Category Archives: Current Events

24 March 2020

Walking in the Shire.
El Padre Antonio Y’su Monaquillo Andres – Ruben Blades
Oscar Romero – Dafydd Iwan
Romero – The Project
Lay, Lady, Lay – Angelique Kidjo
Louie – Nizhoni Girls
Liwawechi – Miriam Makeba
The House That Jack Built – Aretha Franklin
Mercy/Gatekeeper – Hayley Kiyoko
Adam – Buffy Sainte-Marie
Mighty Sparrow – Sharon Shannon
Breakdown – Melissa Etheridge
Bien o Mal – Julieta Venegas
She Loves Control – Camila Cabello
Le Reve Du Queteux Tremblay – Eileen Ivers
Persona – Luna
Soul Makossa – Manu Dibango
Our Time – Merrily We Roll Along (the Playbill 30 Day Song Challenge – thanks Sean)

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Filed under Current Events, Exercise, Family, Music, New York, playlist

22 March 2020

Walking. Morningside Gardens. The Shire.
Water Is Life – Wanita Bird
The Sea – Morcheeba
Wade in the Water – Sweet Honey in the Rock
Rain Song – Sharon Burch
Shimmer, Prayer for Cleaning the Water – Joy Harjo
Where Peaceful Waters Flow – Gladys Knight & The Pips
River – Natalie Merchant
Cherokee River – Walela
I’m Going Down to the River of Jordan – Fannie Lou Hamer
Mighty River – Mary J. Blige
Orinoco Flow – Enya
Bridge over Troubled Water – Aretha Franklin
River Song – Stiff Gins
Proud of Your Boy – Aladdin (the Playbill 30-Day Song Challenge song – thanks Sean)

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Filed under Current Events, Exercise, Music, New York, playlist

We Are the Church

I Corinthians 12:12-27
First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone
22 March 2018
The Rev. W. Mark Koenig

We’ve never done it that way before. We’ve never done it that way before.

A minister comes to a new call direct from seminary with a fresh vision and untried ideas. A minister comes to a new call after years of experience in other have tested and reshaped vision and possibilities.

A Session meeting happens. With enthusiasm and handouts and video clips, the minister proposes a new program or a new way of doing ministry.

The people listen respectfully. The minister finishes. And silence ensues.

After what seems like an eternity, but is only 12.8 seconds, someone says, “Yeah … that’s interesting. We’ve never done it that way before.” And there the idea ends.

Today we worship in a way that at least I have never done before. As are congregations across the country and around the world we are finding new ways to live as church in the age of Covid-19. Ways we have never done before.

On this first day we worship apart, it seems essential to me to affirm that we are the church. On this day and on all the days ahead with whatever they may bring, we are the church.

As Paul reminded the followers of Jesus in Corinth, the church is first and foremost the Body of Christ. The people who have come to faith in Jesus and are bound together in his love and by God’s grace, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

When we are together, we are the Body of Christ. When we are apart, we are the Body of Christ. Everyone on this phone call. Everyone we can call to mind—in other parts of the country or around the world. People we have never met and will never know. All are part of the Body of Christ. All are the church.

We are the church. Things have changed in this age of Covid-19. It is odd to preach looking at a phone instead of people. Other changes may occur in the days ahead. We don’t know.

But we know we are the church.

We are the church. We love God. We gather to worship by conference call. We will continue to explore ways to worship. We pray. I am sending a daily email with some form of prayer or spiritual nurture. Let me know if you are not receiving that. Pray in other ways. Read Scripture. Meditate. Sing. Sing as if no one is listening, goes an old saying. We can do that now. Find whatever ways keep you connected to God.

We are the church. We love neighbors. For those who can stay home, we love our neighbors by sitting on our couch. For those who have to go out, we show our love in the steps we take to show love and protect ourselves and others. For all of us, love is shown when we wash our hands and cover our mouths.

As we physically distance ourselves from one another, it is crucial that we socially connect. My friends Stephen and Laura learned of a family struggling to make ends meet. They shared the concern anonymously on Facebook and raised over $700 in small gifts. Susan is sewing face masks for a friend who is a nurse. We are going to ramp up our Flock program this week with Deacons and Elders checking on congregation members.

We can connect with family and friends. Call. Text. Send a card. I have four friends who are now working at home and caring for children. They feel a tad overwhelmed. I send them a simple text each week—no great solutions, just a  reminder that I am thinking of them. Facebook has issues but it is a way to remain in touch with each other and a broader community. Rex is willing to help you if you want to learn more about using Facebook. If we are financially able, we might consider buying a gift certificate at one of our favorite restaurants.

We can advocate for governments to respond to hateful, racist acts against Asian Americans. We can call the federal government to ensure that relief measures benefit people in need as well as corporations. We can prepare for the conversations that will be needed as our country recovers and restructures when the age of Covid-19 ends.

Keep looking for random acts of kindness and organized acts of justice that keep us socially connected while we physically distance ourselves.

We are the church. We love ourselves. We take care of ourselves. We ask for and accept help when we need it. If you need help, contact me or another member and we will do what we can. During the PAUSE as our governor calls us, learm something new. Practice a hobby. Laugh. Cry when tears are needed. Grieve when grief comes. Exercise. That gets tough. It’s 30 steps for a lap across and back my apartment. That’s 333 steps to get to 10,000. When I told my friend and trainer Nicole, she said: this is a perfect time to finally do those stretches I taught you. Eat well. Take a nap. Forgive someone. Forgive yourself. Give thanks to God daily.

We are the church. Much has changed. More will change. But we are the church.

There is a scene in The Lord of the Rings where Frodo, the hobbit, reflects on the challenges facing the community as he talks to Gandalf the wizard.

“I wish this need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

I certainly wish Covid-19 had not happened. I wish it had not happened in my time. But it has. It is. This is the time we have been given.

We decide what we do with this time. But we do not decide alone. Wherever we are and however we gather as the First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone, we are the Body of Christ, bound together with followers of Jesus around the world. Jesus is with us. We are the church. Thanks be to God. Amen.

 

 

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Filed under Current Events, First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone, New York

The Plague and covid-19

If I were to ask people to guess my favorite novel – the novel that has most influenced me, I think only a few people would get the right answer. The Lord of the Rings and Possessing the Secret of Joy come in high on the list, but they stand just short of The Plague.

IMG-1510The Plague was written by Albert Camus, who as my friend Alonzo Johnson points out was Algerian – his parents were French – but he was born in Algeria. The novel tells the story of a plague sweeping through the city of Oran. It explores the impact on people and how people respond.

Today my friend, Catherine Gordon, posted a link to a reflection on The Plague, Camus on the Coronavirus“.

The author writes: “But there can never be safety — and that is why, for Camus, we need to love our fellow damned humans and work without hope or despair for the amelioration of suffering. Life is a hospice, never a hospital.”

Even as an “at risk, vulnerable” person on PAUSE (yes – that is New York’s name for it) may I love; may I work to ameliorate suffering.

This day. And all days.

I have tracked down my copy, at least the third I have owned, and will read it again starting this evening. Related posts may follow.

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Filed under Books, Current Events, Friends, New York

Of needs and sharing

We thank you God for your love,
your love that accompanies us even in hard times.
We thank you for those moments of grace
when we experienced the sharing of your good gifts,
and for those moments of grace
when we shared what you had given to us.
In the living of these days,
grant us the wisdom to seek help
when we stand in any form of need;
inspire us to act in love when
you have given us something to share when
our family, our friends, our neighbors stand in need.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Filed under Current Events, First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone, Prayer

March 20 trip to the Bahama Deli

Walking well more than six feet away from any other human,
which was easy since no other human appeared in view,
I stopped at the light on the corner of Amsterdam and La Salle.
I lifted my eyes to the train
from whence came the roar of an uptown #1.
I looked into the part of the cars
I could see from that angle
and counted three people.
The train clattered past.
I paused in wonder
at how life has changed
before I crossed the empty street on red
and continued on my way.

Manhattan, New York
20 March 2020

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Filed under Current Events, New York, Poem

A prayer and an affirmation

Friends –

I had another prayer prepared for today. It was loaded in my email and ready to send.

Last night, after the Session meeting, I learned about three Asian American friends who had recently experienced acts of hate. No one was hurt, thank God. But that is not always the case. There are at least reported hate incidents in New York City in which people have been injured. Again, thank God, the injuries have not been serious. But – all such behavior is inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the reality that all people are made and loved by God.

Clearly this situation worked on me overnight. This morning the following came out.

A prayer
God for all the world,
we give thanks for your work of creation.
You make all that is and call it good.
You make the human creature
in a wondrous array of diversity:
all in your image,
all beloved by you.
Pour your Holy Spirit upon us and upon all people
that we might:
give thanks for the diversity you create,
honor all people,
welcome the diversity you create as a gift
that enriches and blesses us all.
Lead our community, our city, our nation, and all nations and peoples
to reject hate
and to embrace love.
We pray in Jesus’ name.
Amen.

Affirmation for the time of Covid-19
3/19/2020

As well as I am able
(and when I know better, I will do better)
I reject racism and white supremacy and will work to disrupt it;
I reject “othering,” scapegoating, belittling, demeaning of any person or any group of people;
I reject violence directed against a person or group of people because of their perceived race, ethnicity, nationality, or any other factor.

As well as I am able
(and when I know better, I will do better)
I affirm the worth and dignity of every person; I give thanks for the Asian Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders who I know, and who I have never met—I am grateful that I can share this community, this country with you;
I give thanks for the Asian Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders who have entrusted me with your friendship and trusted me to be your pastor—I am honored, I hold you in my heart, I see you in my mind’s eye, I am grateful for you.

As well as I am able
(and when I know better, I will do better)
I confess that I have often fallen short of my own affirmations, my own aspirations;
I commit to picking myself up when I fall short and continuing to work for a community, a country, and a world where everyone is welcome and justice and equity reign.

*****

Note: this is an affirmation for this moment. Other moments would elicit other affirmations.

Note two: my blog, my rules. Any comments I deem objectionable will be deleted. No questions. No debate.

 

 

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Prayer