Day, the Day of the Anunciation  with their production of Four Comic Anunciations to the Virgin Mary by William Shakespeare. Four scenes from Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Twefth Night and Hamlet. Each, in their view, a parody of the  Biblical anuniciation story. 
DLP has drawn a good audience for a late Sunday afternoon. In the 40-50 range. Given the fact that it’s not a bad draw for any off-off Broadway production, even Shakespeare straight up, this is a real sign of progress for DLP. They have set themselves a daunting task. For a company that is not only experimental but esoteric Shakespeare, they are beginning to establish a place of awareness in the general and theatre going public. Inch by inch, step by step,  through persistence, hard core rigorous scholarship and boundary pushing creative work, they are gaining a foothold. They still have to struggle with how to make it entertaining, fun, beyond the didactic exploration of what’s beneath the surface. It’s a task not unlike trying to reinvigorate a small but detrmined congregation, bring the center into being  and restoring a wounded building while trying to particpate in the birth of a new way of being church. We’re in this together.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Twentysixth day of Lent: There's a reason for that


3/23
Much of the day spent in negotiating, form filling out, etc. An older retired FDNY guy does a conditions inspection. He is warm and friendly. I notice from his card he’s got a phd and at least one masters degree. He also comes to check out my apartment.
Teddy lets me know today is (quiet) Chris’ birthday. means more to me because today is my own son Nate's birthday. We head up Amsterdam for a late lunch and conversation with Chris.  I learn for the first time of his efforts to gain an mfa in filmmaking, his growing up in NYC backyard Coneecticut, the perils of student loans. (One article Iread inidcated that the student loan crisis in the  US is  every bit as dangerous as the mortgage crisis.) He’s got skills and talents yet to be fully realized. Need to work on this.
Much to my serious disappointmnet,  I learn we have lost Noche Flamenco, at least for now.  Tough to specuate exactly why. Of course we’ll miss the  money, but the real hurt goes deeper. 
By 4:59 we have resolved our issues. Another inspector comes for a tour. The same questions over and over again.
I go to a meeting of the session at Hugo and Arcadia’s to review the week’s events. On the way back to church I run into Poet Tim and RL on Amsterdam and share a few words. 
Back at the church, there’ a fire safety group hard at work. And a surpise party plnned for (quiet) Chris. Steve will order a pizza, a cake is also on its way. Chris (quiet)  will be surprised. I half-joke about all the questiions they raise these days.  Like do we have a policy forbidding a single adult from being alone with a chld under 16. I say, thinking of our people, so what if its an aunt with her niece?
One of the women responds, slowly, firmly, grounded....there’s a reason for that...she says...my uncle, my own uncle...then she gets silent. There’s a reason for that.  My uncle...my ....look, it’s happened to so many of us, you think it happens to everybody. Almost think it's normal. . Anyways, there’s a reason for that.
We eart the pizza. Cut hte cake...sing happy birthday , Chris.... a lot of work left to do. It’s been a long week.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Twentyfifth day of Lent: Shaping a lifetime of commitment


3/22
Antonia and Wesley are a bit slow getting up today. I’m surprised to find Gary asleep on the steps. Gary, what are you doing here? Where’s your friend Anthony? He tells me Anthony is in the hospital. And that his own feet are frozen. I ask if he wants me to call 911, he declines. Always seems to be so lost without Anthony. 
Eugenia asks me about our involvement with Occupy Wall Street. She’s Gertrude’s daughter, who just turned 102. She’s hear to talk about final arrangements for her mom, though nothing’s imminent. At 102, you should be ready. But what impresses me is how much about Eugenia I haven’t known. Her commitment to progressive causes. Lifelong. She came here for the OWS Town Square. She’s worked with Sekou in United for Peace and Justice and respects his work.  She’s completely appalled at the current crop of candidates and the seeming assault on women, a fight we thought was over. (It’s never over.) She’s looking forward to our evening with Sekou and West coming up. 
But I’m also going through all the years I’ve known Gertrude, the changes in the congregation. Successes. Failures. Losses. The years she was at Village  Care on 46th and 10th, an assisted living facility filled with vital, alert, feisty people. Their Friday afternoon Happy Hours and theme parties. How frustrating it has been to try and get up to see her in Bronx. 
A musician has come in  to check out the acoustics.
Jason is helping out with research on our project. Rafael and Teddy just ready to do whatever is necessary. 
I’m mainly thinking about Eugenia. How growing up in this church helped shape values, a lifetime of commitment. My hope is we can continue to provide that kind of experience.  

Twenty-ourth day of Lent: Disenchanted


3/21



All energy is focused on getting the church ready for tonight’s reading of Don’s new musical, Disenchanted. Piano Dan is finishing the piano tuning. The risers are going up. Lights being checked out. Director Fiely Matias ready to get his cast comfortable with the space and ready to perform.
Rafael and Chris are working security, making sure no one else comes in while the show is getting ready.I’m out side with Chris when Anna comes by with her little dog. I’m very impressed with the care and compasssion in how he interacts with her. 
Rose and Requiem are leaving to take the bus up to stay wih Rose’s family in the Berkshires. Strange, but I feel choked up watching them get ready to leave. I will miss them.
I have to head downtown for a court appearance. When I get back, Danielle and I continue to work on our project. Just enough time to head home and change bfore Don’s show. 
Don is doing a staged reading of his show, Disenchanted, as a sort of backer’s audition, seeking financial support for a possible off-Broadway production. This play imagines that the princesses from the Disney movie-themepark world have gathered to protest thier treatment by popculture. 
I’m amazed at the transformation of the church, so quickly accomplished. Stars twinkling magically on the ceiling. A raised stage with a black curtain. The house is packed. There is that hoped for excietment of anticipation feeling. I welcome the house and invite them to Dream. Real. Hard....like our slogan.
The director has worked in  some clever bits acknowledging that they're playing this in a church. Like when at the beginning, Sleeping Beauty snaps her fingers and the lighted Tiffany window goes dark. It’s all  clever and funny, with a point. Chris remarks that he’s got three daughters and it reminded him how these beloved stories shape self-image of little girls. The best song is probably Pocahontas, the only real character in the play. Exploring the difference between her historical images and the cartoon sexualized innocent vixen of pop culture. 
The evening is a success. Don is happy. As work is being wrapped up, Don brings in a six pack for the crew and we stop and enjoy a German beer. I’m glad we could make this happen.That against some tough odds, it all worked out. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Twentysecond and third days of Lent:Sometimes you just have to set principle aside and do what's right


3/19
The day begins with reassurances, ends with fears realized.
I head to Don’s office to learn about his work and hear a new song in development. 
Back at the office, Danielle and I developing a strategy of what to do next. 
All too soon, its time for Bible Study. Tonight we’re looking at Matthew’s version of the Anunciation, the angel’s visit to Joseph. (1: 18-25) We realize even though he is a righteous man, a law abider, he decides to find a way to save Mary from capital punishment, stoning for adultery, even before the angel has visited him. He has discovered a deeper sense of obdeience, of rightoeousness, one centered in mercy. As always with Matthew, the whole of the Gospel present at every stage. Hope thinks that maybe Joseph telling this story to Jesus comes to him when the woman is about to be stoned. Could have been his own mother. Joseph taught him the quality of mercy.
It’s St. Joseph’s Day. John has brought rich, creamy St.Joseph’s day pastries from an Italian bakery on his way home from work. We enjoy them together. And have enough for Teddy and Steve to share.  I recall that in New Orleans, this is the last day that Mardi Gras Indians parade. The next day, the costumes begin to be disassembled. 
Off for drinks with Jamie and talking through strategy.
I’m remembering something that someone said to me the year I worked in the little town of Oakdale, west of Pittsburgh. They were supposedly conservative/evangelical, me supposedly beyond liberal. We loved each other. We shared a sense of the sacredness of community. 

In that context, someone said to me, related to accepting a community member who was outside their normal bounds of sexual expression, sometimes you just have to set principle aside and do what’s right. 
3/20
I meet with everyone in the coop to bring them up to date on what’s going on. 
Danielle and I face a day of digging through files, assembling papers, filling out forms, phone  calls. Stress rising. 
Late in the day, I give a tour of the building to a rabbi and one of his board members. They’re looking more to buy than lease. The church house is a little rough for them, the presence of Occupiers, well, rough too. Though the rabbi says he can feel the spirit of the place.
Running out of time. Critical work to be done.  A guy on a bike from Hattiesburg, Mississippi who just wants to help, doesn’t know why people won’t let him just help, doesn’t want to push himself in where he’s not wanted, why back home the way they do it...is going on and on. I need to leave soon for Newark..We finally just close the doors. I feel like crying.

Fourth Sunday in Lent: Vivan los San Patricios


3/18
I light the new candles that Jamie has brought to add more light. Just like those who came before us here  in 1978 believed that the Holy Spirit had more light to shine on scripture, beginning the battle for lgbtq full  inclusion. Even though we’re in the purple season of Lent, I lay a green stole across the table in honor of St. Patrick.And I place the potato from yesterday on the table .  Don is back and  has brought  a friend from Beijing. Naomi and Ping from the Presbytery Committee on Nurture of  Congregations have come. 
As usual, I have John read the First Testament lesson, Numbers 21: 4-9, that strange passage about the bronze serpent. We do Psalm 107 in people’s mic style. ...with songs  of joy....And then we sing together All beautiful the march of days...Amy is here. Her faithful volunteering to bring us music is deeply appreciated. She reads John 3: 14-21 in Spanish. And I in English.
I hold up the EMT symbol and ask, What is this, what does it mean?   and John gets it right away. It’s the Rod of Asclepius, only one snake and stafff, similar to but different from the double winged, double serpented symbol of the medical profession. 
I ask everyone how  do they  feel about snakes? Most everyone is pretty negative, except for Rafael, who predictably, likes them. Likes the way they move. That slither. Like that house in Harry Potter, Slythern. They mean different things in different cultures. That Eden story doesn’t help. Then there’s Moses in pharoah’s court, in the contest with the Egyptian magicians.  Then in  Celtic culture a symbol of eternity. And for  Native Americans, freed from any Eden fall story, a symbol of rebirth, with the annual shedding of a skin. And St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Egypt.
But there is this bad luck thing. Eden again. Like in the dice game craps, coming up snake eyes or someone who is  snakebit....
It is in short, a strange sign. What’s going on? the people are grumbling. There is no food. And it is bad food. Reminds me of that story. Two people in a restaurant. One says, the food here is terrible. And the other says, yes, and such small portions.
So how does this work?  Perhaps seeing a reminder of the sin...facing it the beginning of healing. John again says maybe it’s facing your fear. To put what you are afraid of up there, face it, the begining of overcoming it. I ike that.
Stranger still, connecting this with Jesus. Like John does.  He’s lifted up...Yes, that Jesus comparison is tough...especially as it’s  leading up to John 3:16..for God so loved the world...and we ask ourseves, well, ok, does that include me? How wide is it? Chrits on the cross with his arms stretched out. Is that a meaningful image? Comfrting image? Can we feel ourselves invited, held? 
John 3: 16 can come across as universally  inclusive, but then also, exclusive, triumphalist and supercessionist, ie, if you don’t believe like we do, you’re damned. The truth is, the historic reality of Christianity, Chirstendom, is exactly that, both. Welcoming  and inclusive, hostile and exclusive. 
If we go with  inclusive, however, it’s up to us to live that out. Otherwise, we witness aginst our own faith. Our own community.
We finish by singing the oldschool Rock of Ages..., leaving out the verse about being naked and foul...I mean I love it as an artitistic creation, but don’t want anyone to think we’re going there.  Not after what so many have lived through to protect their lives from church, from Christians. 
After we have taken up the offering, I lift up the potato I had placed upon the table. I tell how we gatherd at Zucotti. For music by Mandola Joe and the Buskers. A circle. A prayer. How we marched to the Bull. How Teddy spoke of his ancerstors. Requiem and Rose read their own poem of rebirth. And Rev. Mary placed the wreath on the Bull. The police took it off. We put it back on. They took it away. How we were solemn and dignified followed by a larger group wanting to express rage. Our green demo, their red. The march to Battery Park. Mark Greenburg talking about homelessness. Adolfo about  exploited labor. Rev. Bob Coleman from Riverisde and Occupy Faith. I’m glad to get Tracy a Riverside connection.
Then how we walked in the sun to the Irish Famine Memorial to pass out potaotes to visiting tourists. And the walk back to Zucotti. A new attempt to occupy ready to begin.
After the servcie, Don’s friend tells us how much she liked the service, the talk that seemed to connect with what’s real, right now. And our own commmittee members spoke of how our people sit close together, like a commuuty. Not far apart like dying embers. 
Late in the day, Teddy goes with me to get supplies for our fiesta in honor of the San Patricio Battalion. That group of Irish conscripts led by John Riley, one of the first Irish West-Point officers, who got to Mexico, looked around and said , this is their home. They’re  catholics. We’re catholics. Thye’re poor. We’re poor. We are being ordered to do to them  what the British did to us. We can’t do this. And so went over to other side. Were tracked down, tortured, branded, hung. Erased from history on this side of the border. Celebrated as heroes in Mexico.
Pat, KT and Mandola Joe, the Buskers
People are slow in coming. Seems there were many arrests last night. And police violence. And so a protest is on at Union Square.  Should we be there? What the police did was inexcusable.  And yet...I fear a self-perpetuating circle of protest,  more police violence leading to more protest leading to...looking for a strategy here...and not just we respect a diversity of tactics, inclusive as that sounds. 
Mandola Joe and the Buskers open the night. At the end of their set, I do a poem about the San Patricios. The Buskers play a song they don’t normally play because of it’s IRA associations. . And it scans perfectly.
We are the San Patricios
A brave and gallant band,
There’ll be no white flag flying,
Within this green command;
We are the San Patricios,
We have but one demand,
To see the Yankees safely home,
Across the Rio Grande.
But when at Churubusco,
We fell to Yankee hands,
No court of justice did we have,
In the land of Uncle Sam;
As traitors and deserters all,
We would be shot or hanged,
Far from the green, green shamrock shore,
Across the Rio Grande.
We’ve disappeared from history,
Like footprints in the sand,
But our song is in the tumbleweed,
And our blood is in this land;
But, if in the desert moonlight,
You see a ghostly band,
We’re the men who died for freedom,
Across the Rio Grande.
We are the San Patricios,
A brave and gallant band. 
The next set is Adolfo’s Mexican group, and then I do a song with the Buskers. Once again, I look around, I see Tracy and the Sweatshop Free workers getting closer to the Ocuppiers. And my musician friends like Joe and Pat and KT who marched with us yesterday and played just because...tonght.


I keep saying it. This is why we’re here. 

Tracy