Martin comes in to follow up on our conversation from yesterday with some new questions.
Pat O is in the neighborhood and stops into review plans for our upcoming retreat.
Time to go meet Elise and talk about plans for the Friday housewarming she is planning for me.
Having rented a truck, I stop at the church to unload some things from my apartment that no longer fit there but can be of use to the church. A long drive to Flatbush to drop a couch at Nate’s will follow. Driving a Uhaul truck is an adventure.
All day getting ready for the housewarming/blessing.
The Session has gathered for a long and serious meeting concerning our future. We need to talk among ourselves, gain clarity before meeting with the Center Board tomorrow. Sometimes the enormity of the knowns, combined with the potential gravity of the unknowns are enough to make some of us question, ask what’s the point, is it worth it, if we will spend our last financial, emotional, spiritual resources in a losing effort to prop up a terminal building? What has happened to our congregation, the real church, during this process? Can we generate enough rental money from the church house to replace what we would have gotten from our latest run away partner? If we don’t have sufficient band-width, where will we find it?
It’s just a reality that given what we have gone through, we have to occasionally revisit these questions. These years have been hard on us. But every time, at least so far, we come out of the conversation with a renewed commitment to stay the course.
While the meeting is concluding, I get a text from my friend Jean. She’s in the chapel waiting. She’s here with a group from California, to do rebuilding work from hurricane Sandy in the devastated Rockaways beach neighborhood. They’re staying out at First Presbyterian, Jamaica, Queens, the oldest church in the Presbytery. Born 350 years go. They welcome church groups from all around the country doing Sandy work and their pastor Patrick is a leader in IAF and a passionate spokesperson against gun violence. Jean also is working on creating a new worshipping community whose rasion d’etre will be service, like this project. We have been friends for 30 years.
As I talk with her in the chapel, Hugo comes in and I introduce them and when she learns he’s from Nicaragua, she shares some of her experiences in that country. Something else we share in common. The last time she was here, Teddy was helping Martin construct his studio. Teddy could sense there was something special about Jean and he gave her one of those radiant, deep quiet smiles of his.
On our way to Times Square for a play, we stop at the Gate and encounter Pat O ad RL and the conversation turns to the Open Mic and Jeanie sees a real opportunity. The diverse mix of genres and styles, more so the people who perform them, ages and ethnicities and competencies, the open accepting and collaborative environment, the creation of community, all of this makes it a fundable project and she knows how to do that. This conversation will continue.
* * * *
It’s late. Post seeing Once, a musical about well, music, creativity, collaboration, community and well, love.
I’m in the office, finishing planning for tomorrow’s service. RL stops in for conversation, but I’m annoyed by sounds from outside. Boisterous laughter, boasting, bragging, guffawing, etc. I tell RL I can’t concentrate and have to go outside and deal with this. He asks if I want company and I figure that’s not a bad idea.
Joe and La Toya and a few guests are hanging on the steps. I begin by saying this is inappropriate. Its after midnight, It has to be quiet here.
And in a flash, I’ve got an eminence grise in my face, eyes dark with anger. Yelling about respect. Like crazy people, con artists and street hustlers, he knows exactly what buttons to push and I’m telling him respect is what it is all about. Soon Joe has entered, macho posturing and all yelling about the stress he’s under. Just as the first guy is coming off on who you gonna care about, these homeless people you sposed to care about or those white bread fairies across the street? RL leads him away leaving me with angry Joe.
La Toya, the only one who senses, this can go south very quickly and that their place on the steps may be in jeopardy, steps between the first guy and RL. You escalatin', she says.
Next thing I know, the Midnight Run van pulls up, spilling out happy, cheery suburbanites here to help the homeless with a sandwich, clothes and a smile. Not now, I don’t need this. A cheery young woman steps up to try and intervene . To explain the homeless to me. Please, I say, you don’t really understand. She looks,like she’s about to cry.
Next thing I know, her mother is yelling, How dare you, how dare you yell at my daughter! She’s been feeding the homeless for three years! Don’t tell me we don’t understand it’s you who don’t understand.
About now, one, two, three police cars arrive, police jumping out. Someone has called in about an altercation on the steps. They try to sort things out. Finally realize that I’m the pastor. I tell them that Joe and La Toya can stay, and that everyone else must go. It’s then I see the permanently banned Sergeant Keith on the steps, trying to be invisible. The first angry man thinks he can outface the police. This is not a good idea. The Midnight Run people are trying to somehow say that this was my fault. Because I don't understand these people. Or something like that.
Finally the police get it all sorted out. People moving on their way. A young gawker is standing in the middle watching all this. The police tell him to move on. Hey, it's a public sidewalk ain't it? He says. But he, too, moves on. And the Midnight Run van loads up and heads back to the burbs.
RL leads me back inside. My adrenalin is pumping. I’m upset. How in the hell do I wind up on the street after midnight fighting with homeless people? Seriously…..
I’m especially upset with the Midnight Run people. They do good work. They bring food. A bit of comfort. They help make the streets bearable which is both good and bad. At best, it can be an opportunity for action and reflection. But there is also the possibility of self-satisfied attitude that allows these conditions to exist in order to provide opportunities for people to do charity, good works and feel better about themselves. And worse, the possible unspoken judgment about those of us in the city who actually have to live with this not as an issue but as real people we have to deal with every day. The attitude that they who parachute in once a week as angels of mercy actually understand the situation better than we do. Liberals. Sigh. Liberals.
I hear laughter again. RL offers to go out and check. He returns. It’s just the police, he says.