Saturday, July 12, 2014

What we don't do here (among other things)


Two women in to explore the possibility of producing two plays in the fall. One a reimagining of Othello. I ask her if she’s familiar with John Hudson and his theory that Amelia Bassano, the dark lady if Shakespeare’s sonnets, was in fact the author of Shakespeare’s plays. ( She looks dumbfounded. Then says, To think that one of the greatest writers in history, who expanded our sense of what it means to be human, was a woman, that’s….that’s …wonderful. I talk about Othello and the other plays and how John has unearthed literally thousands of Biblical references in Shakespeare from 15 translations of the Bible. (For a review of John Hudson’s The Dark Lady: The Woman Who Wrote Shakespeare's Plays see Through hard work, serious scholarship and persistence, John has done the heavy lifting to move his theory from the netherworld of academic literary  conspiracy theorists into the realm of (highly)plausible authorship candidates worthy of serious debate and study. . No mean feat.

To Advent to meet with our Palestine work group. To figure out what’s next. We’ll do a fall session on Kairos Palestine ( and then another film series. Consider a closer relationship with Sabeel, the center for development  of Palestinian Liberation Theology. ( And then we’ll see.


Pat O for our weekly session to keep things moving forward on our to-do list. And more importantly this week to review my draft on mission and revitalization of the congregation. It’s rough, but the time is now to move the discussion forward. 

Then my friend from the Palestine group, Russ, comes and we go to discuss what it would mean to create a congregation around radical discipleship where everything gives the same message and makes clear why mind of community this is. What shared values, commitments are needed? How do you get the word of invitation out?

On the steps, Thomas from Texas has a large sandwich board with brightly colored words. Like hypnosis, and paralleling…This looks ominous. Says he’s spent the day at Times Square in the midst of Naked Cowboys and aggressive Elmos and panhandling Spidermen. Claims to haves  been interviewed by CNN and New York 1. He asks RL about Open Mic. Details given. Then RL says, I’m leaving the sandwich board to you. I don’t feel good about this.

I hear my voice called. It's my friend Elise. She's just been with her congregation to hear our friends ETHEL at the Met. Spoke to our friend Ralph. Told him kf it wasn't for Open Mic, I would have been there. 

Finally time for Open Mic. John H,
John Holland
a decent singer-songwriter, opens. Kieran follows with his own idiosyncratic takes on Dylan and the Band. Then it happens.

Thomas from Texas and sandwich board
Thomas from Texas
takes the stage with his sandwich boards. Bright letters an all. Tries to explain himself as a  logical Christian in the line of John Locke and enlightenment philosophy. But soon we’re off into a strange world and he’s taking off on Jews and Muslims as followers of false gods….Judaizers, drink this blood, Mohammedans, eat this body…I’m getting increasingly uncomfortable but he’s finally gone too far so I say firmly and loudly, We don't do that here…we don’t put down people’s religions…He looks at me. Is that the kind of place this is?
Yes it is. All right  then. 
Tie goes to the winners…he says and finishes up and leaves the stage. Upset. Dragging his sandwich board behind him. Sometimes RL’s bottom line, parameters, everything you do as long as you don’t tale your clothes off is ok…is not quite enough. Everyone else is moving on. I’m still stuck. Religion is my job, for one thing. Being clear about what this place is another. But what I'm really struggling with is mental illness. The words have the sound and cadence and rhythm of normal speech. He talks in diagrammatical sentences.But no two sentences  in sequence have rational meaning. And underneath a veneer of philosophical logic is a paranoid intuition of plots and plans and ancient global conspiracies. It never fails to shake me up. Leave my own grip on reality uneasy. Easily half or more of the homeless persons we deal with are seriously mentally ill. And society really does nothing. 

Nick takes us on another banjo adventure. Erik, who met RL at the Gate, makes a good first impression with his quirky, personal songs.
Joel brings his usual spoken word exploration and Tom from England brings us competent and intelligent personal songs. 
Tom from England

I switch with Pat so  that he can play while his daughter Brianna is still here. It’s good to meet one of his children. He’s working on a new song about old soldiers who gave their life for a dream of freedom. And not sure how that worked out.
Pat and Brianna

Use my set to work thorough some thins. A new song. Sample verse:
Who gives and who takes
What’s right and what’s fair
What bends and what breaks 
And how much do you care.
What is forgotten
And what is still known.
Love always is shared
It can never be owned.

And I finish with Donovan’s Try and catch the wind…

Joe waited until Manahttanhenge was over before coming tonight, looking down 79th where the sun sets perfectly between Trump’s buildings  like an overtime winning penalty shot straight into the goal  in the World Cup. He’s convinced that the full moon and Manhattanhenge convergence sent people like Thomas from Texas over the edge. He brightens the mood and gets us going again.

Alex wins us again
Then sweet Alex, young singer-songwriter on out honky tonk piano, wrings out our hearts like a dishrag and then its time for RL to bring us home.

(To hear Alex's music, go to soundcloud: alxnicole or

Another good night. The Gate awaits. 

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