Sunday, July 17, 2022




new flag

On the last Wednesday of June, one last  chance to share something of PRIDE with our Wednesday morning Underground group. Earlier in the month, I had gone to the Brooklyn Cyclones Pride event. They had produced a fine jersey using the latest Pride colors in what’s become  known as the tequila sunrise template originally designed by the Houston Astros. The accompanying hat has the almost newest versions of the Pride flag, lacking only the intersex circle. The newest flag for LGBTQIA+ (my friend Luciano says, Look, I just say queer..). has added baby blue and pink for trans people and black and brown for queer people of color. 

We live in strange times. On the one hand, what was remarkable about the Cyclones Pride Night was its very unremarkableness, it’s normalness. Gay community leaders involved in ceremonial first pitches and the between  innings promotions and games, No different than Italian night or Irish night or Jewish Heritage night.  Parents and kids happy to get the Pride jersey and hat. Corporate sponsors. Just another part of the community.  

On the other hand, the Supreme Court and its originalists have cancelled out a half century of women’s rights over their own bodies and access to abortion. And formerly silent Clarence Thomas seems ready to challenge marriage equality, contraception and sodomy laws along with his wife and partner  "Ginny" who promotes conspiracy theories and promotes coups. So strange to have come so far and be so vulnerable at the same time. Perilous times indeed.

So hats off to the queer community, hats on for PRIDE. Stand strong,

Friday, July 15, 2022

Arriba los Maracielagos

 6/ 22

Let's go Bats!

Pee Wee
Red Birds' hats
Red Birds jersey

When in Louisville, it’s always fun to take in a Bats game. Slugger Field is  one  of the best6 of minor league baseball with its entry though an old warehouse ala Baltimore’s Camden.  The Pee Wee Reese statue is a good companion to the Pee Wee -Jackie statue in Brooklyn,

Pee Wee and Jackie

commemorating Pee Wee’s embrace of Jackie in Cincinnatti with his family
  and friends  in the hostile crowd.  The entryway currently  makes much of Louisville’s history as the Red Birds, AAA franchise of the St.Louis Cardinals with uniforms, hats and all. 

This latest Internatjonal  League incarnation would have liked to have been known as Sluggers but that was too corporate to be allowed so the next best was Bats which led to a pun as in flying bats (originally River Bats). Starting with purple, black  snd green,

Go River Bats

the bats have now adopted their parent Reds black and red colors. 


Red Birds

They may have more alternative identities than any other minor league team.  With a  hat for each. They throw back as Red Birds. Play Derby time as the Mint Juleps and on regular rotation as the (sour) Mashers. And as part of Minor Leagues outreach to the Hispanic community...through the annual Copa de Divertido program, los Cielagos de Louisville, or Louisville Bats in Spanish. So on this Wednesdsay I wear my new Maracielagos hat. 

MInt Juleps

Hats off to the  Bats, hat on for los Maracielagos 

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Fathers Day Special


Fathers Day...and the Dead

June 15 found me getting ready to head to Louisville for my denomination’s General Assembly. Which means yet once again the church would be taking me away from my family for an important event…something my boys would  find a way to make up for on my return. 

I’ promised not to do that again, but an assignment to moderate a  General Assembly committee for the first time after all these years made for an exception.

So for this week, I chose to go with my Pirates’ Fathers Day hat.  A few years ago, Major League Baseball, in what us primarily a marketing scheme, began creating different designs for different holidays, eg, pink for Mother’s Day, Stars and Stripes for the 4th of July and blue for Fathers’ Day.  One year they even made special uniforms but now its just a hat which can look kind of strange if your uniform is say, green and gold like the Oakland A’s or black and orange like the  Orioles and you're just sticking a blue hat on top. 

I actually own two Fathers Day cap, one gray with a blue letter

Fathers day cap...and troll

and the one I have on today with its tie dye look. And obviously to go with tie dye, what better than a Grateful Dead tribute shirt, ironically featuring the Pirates’ ’70’s era logo. Traditionally long haired and bearded, the Pirates’ logo figure got cleaned up in response to the rise of “hippie” long hair, beards, etc. But with his neatly sculpted hair, bandana and ear ring, this one became derisively known as the Bucco Gay Blade, no help in a culture warm and so fun for a Bucco Dead T.

It was this trend by MLB that finally defeated me. I had up to a point been a completist, ie, I owned one of every hat the Pirates had ever worn in an official game. But it's gotten to be too much, now in addition to the spring training hat, game hat and two alternates, there are at least 4 other special occasion hats a year. I can’t keep up. I give.Two Fathers Day hats are enough.

Hats off to fathers. Boys, I’ll see you soon.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Fourth of July Weekend...reflecting on the nation....

 Sermon 7/2/22

Racing hotdogs

The 4th of July weekend found me once again back in Oakdale,'s my reflection for the day...

Here we are on the edge of the  4th of July.  In my aunt’s neighborhood last night  night there were periodic “unofficial” fireworks at different times throughout the night just as I'm sure back in my New York City  neighborhood there’s been fireworks all weekend..  

It’s an interesting time to celebrate our independence.  Russia is still waging war against  Ukraine, who are teaching us all something about the meaning of freedom.  Here in Pittsburgh, Russian and Ukrainian churches are neighbors, families intermarried. 

When I get home, I’ll be going to a ball game with my boys..and fireworks too. 

ballgame with the boys...

And here in Pittsburgh, well, the Pirates are……well….interesting. 
Go Buccos...raise the jolly roger...

Covid hasn’t gone away.  Some of us have gone  back to 2019. Some of us have never left peak 2020. And the rest of us are just trying to figure out what makes sense in 2022. At the PCUSA “hybrid’ General  Assembly, the newly elected co-moderator and my resource person came down with covid. We’re just  not sure….

We are ready to celebrate our independence at a time when our nation has never felt more divided since the Civil War.  The Supreme Court is radically redefining our understanding of freedom and rights and some of us are celebrating and others are grieving and people on both sides struggling to understand what democracy is. 

School shootings continue on a regular basis and in my city it’s now okay to openly  carry.   We are struggling this 4th of July. 

Meanwhile, back in the Bible land, Jesus is getting ready to send 72…why 72? We don’t really know…out on a mission.. What's clear is that he wants to get the word out. Everywhere.  Salvation is for everyone….And his instructions are worth taking a look at. 

"The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go on your way.  So it says….

I kind of think of this as a song for a place where laborers are few.  And don’t we know what that’s like?  And believe me you are not alone. In New York City there are about 12000 presbyterians in 88 churches. Over half of them belong to 5 churches, the rest to 83 and over 40 of those have no pastor nor no near time possibility of getting one.  

"The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; ….

He is sending them out two by two…kind of makes me think of the ark, you know? Seems like two is the lowest acceptable unit.  No lone rangers. You can’t do this alone. Makes me think of the Mormon mission volunteers...theology aside, I have to say I admire them. 

He tells us not to greet anyone,…must be a sense of urgency…don’t dawdle, don’t get stuck along the way. I’m guessing there’s an exception made for any down on their luck Samaritans who might pass this this way?

And he tells us that if we go out and are not welcomed, shake the dust off of  your feet and keep moving  on. I’ll say that again…in a passage left out of the lectionary he says.. Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’[c] 12 I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town. The sin of Sodom friends, was not homosexuality, but a radical denial of hospitality. Remember Hebrews 13:2 : Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Here’s the bottom line…Jesus doesn’t want us to keep beating our head against the wall….know when to shake the dust off and move on…and remember it’s not on us to call down judgment…just move on…judgment is God’s…

We are dependent on those we are sent to. That’s about meeting them where they are. Respecting them…it’s about relationships…Eat what’s set before you…don’t worry about the cleanliness and purity laws…(in Jesus’ day, that was seriously radical…) 

I had become a vegetarian when I went to Oklahoma,  Until my black pastor friend invited me to a barbecue…that was it..

When Jesus hears what they have been able to do, he tells them he saw Satan fall from heaven..I love that…but he tells them don’t be getting all excited about all the cool things you can do…be happy that you are allies with God….

The joy that Jesus feels is being able to sense, to see the dawning of a new kingdom., a new kindom….

And here’s one thing I want you to see…this fall of Satan is not an historic event or a future prediction…it is a reality every time we venture out…regardless of results, just going out itself is defeating Satan..and when you do succeed, rejoice only in the kingdom, never triumphalism…

Okay…so what am I saying here?  These are difficult times, Critical times. Times that demand a witness. We come here to be with each other, to be renewed, refreshed, restored after whatever we’ve been doing all week long…BUT we can’t stay here…we’ve got to take it out there..

This passage raises serious questions for us…like what us evangelism for us in this day and time, in this place? What is exactly is the harvest? Look around….the harvest is plentiful…the laborers few…

…and that’s okay…no matter how small in number we may be, Jesus is calling us out there…it’s not about numbers, it’s about faithfulness…we have a word that needs to be heard…

In Jesus first sermon, (Luke 4: 18-20)Jesus announced his own job description was this:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

    because he has anointed me

        to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

    and recovery of sight to the blind,

        to set free those who are oppressed,


to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

…and so it is with us…it is enough for us to be like pebbles tossed into a pond where then ripples go out and out beyond what we might might even imagine..

Let those with ears to hear, hear….


And we ended by celebrating the Lord's Supper for the first time since I was there last August...

Gospel Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

1After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house!' 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11'Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.'

16"Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me."

17The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!" 18He said to them, "I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Won't you be my neighbor?


Fred Rogers

With General Assembly, in ZOOMland, finally done, I went to Good Shepherd Faith Church

Good Shepherd Faith 

 live and in person to be met by my friend Elder Michael and lead worship and administer communion..

Elder Michael

.this was my reflection, with Korean translation added by Chris Kim.... 

Mister Rogers cardigan

So last week I went back to my hometown, Pittsburgh. And for the first time after many years I went to visit the Heinz History Center.  There are many special exhibits there like the Heinz “57 varieties” itself and the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum but this time I spent some time in the Mister Rogers exhibit.

Fred Rogers is one of the very special people to come from Pittsburgh and even more important for us, Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian minister. Pittsburgh Presbytery endorsed his television show, Mister Rogers Neighborhood, as his ministry.

I like the fact that Fred Rogers gave us a different model of what it means to be a man. And a faithful daily Christian witness without ever using explicit Christian language. His show had a very clear theology….the theology of neighbor….and that’s what we’re talking about today.

Our text is the old familiar parable of Jesus we call the Good Samaritan. About an unfortunate person set upon by thieves and left “half dead” along the road and the various people who pass by including two significant religious leaders, perhaps a tall steeple preacher or Presbytery exec or one of the Trustees, passers by, who do exactly that, pass by. On the other side. Maybe they even cross the street when then see him.

In the end it’s the  unexpected one, there's one who’s not like us, the one who’s one of them, one of those people, maybe an undocumented immigrant, maybe a Muslim, maybe…that’s the one who responds who takes care of the person in need. (Maybe precisely because they know what it’s like to be excluded ,unseen or mistreated…) That’s who, in Jesus terms, proves neighbor. 

Remember, the context for this conversation began when a lawyer asked Jesus about inheriting eternal life and when they’ve agreed on the most important commandment, to love God with all your soul and strength and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself, which is to say it’s inseparable, you can’t love God with all your soul snd strength and mind unless you love your neighbor as yourself, the lawyer, as they will do, decides to quibble with Jesus around, well who is my neighbor? And what does Jesus do? Like always, he flips the question. It’s not who is my neighbor? The question is who proves oneself to be a neighbor? That is the question. Go and do likewise, Jesus says.

We can see this neighbor issue in both the macro and micro perspective. In the global scene, Ukraine has clearly been set upon by robbers and thieves. Looking for a neighbor. And we struggle with how to respond. And along that same  road we find Yemenites, and Sudanese and Syrians and people from Western Sahara…that road to Jericho is crowded with victims of robbery and oppression. And who is proving neighbor? 

Our neighbors have literally picked themselves up and walked their way to our doorstep. How do we respond?

(I can tell you that starting next week, I’ll be traveling to Spain and Italy to help our Presbyterian Church figure out how to be in partnership with our sibling Christians from the Spanish Evangelical and  Italian Waldensian Churches in their work of being neighbors with people on the move in Southern Europe).

But there’s the micro, the close at home.  I face the Jericho Road every time I go to Penn Station, all the people sleeping there. It’s not uncommon for me to find someone on the street right outside my door. How do we respond? What do we do?    

When I lived in Tulsa, a Catholic priest friend I knew had started a project he called “Neighbor for Neighbor.” He insisted that it was not a charity but an adult education center. After starting with fixing broken dow cars so people could have transportation for jobs, they  developed a food cooperative. Later medical and dental clinics were added. 

It was completely open as to clientele. The ethic was unconditional love, and my friend Dan, the  founder meant exactly unconditional love.  What was not completely open or accepting was who could volunteer. Only those who understood that this was not charity, but only what neighbors do for one another because they are neighbors  were welcome. The result was it became considered a badge of honor to be accepted as a volunteer at Neighbor for Neighbor.  The very best doctors and dentists in the city vied to share their skills at the Neighbor for Neighbor clinics. Dan believed that the poor deserved only the very best. 

The program became the model for others and Neighbor programs spruced in various places around Tulsa. 

That’s the theology that Fred Rogers exemplified through his TV show. The word is a neighborhood. We are neighbors and belong to one another. One night locking myself out of my apartment led to several unexpected hours of enjoying hospitality of Yemenis from the deli next door, in their home. As I thanked them, they said, No this is our culture, We are there for you, you wink be there for us. We are neighbors.

We are living in challenging times. Times that can lead to lead to despair.  Issues about which we seem powerless...But what gets us through are our neighborhoods...communities of care, concern and acceptance. We have the capacity to create and sustain them, ikf we choose,with Jesus' help.

Friends, Jesus is clear …we live in a neighborhood and are called to be neighbors.

Fred Rogers put it like this…

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?


It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?


I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.
So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we’re together we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?
Won’t you please,
Won’t you please?
Please won’t you be my neighbor?

Let those with ears to hear, hear….


Luke 10: 25-37

25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" 27He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." 28And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live."

29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" 30Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.' 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" 37He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Here's to the Sea Lions and....


San Francisco Sea Lions

With the Warriors still in the NBA Finals, I decided to stick with the Bay Area for my weekly hats off/hats on…

We’ve previously explored Negro League baseball team like the great Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh Crawfords, Kansas City Monarchs and New York Cubans. Today we head to the west coast and the little known San Francisco Sea Lions. They had one year, 1946.  And like many Negro League teams, had a name reminiscent of their white counterparts the

Pacific League San Francisco Seals.

But here’s the back story. In 2007, our family took a west coast college trip to look for a Schoo for our middle son. We flew to Seattle, made a stop in Portland and drove to San Francisco.  On August 16th, we went to the second most beautiful ballpark in the country, then known as Pac Bell, to see my hometown favorite Pittsburgh Pirates play the Giants. The shirt was a giveaway for African American Heritage night. The hat I had to track down later. 

This was also the summer of Barry Bonds pursuit of Hank Aaron’s home run record. This night, Bonds would hit a homer and the Pirates come back for 6 down in the 8th to win. Perfect in every way. Villainainized almost everywhere else because of his purported steroid use, Bonds was much loved in San Francisco. (“No surprise there” says Clyde.) With for memories of Bonds as a rising young star in Pittsburgh and the team that came within one out of the World Series, I still was a Bonds fan.

Some  local company  distributed cards for to be redeemed for a pin bearing a number when Bonds homered. So before heading to the airport we stoped to collect our “Bonds 758”  pins. One may still be in a box somewhere. He would end with 762. And I would love to see him in the Hall of Fame. 

So hats on for the San Francisco Sea Lions and hats off for Barry Bonds. And go Warriors….

West Park and Landmarking: My testimony


West Park Church

The issue of West Park Presbyterian Church, a church I led for 22 years.. and landmarking is once again before the city. It's been an ongoing twisting, turning struggle. And this time, like Yogi said, deja vu all over again. I find the acrimony and accusations pointless and unhelpful. Sooner or later we've got to find a way to work together. After holding back from public comment, I finally submitted a statement to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.  Here is that statement...

To the Landmarks Commission

I am writing to you as the former Pastor of West Park Presbyterian Church and the current Moderator of New York City Presbytery. I have not until this point spoken publicly about the hardship petition of West Park to remove the landmarks designation of its building because I have relationships with and profound respect for persons on both sides of this issue. This issue is not new. It has been going on for over 30 years. However, through the public hearings and other presentations  over the last several weeks the amount of misinformation has grown to the point where I must respond. The Commission needs to make its decision based on accurate information.

In our faith tradition, erecting a building is never an end to itself but a means to living out its mission. Throughout the life of a congregation, that must always be its purpose. When a government imposes a landmarks status on a building without also providing means of funding the maintenance of that building, it forces a congregation to devote its resources to the preservation of a building not its primary mission. This in essence  violates  the First Amendment  allowing the government to, in effect,  determine the mission of a church.  To state it most graphically, government does not have the right to require a church to give up its life to preserve a building. If a community has determined that a building is an essential part of its cultural heritage, that community has an ethical obligation to support that preservation.

These are the most egregious misunderstandings:

  1. That West Park has done nothing to preserve the building.

      West Park returned to a badly damaged building due to a broken pipe water flow that had gone on for 8 days from the top floor down to the bottom.  The congregation bravely worshipped  in a building with no heat and no restrooms. West Park has spent over a half million dollars to maintain and restore the building.  This required selling of the Pastor’s home and ultimately, necessitating the retirement of the Pastor. The church has spent down to its last penny to preserve this building. 

2. Following landmarking and the promise of financial help from local politician and knowing that government could not fund churches, the church, with interested community members founded the Center as its own 501c3. It was to be not just an arts center” but a community center dedicated to the transformation of the individual and society through arts and culture, intergenerational education, social action and spiritual exploration, in collaborative partnership with the church. The Center was an outreach creation of the Church.

3. The most well noted productions at West Park were church productions, not Center productions. 

4. Over the last ten years, the church has repeatedly sought to find a significant partner for the building. The church secured a real estate person expressly for that purpose. There were several potential partnerships reaching serious levels of negotiation and development. These included a synagogue, a  significant Muslim civic association, two major dance companies and a theater company. All backed out over the costs of renovation that would have been required. West Park never stopped seeking a partner. 

5.  Our time at St. Paul and St.Andrews was not because the building was no longer safe. We left on a Friday in May 2008 because a redevelopment project was set to begin the following Friday. Late in the day, a council member put in a stop work order. Even though we had the necessary paper work done in 48 hours, it took 18 months to clear DOB.  At that point, the landmarking  process had begun and the development partner abandoned the project.

6.  As to the diminuation of the congregation, on the one hand, its certainly part of national trends. On the other hand, this building issue has undeniably had a great impact. As it began, we were actually growing  dramatically  in membership. Seeking solutions led to internal struggles and over the years, the never ending dominance of building issues over everything else had a very negative effect on members. The struggle to keep the building going exhausted many people emotionally and spiritually.  People left.

Nevertheless, a determined dozen or so has continued in weekly worship, Bible Study and hosting a most popular weekly open mic at the Church.

7.  New York City Presbytery is not wealthy. It has had to drastically reduce its staff and office space. Its 88 churches have  12000 members in 88 churches, over half of whom belong to only 5 churches. Over 40, especially in black and  brown neighborhoods, cannot afford a pastor. The pandemic years have eliminated rental and offering income pushing many churches to the brink of extinction.  The vision is to give West Park an opportunity to be reborn and further to seed selfdevelpment projects  throughout the 5 boroughs as a true extension of the legacy of this congregation over the years.

In conclusion, it is your duty to determine if West Park has met the legal requirements for hardship relief. If you determine that it has, so be it. Then rule as such). But if not, you have the moral and ethical responsibility to do everything in your power to encourage and facilitate the necessary  collaboration for a realistic and sustainable solution.

The you for your consideration 


Rev. Dr. Robert Brashear

Moderator, New York City Presbytery

Pastor Emeritus West Park Presbyterian Church

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