Tuesday, September 30, 2014

After the theft


Tricia and Lee working on their two plays, including Tricia’s unique take on Othello. Moving towards an immersive production, multi-rooms. Maybe workshop in November, actual play in February. Lee concerned about the splintered floor in McAlpin. We’ll see what we can do.

Marc is anxious for me to see the recording studio he has created in the basement and the broken window he has repaired.

Pat O has had another day with architects. Yes, we’ve had the stop work order lifted. But we still have to get our work permits approved. I get tired of the waiting.

What the day has really been about is all the hours I spent in the precinct house reporting our theft. As I look up at the corkboard above the detective, I see the photo of the baptismal font missing in the Occupy days. The detective says they’d be more inclined to pursue these cases, and there are reports I wasn’t even aware of, if we installed cameras. OK, it’s time.

Dion drops by. We talk about a friend now in a therapeutic community environment. Dion has worked for the program. He knows the drill, happy to hear the news. And,as  it turns out, he used to install security cameras. That may well come in handy.

Talk to handyman David S about the camera issue as well. Maybe between Dion and David we can handle this.

Skyping with Jeremy from his European tour. Just finished a gig in Freiburg, Germany and here he is in my office from Switzerland. We review the Climate march, worship at West-Park and music.

Noche’s singers have  arrived from Spain and the walls echo with the sound of flamenco singers.

The Frog & Peach Titus... cast is arriving.

After another amazing concert at my friend Milica’s Gallery MC, I stop in to say hello to RL before heading home.

We’ve got to buy a new computer.

Podcast" Rebooting a church"...

Check out this podcast with Rev. Bob Brashear from Russ Jenning's podcast "Love in a dangerous Time..."

What our friend Russ wrote about being at West-Park on Climate Sunday

My Fantasy Sunday Morning Church Service

It happened yesterday, Sunday, September 21. I arrived at church and what I found was my community preparing to go (together) to thePeople’s Climate March, here in New York City. I’ve often thought that if church is supposed to be the body of Christ, if church community was created to help us all do the work of changing the world, then our worship should be something we “take with us” when important things are going on.
I used to go to a really (really) big church. During Occupy Wall Street, the Occupiers put out the word that they needed more camping equipment. So my church sent an employee to the nearest REI and she bought 100 tents. Then, with 50 of them crammed into one of the Church van, they were trucked down to Zuccotti Park. The Church’s video cameras were a’buzzin as they recorded the presentation by one of our clergy, and everyone went home (except the Occupiers).  Why, I asked a few days later (I have to admit it took me a couple of days to think of this) didn’t we see a pile of tents when we arrived for church on Sunday? Why didn’t the minister tell us to grab a tent or two and get on the subway and go to Zuccotti? Why didn’t we deliver the tents as a community and then spend a couple of hours with the Occupiers? Hell, we could have had our worship service at the park!
OK, the reality is that my new church is small. And small is flexible, where large is not. But why don’t we get that the structure of our churches is just not compatible with a world that is in need on a 24/7 basis. If big churches mean we can’t really involve the community, then maybe we don’t need big churches.
I’ve always figured that the early church formed communities to do the work of spreading “good news to the poor.” So you get some people together. You read some scripture, you pray, and you do the work. Along the way someone goes through a divorce, or their kid gets arrested, or they develop a drug problem. Of course, you take care of them because they’re part of your community and you love them. But the purpose of the community was not to take care of the emotional needs of the community members.
In our day and age, however, it is. Churches these days are places to feel better. It’s like a product the Church sells. Yup, it gets people in the door. And yup, it gets some coin in the basket on Sunday morning. And yup, it even attracts people who are very empathetic to go to seminary and become the professionals that are needed to staff such a care-giving institution.
I just don’t think that’s church.
There will be more on this. It’s a major focus of this podcast/blog.
But I finally actually experienced a Sunday morning where working to change the world was Worship!! And I liked it!

— Russ

Monday, September 29, 2014

Who's in charge? ( We were robbed...)


John, our substitute pianist while Jeremy is on tour in Europe, is in the sanctuary going over the morning’s music. Deacon James is getting  things set up. A well dressed man comes up to me and asks if I remember him. I know what his is a prelude to. It’s a well developed strategy to ask to speak to the pastor 15 minutes before the service. You know he doesn’t have much time  to get into  a detailed discussion. He tells me he’s got a job. Just needs money for his transportation until his first pay check.  There’s no way I can do that, tell him, but I do wind up emptying my pockets and giving him everything I have.

I go back to see John, to review some music, anxious about the time, not checking to see if I’ve locked the door. A young man enters the sanctuary. Clean. Well dressed. With a large bag.Tells me he’s from the coffees hop across the street (the Bean) and has some food they want to get rid of well before the expiration date. Can we help get it to the poor? I’m pressed for time, just say Yes. Turn back to the pianist.

And then go back to my office only to discover our laptop is gone. I can’t believe it. But yes, it’s gone. We check the bag the young man dropped. It’s not from the Bean, It’s from the CVS garbage pile. It’s all CVS food. I’ve been played. Sort of sets me off bad for the Sunday. Which is too bad because Rachel has brought her niece Sandy and Anna has brought a whole family. People anxious to hear the Good News. And I’ve just been robbed. And it’s half my fault for not checking the door.

Theft or not, we got to have church. Our theme today is a Strong community knows who’s in charge. And our scripture is MATTHEW 21:23-32.Where when Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?.

Jesus then says to them,  I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, If we say,‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, Why then did you not believe him? 26But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27So they answered Jesus, We do not know. And he said to them, Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

And as is his custom, he follows that up with a parable:
28What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, Son, go and work in the vineyard today. 29He answered, I will not; but later he changed his mind and went. 30The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, I go, sir; but he did not go. 31Which of the two did the will of his father? They said, The first. Jesus said to them, Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

I talk about how we in seminary get trained in the institutions of the church, but no the culture of the church. In every community there sit hag person or persons who’s approval is necessary before any major decision can be made. It’s classic community organizing training: Find  out who the authorities are. So I ask everyone to pair up with someone they don’t know so well. And I ask the question, Who are the authorities in your life? This is CO 101 one on ones…

The answers are not necessarily what I expect. I expect to hear a spiritual answer. What I hear is this : A lot of people hear the voice of their mother, or father. Or an old teacher. For me it’s my father.  For him it was the Rotary 4 way test:
1.Is it the TRUTH?
2.            Is it FAIR to all concerned?
3.            Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
4.            Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
As opposed to other Rotarians I knew, my father took this seriously. Truly applied it to most every decision he made. Stephen knows this. And Marsha, who was a Rotarian girl, knows it too.

And also, Ray Swartzbach, my campus minister. I hear his voice. And my mentors Philip Newell and Rodney Martin. I feel I owe them. And ultimately, Jesus. That cliche question, WWJD, what would Jesus do? That’s the bottom line.

When I look at the scriptures, here’s what I see:
* Jesus, who’s being gamed by the authorities, flips the game back. The answer to your question is in what you see. If you can see what I’m doing, you know by whose authority.
* The parable also makes it clear that what we do matters more than what we say….and finally,
* We might find some surprising allies along the way.

Which for me means that everything we do as a community must have the same clear message. If you see what we’re doing, you know who we are.

And inspired by my friend Kristen Leigh, it's Jesus that makes it radical. That is, the community I want to create is rooted in Jesus. Not defined by any particular theology or beliefs. I really could care. But by what we do. A path we follow. This is our bottom line commitment: to follow Jesus as best we can, helping each other along the way.

We finish by singing Pete’s Where have all the flowers gone? Which in light of the Climate march, has added meaning…

Much of the post worship conversation has to do with the robbery. Thanks to Stephen W our data is backed up. And thanks to Danielle, we’ve got our serial number info. The police report will be that  much easier.

And then the session agrees to put forth Anna as a new member next week…

Straightening  this all out tomorrow  will  be a drag…to say the least…

Saturday, September 27, 2014

rosh ha shana


It’s Rosh Ha Shana, the Jewish new year. I’ve been invited to the East Side synagogue where the brother and sister Rabbis  Perry and Leah Berkowitz do their progressive Jewish with gospel choir service and my friend Jim Forbes brings the last homily.

 A group of young Japanese have come to see the art show. Pat O takes them up to Mc Alpin.

Our friend Ann F and Colleen from the Landmarks Conservancy have come for a site visit and to see what we have lined up for our reconstruction project. Ann has been with us all along and has found some money streams that could be helpful. She’s excited that we could be just about ready to begin. And by the end of the day, Pat O tells us that the stop work order has been lifted. We’re ready to go.

Pat O and I meet to review where we are on the congregational redevelopment plan.  I feel very frustrated. Part of it is my own sense of feeling lost in the underbrush sometimes. And trying to have an overview of what needs to happen when and seeing a whole big strategy working itself out. The daily demands obscure that.

Deacon James drops by for a brief visit.

I do take time to go visit Rachel before Open Mic.

As always, I’m happy when time for Open Mic rolls by again. And it’s another one of those nights. An intriguing and diverse crowd.
Steve B
Rabbi Steve, fresh from his Rosh ha Shana services, which he does at a jazz club, has a good strong set.
Gigi does another set of old time liberal spoken word.
Alex has a guitar set before adding his fiddle to lots  of other performers, including me.
Alex on guitar
Kosi,  newcomer, brings us something g reminiscent of Tracy Chapman but with her own unique persona including her version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.(
Joel and Steve
Joel and rabbi Steve team up for what is becoming a regular collaborating with Steve’s accompaniment seemingly encouraging Joel to go to new places…a real old school Greenwich Village jazz vibe coming to Joel’s spoken word. Joel is becoming one of our tour guides in the exploration of encroaching mortality.
David L continues to get more comfortable in his growing willingness to put himself out there, a good example of  what RL nurtures through the way he runs the open mic.
Nick L our resident banjo player continues to expand his original work, as he crosses boundaries to find what his instrument is capable of.
David S
David S
takes a break from the soundboard to recreate ‘80’s pop in his own resonant voice and electric guitar and drum machine.
Pat O has also brought elector equipment to back his originals on his Nick Drake song and his old soldier song.
Pat O
And here from Paris, again is Victoire
who was here a year ago and now back to where she feels at home. She has an earnest sincerity and openness in her music that wraps around you like welcoming arms. (
Joe as usual has a combination  of declamatory acapella and mandolin accompanied timeless song.
Mandola Joe
It’s almost midnight by the time my set comes up. Though tired, I want to try some new things. I bring Alex up for all three. Hank Loughlin’s Send me the pillow that you dream on. My own Queen of the factory town. And a shot at Seeger’s Where have all the flowers gone..Good first time, both need work.
A rapper named the View (where’s Oprah?) calls Nick up an raps over top of the  banjo…
Nick and the View
And then RL, who began the night with the Tom Jones version of Green green grass of home asks us once again to stay awhile…

Kosi agrees to accompany the boys to the gate.

I can't believe that I've got to leave for a presbytery meeting at 8 AM.