Friday, January 31, 2014

Chim, chimney Chim, chimney Chim, chim, cher-ee…


It’s been a long, cold, slow week. The continued frigid weather slows things down. Keeps us inside. Hunkered down, so to speak. Desiring hibernation. My own fatigue and virus doesn’t help as I just want to stay under the covers.

Tuesday there’s little time spent in the office on the way  to the Presbytery meeting in Harlem. Good to go to a meeting for once where West-Park is not at risk. Our business this time involves presenting an overture to our national General Assembly this summer on a study of  current US drug policy and how it impacts people of color and those of low income.  We also have an action on Marriage Equality. A lot of congregations have endorsed the right of a clergy person to perform marriages as their conscience allows in states where the law permits it. West-Park wanted to go further, and strike those words, where the law permits …Civil law should not determine our ecclesiastical law. It’s either right or not. My colleagues should not remain vulnerable to charges while I can perform any marriage I feel called to perform.

The ensuing debate was a bit odd. Many speakers began by saying of course they agreed, but…. Our version attracted some conservatives who liked it’s either/or and separation of church/state character. One African-American pastor reminded us of how marriage had been stolen from their historic community. Finally liberal gradualism and political expedience won out and our offering was defeated. The qualified motion passed by a large margin. (Like West-Park’s last victory…)

RL and I spend a frustrating hour trying to figure out why the boiler isn’t working. It keeps looking  like something simple.

Noche is hard at work when the boiler clearly is no longer working. Danielle puts out the call for help and boiler people soon arrive. Pat O has come by to continue work on developing a critical analysis of current options and an alternative plan. Excel spreadsheets, color coded and all.

A long and frustrating boiler day.  It’s on and off three times. Danielle reports a scary early morning flaming blow back. When it’s  working, it’s like a mechanical system on crack. Manic and hyper. Ready to do harm. New radiator leaks. Steaming pipes. The boiler people seem befuddled and each further complicated effort seems to take us further from solution. The want us to invest in a new radiator. Bring in a chimney sweep. I tell Danielle to google Chim, chimney Chim, chimney Chim, chim, cher-ee…

Session is working in seriously evaluating  options while I’m running around with boiler people. It’s like on Apple care when you start with a simple enough problem and 45 minutes later they want you uninstall everything on your computer…Something wrong here….all of this taking me back to the winter of no heat, back when we first began...the 

Meanwhile in the sanctuary, the voices of Mario’s singers conjure fields and late night gatherings down south….even as I notice so many different global accents… I notice some Dzieci have joined in. I see this emerging community and wonder again how we can interrelate, collaborate…plant something that can grow…

Monday, January 27, 2014

Zebedee in the boat. Alone.


Back to church after a day long retreat at Stony Point with Presbytery’s Committee on Witness to Society and the World. (CWSW). I can never remember that. It’s part of the work when money has disappeared and structures crumbling how to start all over building from the grass roots up. Stony Point’s Rick right there, helping us work it through. It's the same story everywhere in the church.

Berik and Leila have a new opening upstairs. With a live band. These openings have become anticipated events among a certain circle. 

Getting  few things set for tomorrow. Too tired and beat to join RL for awhile.


The bitter cold continues. Joe et al have to be moved on. (Just call 911…)
Deacon James shows up early to help set up. Dion quickly creating our circle of chairs. Jeremy warming up, getting ready.

We  start with How Firm a Foundation with a good solid beat and rootsy feel. And with Psalm 27, we do the Lord is my light which always has a good roll to it. Great for jazz improv over, if only Andre were here.

Young couple comes in, sits in the pews awhile. Leaves. Sometimes coming up front is in intimidating. But if they’d only stay for the reflection…
The first reading is ISAIAH 9:1-4. OK, so it’s the season of Epiphany. Light again. I get it. So enough with 2   The people who walked in darkness 
have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined….this was the first reading for midnight mass on Christmas Eve. But the context is different. Now it’s a metaphor, not for the birth, but the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

People wonder abut the day of Midian. And while we are talking, Stephen looks it up. Somehow I’d forgotten the wonderful story with Gideon. God wanting only those who lapped water like dogs. The torches in jars. The trumpets..(Judges 7 and 8….)

People are clear…they’re looking for upbeat, positive passages during this winter season. The weather is cold enough.

The SECOND READING( 1 CORINTHIANS 1:10-18) speaks of a church divided. Not over theology or doctrine  or ideas but over personalities.  When you read Paul's  personal words re his baptisms, 14I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) You just know that has to be authentic, never intended to be read as scripture 2000 plus years later.

Also good to note that Chloe was clearly a female head of household with money. Perhaps even the sponsor/host of the church.

Paul calls us back from what divides us, to what is central.  As Dion says that’s all it is, to remember why we are here, for God, and for each other. The rest doesn’t matter.

Finally, the  GOSPEL,  MATTHEW 4:12-23. The beginning of Jesus’ministry. We note that in this gospel, Jesus waits until John’s ministry has ended before launching his own. And that he begins pretty much continuing John’s message, 17From that time Jesus began to proclaim, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.
 We note that he had made a strategic retreat to Capernaum to avoid Herod. And that we’e got prophecy fulfillment again.
*Did Jesus go this route because he knew people would connect to what  they knew?
*Did he actually seek to fulfill prophecy?
*Did he even have a choice?

And we’re fascinated in his calling  of the fishers to make them fishers of men, as the King James says. And we stop to recognize that ti's is the story of ordinary people, in the midst if ordinary lives, called out to do extraordinary things. Everyday people, as Sly Stone once sang….

We wonder how they could leave…immediately…until I recall that in Occupy I knew a number of people who had waked away form jobs, families, lives because they believed it was a kairos moment, a moment to decide.

Marsha as always is wishing the Bible gave us more details. What exactly is it we are supposed to do?

And we also note that they were mending their nets and that my colleague Heidi had done a whole sermon on mending  their nets. Old needs people who can fix things. Take what we have, tears, holes and all, and make it work…

Parenthetically, as Jesus preaches good news, I mention  that the word, evangelium, gospel, good news…had political import. Usually with news of military victories. But also to announce tax relief, the end of a tax. For an occupied people, that would be good news.

Someone asks why when Jesus heals  it’s always …every disease and every sickness among the people….No wonder people followed.

In the end we’re left with Zebedee in the boat. Why didn’t he go? Too old? How does he feel about his boys leaving? Happy? Sad? Abandoned? Stunned? What is going on in that boat with Zebedee alone? We’ll continue to reflection that…

We finish with the beautiful Tu has venido la orilla, one of the favorite songs of our latin members.

Session confirms Stephen as our commissioner for the next Presbytery meeting. To speak to our overture about drug policy and the devastating and unfair affect of current drug laws on the poor and people of color.

Jamie will come with me to work on my apartment . Step by step.

Call from RL. The boiler's off. Head back to he church. Nothing  we do works. This  is not good. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Someone had to do it


Finally went to the doctor. As I expected, a bronchial infection. So we start the antibiotics. Only so much you can do to your spirit before the body rebels.

This music video being shot is serious business. A lot of work for a short song. Complex plot. Lots of children. I watch a rehearsal (with a homemade cake) the repeated takes with a clean designed store bought cake as the children destroy the cake and attack each other with fabric banners. Soon the parents will spirit the children away. The band will reappear in suits. There are dry ice machines. The have been at this all day.

Soon enough Marina appears and the Noche dancers will soon be rehearsing. I love it when this happens. This unexpected confluence. And would miss it were it gone.

Of course this is about the time Eldridge shows up needing subway fare again.

An executive from one of the companies interested in a long term lease comes in looking  into possibilities of creating a larger stage in the sanctuary. To replace another venue.

Sean is here with his electric cart wanting to leave it to be charged up. Danielle jumps in to handle that. Earlier today before  I knew it, she had gone up into the pigeon tower to pull the trap door shut. She'd gotten tired waiting for it to get done and an arctic blast was blowing down through. Says her fingers almost froze while tying it down. Got some Wonder Woman here. 

Jamie’s brought in a crew interested in being project manager for the reconstruction work to be done. Ther’s going to be a lot to keep an eye on. Lots of Irish bonhomerie in the conversation. This will come down to a session decision.

I’ll later meet Beppe, then stop back on my way home. Why is so hard for me to call 911 when I see Joe and his woman on the steps in 8’ weather?


Friday, January 24, 2014

The mass is ended


The frozen world continues. Achingly cold. Spend time with the man RL refers to as Lawman Michael at the Gate discussing a wide variety of legal matter before he is joined by his two beautiful children  and wife and soon to arrive next child.

Back at the church, Jeremy G and a productions guy are going over things for the Workcenter’s upcoming  performances.

Matt from Dzieci wants to schedule time for upcoming Dzieci explorations of Sacred Harp. A page from Bread & Puppet. What is it about these old southern and Appalachian music forms that so connects with these European Grotowski children? We talk about plans for this years’ Passion Play as well..

RL interrupts to make sure that Matt knows and will relay to the other  Dzieci the importance of keeping water  taps open during this cold...

Noche is hard at work on their studio, the sounds of pounding feet.

The rest of the Dzieci arrive. Bundled against the cold, they begin a rehearsal of the Fool’s Mass. They’ve got a performance this weekend in Kingston. Even out of costume,they begin to assume their characters. The asylum’s inmates emerge. And I get drawn in. Until the last moment when Ryan walks unsteadily but determinedly down the aisle. Looks at us and says The mass    is    ended.  And then, Go   in    peace. And then as an afterthought, raises his fingers to his mouth in a shhhhhh sound. And even in this form, still profoundly transformational. 

I see Teresita and give her a hug. She says I still look out and see my Sanctuary friends sitting there. We really had something for awhile. I had to go….lots of reasons…but…it’s sad…we had something…Tell Jeremy I miss him. I’m going to come hear him perform some day. And I hug he ronce more.