Sunday, January 11, 2015

Questions, always questions


Steven Blane, Marie and Mandola Joe

Time to catch up with Russ. Tell him about spending the morning at a screening of Selma. One of the speakers from the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies noted the names Brown, Ferguson, Martin. Brown v. Board of Education, Michael Brown. Plessy v. Ferguson, Ferguson, Missouri. Martin Luther King, Jr., Trayvon Martin. What we are living through now is linked and tied inextricably to the long road to freedom, justice and equality that spans decades, and more. A long struggle that doesn’t end. We happen to be at a particularly critical juncture.

What is our responsibility as people of faith right now? What would I have done in 1965? Would I have gone to Selma?  For those of us who have police officers in our congregations, what is our role with them as pastors? What is our prophetic responsibility? Prophetic without pastoral is empty rhetoric. Pastoral without prophetic is spiritual cowardice. Perhaps even lack of faith. When we have our annual Martin Luther King, Jr. day march next Monday, what exactly is our message supposed to be? What word are we called to speak? The movie Selma goes to the heart of our moment.

We also work on catching up on the life of the church in general. How do we connect with, gather, the Christian left searching for community? Artists and others who have been badly hurt by the church but still have spiritual and social commitments and a longing for Jesus in their life. It’s a heavy agenda.

Thomas R is back from Brooklyn again to volunteer and Leila has a whole folder of activities for him.

Jeremy M and I go to the piano. Baptism Sunday is coming up. What can we sing? Down to the River to Pray, of course. And Wade in the Water. (Yes, God is troubling the waters…). And Take Me to the River. And Jeremy brings back the old Blind Boys of  Alabama song, from his sanctuary days, He gave me water….. We’re at the piano, working out the bass line harmony I’m going to do. Love that gospel bass.

Marc has real concerns about the Internet strategy and a new proposal to offer. Marie has been in the church all day long, as has Geoffrey.

When I come back late from dinner, for Open Mic, she’s till there. And has signed up. I’m in time for Joel, backed by Steve, who leaves for Florida on Monday for 6 weeks.
Joel backed by Steve
He will be missed.  Steve offers a song for Gladys, a Jewish country and western song as RL says. Actually, just a good hurtin song.
Steve and Gladys

Marie gets up. Shy. Seems so much younger than her years. Starts in on an acapella Amazing Grace.  Starts to lose the words. She seems ready to give in, but by the time I give her the hymnal open to the words, Steve’s already at the piano backing her up. Mandola Joe adding his mandolin.  She is beaming.
Marie and Mandola
RL looks on with satisfaction. When Marie thanks everyone, I say, That’s why we’re here. RL nods.

Mandola’s got a song. And Pat O’s divorce song has been upgraded with Steve’s help.
Pat sings of divorce
The damn thing made me almost cry the first time I heard it and still does. By the time I get up for my set between Steve, Pat and me, a theme has been established.

Alex has come in and does some songs from her upcoming ep. She hits a snag in her performance of  Regina Spektor’s Samson. So we invite her to start over, do it again.
And applaud as she gets it. That’s why we’re here…
Alex sings

And RL keeps her at the piano for tonight’s closing Stay Awhile. It is a very cold night. 
Rl and co. closing it out...David Lyons on sound, Pat O on guitar, Alex on piano and of course, RL


The Session meets and it's a good meeting. Charles has prepared a good report on all our prospective renters. Choices to be made especially among prospective other religious groups.  Questions arise as to maintaining our identity. But as I said to pastor An, at the end of the day, that’s our issue. We wrestle with a request to shelter homeless women. Balancing the potential impact of doing this against impact on other prospective renters. But for me, ultimately, there’s no real question here. I’m a minister, we’re a church.  That’s it. I have to trust. That’s all.

Late in the afternoon. Geoffrey snoring away. There’s a young woman asleep in the back. Seems like she’s got all her worldly possessions around her. I feel like I’ve met her before. She rouses for a moment. Are you OK? I ask. The door was open, she says.

I let her go back to sleep. I have  a place to get to, Ask Stephen to make sure that she leaves. And then for the next hour worry about whether I should have engaged her in conversation. Heard her story. As the temperature has dipped into the teens, (-8 to 10 C), more and more people have been coming into the church to sleep. I’m glad we’re open. But worry about the night.

When I come back late, there’s a birthday party crowd. I’m trying to pick up the vibe and am a little uncertain. I’m glad RL is still here. But on my way home, am asking myself if I should have gone up to talk with him instead of worrying about tomorrow and going home to get ready for tomorrow.

Questions, always questions.

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