Friday, March 25, 2016

Palm Sunday: A Passion


The Restoration Ministries Palm Sunday service is in full swing as I arrive at the church.  They are an African-American LGBTQ Pentecostal progressive congregation, a combination of words you don’t often see. And I do mean full swing…. (There's a film crew doing a documentary about them...)

Upstairs in McAlpin, Theatre Dzieci is deep into their workshop preceding their annual production of A Passion here at West-Park. ( . I notice that my friend Pastor Jeanie and four of her volunteer crew are participating in the workshop. Dresden, one of her young volunteers, will join the cast in their performance at worship.

They’ve been here since Friday continuing their work in restoring  our chapel.
working on the chapel
They’re officially part of a Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Team from Sacramento presbytery that has stopped here on their way to do continued Sandy relief in Jersey. And also part of a new worshipping community Jeanie began a year ago whose one word mission statement is simply that: mission. Sandy relief, Alaska, Nicaragua…It’s an exciting model. Without a building to worry about.   This year my session has worked side by side with Jeanie’s group, and provided and shared in meals.

I’ve known her for over 30 years. Back when I was a rising young star in the church and she was a Princeton student with a limitless future. Needless to say, things didn’t necessarily work out the way either of us expected. The +/- ratio still in the balance.  But we’ve been faithful in ministry and friendship all these years. And she always brings a bright and hopeful and inviting presence to everything she does. And her spiritual authority with her group is clear. I admire,appreciate and respect her ministry, and who she is, in a very deep way.

Downstairs, Dzieci cast members are silently greeting people arriving for the service and passing out palms. The Passion will soon begin. Their telling of the story reaches into its deep archetypal roots with typical Grotowski emphasis on ritual and movement. They find the universal in the specifics of ancient text and Hebraic melody and the shadows of the Warsaw ghetto in their dress. While in the tradition of medieval passion plays (and Sarah Ruhl’s remarkable 2010 Passion Play..) their work is meta and post-modern and ancient all at the same time.

Most moving is the way the white prayer shawl that designates Jesus throughout the play is passed from character to character so that all are Jesus, all Pilate and Caiaphas, and all Judas. All victims. All perpetrators. Crucifiers and crucified. We are all sheep. And all goats. All wheat. All chaff.  The TRUTH of the Passion penetrates deeply into us. 
Pastor Jean Shaw and Dzieci's Matt Mitler
The Dzieci cast of A Passion

After the play is over, an impromptu potluck lunch is quickly organized by Jeanie and her team. Sacramento volunteers, West Park congregants and Dzieci company. We symbolically shared bread and cup together during the Passion. And now we break bread together in the most common—and sacred—of ways. Companions. Companeros.  Community.
Shared grace before a shared meal

As we leave, the Korean In2Church service is underway. Some 300. Most all no older than 30.  A place of community for them.

Holy Week has begun.

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