Sunday, August 31, 2014

A fan has something to do with it. And Jesus.


RL opens. And closes.

The fire extinguisher inspection guys came today.

Beppe stopped y last night, just back from Sardinia. We talked about his recent experience at a 3 day meditation retreat. About that shared sense of what is beyond us.  I talked about my feeling when my cat Troy climbs up on my chest, looks into my eyes and I can feel him breathing. This sense of sharing something at a deeper level of creation. The gentle steady lapping of the ocean. And the sea gull who walked over and stared at me on the Jersey shore. I’m thinking this is going to make it into a sermon somehow.

Ryan is in. Tonight is opening night for Cymbeline.

Jeremy M in to talk about our Sunday morning project. And rehearse for Sunday. We try Ripple, one of the most intriguing of Grateful Dead songs, lyrics by Robert Hunter. I’m hoping to do it tonight with Esther, Joe and Pat. I love Jeremy’s voice adding harmonies. Then he brings out an original, You’re going home, written for a dying woman. It’s painful. Poignant. And the harmony he has for me is sharp. And clean. Close. And plaintive. After a few tries, it’s there. And I feel something quiver inside.

Joe and I spend an hour or so working on the plan for revitalization of the congregation. I can actually see it working. If we can get people to see it, the step by step, maybe we can get past the history of missed opportunities, move to hope and possibility again.

A crew from BRC (the Bowery Residence, where Chris now lives…) arrives to move Sean. There’s some van problems, can we keep some of his stuff just a little longer? I’m happy just to see he’s got another shot. And that all my bridges have not been completely burned on his behalf. Sometime I feel Sean must have some angels watching over him, despite his losing battle with his body and lingering demons.

Kristen Leigh walks in and I’m happy to see her. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation for some time. I admire her work as an artist. Her bringing the Collection here.  I enjoyed her part of the concert Songs to fill the air a few weeks ago at St. Bart’s featuring the songs of Jerry Garcia. (That’s what pushed me to tackle Ripple…) She shares with me a beautiful note she wrote the creator/producer/director of that event about the power of performing live music. It’s inherent imperfection as part of its beauty. The difference between the pursuit of perfection on a captured moment in time live recording and the you never know what might happen reality of live performance. (Her Songs in the key of redemption concert at West-Park a couple of years ago had to contend with a sudden snow storm.) She concluded with the audience is always right. And that, as my boys say, is word.

I appreciate her as an artist and as a theologian. I’m interested in the community around the Wild Goose festival. ( all honesty, she says,  a little too heavy on middle aged yearning white males…careful there…).How to be more diverse? And how much of the emergent movement is sill captive to the institutional church.

We agree how open mics can be like church. There is welcome. Acceptance. The chance to share. And grow. And become. And that the same could be said of followers of a football team or any other activity we do regularly. So what makes the difference?

It’s what’s there when then shit this the fan, she says. The need to go deeper. And find something, someone there.  I can’t even necessarily define it. But it’s either there or not. And too many mainline churches are like, well, clubs. But I don’t need that. I enjoy open mics more. Unless you’re going deeper, ah, you know?

She shares her own journey. And here’s the main take aways:
1.     You have to make demands. If it means something, it costs something. Not just tithing. Your whole self. Progressive churches can’t be afraid to ask.
2.     Allow for mystery and awe. Don’t need to explain the Bible or apologize. Burning bushes are burning bushes and virgins give birth. The question is not how, but why? What are they trying to tell us?
3.     It’s Jesus makes it radical. Move beyond that spiritual but not religious. It’s not even about belief. But it is about following.
We talk about the conversation we had with Mario and company about performance and the sacred. I wish she could have taken part. I wish she could stick around and play some music tonight. But she’s headed for her new cabin in the woods. His conversation will continue.
                                                                * * * *

I’m in a heightened feeling of inspiration when I return from my conversation to be confronted  by RL to deal with the front steps. And there I find Edward Green, like I do every August like clockwork.  The only person permanently banned from the steps.

He’s curled up in a fetal position. Head on a clear garbage bag filled with cans and maybe a clean shirt or two. Looking gaunt. With an unruly beard and Afro wild. Edward, I say..
My God, you know my name…
We have history. You know you can’t be here.
Please just let me get some rest…please…
He begins to gasp. Writhe. You want me to die? You want me to die?
Do I need to call 911?
Please.  PLEAASE….

So I do. And have to explain over and over why this is an emergency. They’re trying to talk me out of it. Look, I know him, OK? This is serious.
Soon enough they arrive. The EMT guy looks tired. Exasperated. Hey, I just took you to the hospital two nights ago. What’s up? He says to Edward.
Edward is crying. Tears streaming down his face. Gasping. Finally they pull out the stretcher. Get him up on it. Push him into the ambulance. My bag…he cries…my bag…the EMT guy picks up Edward’s Afro pick. Sticks it in his hair. We’ll take care of the bag, he says.

While the EMT guys are wrapping up, I go to the guy on the north steps. He’s lifted up his eye shade. A police squad car has arrived as well. He’s checking everything out. This might  a good time to leave, I say. He nods. Puts his shoes on, gathers up his bed things and takes off up the street.

I’m shaking as I go to dispose of Edward’s things. I’d wear gloves if I were you, says RL. Of course. There’s an empty St. Ides 40 in the corner. RL starts to talk to me about why brighter lights and a no loitering sign will take care of this. And I don’t really want to hear it right now. He’s in a self-admitted Jack Frost role right now. Of course he’s right, but…

Pat and Joe are arriving, ready to rehearse…

Edward challenges my whole theological system.  Somehow I can exegete Eric Garner. Ferguson. Gaza. Foley. But Edward? He’s been to rehab a dozen times. Given his life to Jesus Christ twice that. And he’s always back here dying a slow death without even the charm of Sean to draw angels near to him.  What do we say here, Kristen? What do we do?  What kind of music is this? It is. That’s all. Just is.

Joe, Pat, Bob
Time to go practice with Joe and Pat O. Ripple. Joe’s mandolin….If I knew the way, I would take you home…


A quiet night at Open Mic. Like family, says Rabbi Steve.
Steve Blane
+ Dion, fresh back from vacation. Ready to get back in the flow.
+ Warms my heart to see rabbi Steve back again an don the Beckstein instead of the honky tonk piano in the chapel..
+ Kieran’s here with some fans
+ An old peace activist from the outer boros, Gigi brings her poems of protest
+ RL tells her some of our history. Love to hear him tell it. And then in an atypical RL moment, questions why conservatives tell us that gun laws won’t stop gun violence but somehow abortion laws will. (Stop abortions that is, not gun  violence.)
+Joel is especially on tonight, inviting Steve to improvise with him. We could be in  the village 40-50 years ago. I could see the two of them together on the Steve Allen Show.
Joel, with Steve
Pat O
+ Pat O and Mandola each do solid sets. Scottish independence upcoming vote a theme.
Mandola Joe
+ And then after my ..Queen…song, they join me for Rider and Ripple, which I say is right there with So Lonesome…as a near perfect song…Playing with people is healing. Though I do miss the singing harmoinies…
+ Miryam has arrived late. Does a set, she says,  of one traditional, one original, one cover…Pat O singing along quietly to the McGarrigle’s Heart Like a Wheel…
+ And then it’s time for RL one more time and Stay Awhile…

….a very long day….

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