Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Happy Birthday, West-Park


Like I said, things on the steps have deteriorated since the Sergeant went AWOL. Cardboard beds, too many cigarette butts, general disorder. Someone has left a box of kosher bagels.

I hear noise. Open the doors. As if out of nowhere, Sergeant Keith, Anna and puppy have appeared. Anna takes the sweeping equipment and gets to work. The Sergeant has stories.  Seems there’s division in the ranks of the lost patrol. But mainly, he feels like it’s time to move on. He’s got an appointment about an apartment later today. Look, he says,the steps were a landing strip. A place to touch down. A home. But I have to use these steps to step up, I need to step up, get  a life again. I shake his hand. That’s why we’re here. And like a whirlwind, he spins into action, picking up everything in sight and the steps are clean again. 

Inside, Karen is at the piano. Playing. Singing. Sorry she missed my son nate’s friends from Hawaii.  

Bill Skeritt, a pastor from Rhode Island has come in. He looks vaguely familiar. Ten years ago he brought a youth group here for a summer work camp.  Looking for a place again. I explain about the showers. The busted pipe. The water damage. The landmarking....well, ten years of history. You mean they landmarked you and they didn’t give you the money to.....Sigh. Yes....I direct him to SPSA. Pastor Heidi at Trinity is another option. Or Alistair at West End. Sorry we can’t accommodate. No showers. 

The man from the energy company keeps coming back. Persistent he is.

Long, frustrating negotiation conference call, leaves me depressed. Talking with Stephen and Cara in the chapel. Got to keep our work moving forward. Contractors coming. I look up, see the word that looks like blood again. I really want to know what that says....
Well, if it’s lead paint, you never will..., he says. 
It’s a distraction, but I want to know...How many quotes are there? Will it disappear before I get a chance to know?  That’s a monkey wrench, says Stephen. 

Look at my watch. Running out of time. My clergy friends coming soon. Need to run out, get wine and cheese and grapes and crackers and tablecloths and...When I get back, Danielle is here and we get it done. 

My colleagues are slow in arriving. I giv them a brief guided tour of our sanctuary.We talk about what’s missing in seminary education, since we’ve got three seminarians with us. (Including Yale, my school...)And we decide family systems theory, community organizing and basic economics. They now seem to be getting family systems, but CO, no.

We talk more. Heidi was a long time organizer in South Bronx Churches (IAF) . We talk about why it’s been so hard here, on the Upper West Side. Gentrification divides community coherence. We talk about thSweat Shop Free campaign, our frustrations around basic organizing principles. For all our issues with the Industrial Areas Foundation, there is discipline. A praxis that works....And we all agree, relationships are the basis of all successful organizing, not issues. 

And then we talk about the emerging arena of food justice.I talk about how there are three entry points: production (E.G., the Immokalee tomato growers, other farmworkers), distribution (Sweat shop campaign, food workers) and consumption, where we choose to eat, purchase food, etc. You can jump in anywhere. Ultimately it gets into everything from seeds (Monsanto) to corn dependence to...There is a flash of excitement....

I remember that today is a fitting time to gather. West-Park’s 102nd birthday. Lots of Facebook birthday wishes....

It’s time to head to a Presbytery meeting. There I will learn that Alan Thompson has died. He was my teacher at Yale. Allowed me to do two major independent study projects. Introduced me to real leftist politics. Later, he would preach my first installation in Tulsa. Our church  had sponsored his southeast Asian mission work, where he was radicalized. At one point, he was hounded by the government and was later all  but homeless in New York City.  There’s a lot more I don’t know. But I will remember him.

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