Posts Tagged ‘First Presbyterian Church’

During the first Sunday in June’s adult education class at church, a couple folks led a discussion on the journey we have taken individually in our personal understanding of issues involving LGBTQ rights. There were no right or wrong answers, just a safe place to share.

I talked about one guy, Vito Mastrogiovanni, who was “out” when I was in high school, although there were more gay men that I knew personally who were not out at the time.

There was the gay fellow in college, my next door neighbor in the dorm, who was openly hostile to me, seemingly for no reason. I later concluded that perhaps it wasn’t exactly my race but rather how especially judgmental black people, especially in the church, could be. And I was a nominal Christian at that point.

I mentioned being in Boys in the Band, and how transformative that was.

Others shared their stories. More than one told of same-gender couples who they knew. Though those pairings weren’t publicly couples in those days, most people knew.

One older gay man talked about acceptance, and sometimes lack thereof, from his family. In the 1970s, his mother couldn’t understand his sudden distaste for orange juice. I too mentioned boycotting it, over the fact that Anita Bryant was the spokesperson for Florida oranges.

One man was curious about the term “gay” when it used to mean happy. Some of the gay folks explained that it was almost like code, where it would mean different things to different audiences. (The Wikipedia article discusses its evolution. A reference to the Kinks song ‘David Watts’: “The lines ‘he is so gay and fancy free’ attest to the ambiguity of the word’s meaning at that time, with the second meaning evident only for those in the know.”)

Some in the group also mentioned how the term homosexual had become distasteful and anachronistic, rather like “colored” or “Negro” for black people. Moreover, homosexual, in a shortened form was a slur, and the word was a term that had been associated with a people who the psychiatric community had once called diseased.

It was, I must say, a very brave conversation, and I’m glad I was able to participate, only because the Gay Men’s Chorus was singing during the church service, which meant the chancel choir didn’t need to rehearse.

The Knox Choir is comprised of youth in grades 7 through 12 and is one of eight choirs of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Dayton, Ohio, where Pastors Glenn and Miriam served prior to coming to First Presbyterian in Albany.

This summer the group is embarking on a seven-day concert tour of the Northeast, including at First Presbyterian Church, 362 State Street, at the corner of Willett Street, across from Washington Park, in Albany, on Thursday June 8.

A wide variety of music will be sung, including works by Fauré and Bach, as well as music from the gospel tradition, and songs from around the globe. Since 2007, the Knox Choir has done eight tours, including three Presbyterian heritage tours of Scotland.

The evening will begin with a Potluck Supper at 6:00 in Assembly Hall at First Presbyterian. Bring some food to share and enjoy good conversation.

The Knox Choir Concert will begin at 7:30 pm in the church sanctuary. An event for all!

In addition to presenting concerts in churches, the group will be exploring local points of interest in Western and Central New York, Maine, Boston, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

My church has been involved with Giffen Memorial Elementary School in Albany for nearly a decade, primarily with tutoring. City School District of Albany families were invited to the fifth annual Author-Illustrator Day event at Giffen on Saturday, April 29 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., organized by the school and church. “In addition to presentations by authors and a free continental breakfast, Giffen musicians performed throughout the day,” and they were very good.

The authors and illustrators included:

Sharon Flake, award-winning author of books for children and young adults, including “The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street” and “You Don’t Even Know Me: Short Stories and Poems About Boys.”

Jerdine Nolen, award-winning author of a dozen books including “Big Jabe,” “Thunder Rose” (a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book), and “Hewitt Anderson’s Great Big Life” (a Bank Street Best Book of the Year), all illustrated by Kadir Nelson.

James Preller, award-winning author of more than 80 children’s books, including the Jigsaw Jones Mystery series. His other titles include “Along Came Spider” and “Ghost Cat and Other Spooky Tales.”

Cheryl Willis Hudson, award-winning author of “AFRO-BETS ABC,” “AFRO-BETS 123,” “Hands Can,” “Good Morning” and several other books for children and young adults. She also is editorial director for Just Us Books, Inc., an independent publishing company whose books feature African-American characters.

Folks from the school and the church set up Friday evening. Then there was a reception, where I got to meet the authors. On Saturday morning, the Wife, the Daughter and I picked up the food supplies. I was supposed to help set up the books. Giffen kids got some for free, and others could buy them at a discounted rate. The Green family pile was very large.

My other specific job was as assistant to an author. I had done this in previous years with Joe Bruchac, and as one of the folks helping Lesa-Cline-Ransome and James Ransome; the Ransomes came to the Friday night reception. On Saturday morning, each author is on hand to sign his or her books, and the assistant’s job is to make sure that the the book to be signed was either purchased or given away, and then to print out the name of the persons who wants the book signed.

This year, I was assigned to James Preller, the only local creator, who had also been there three or four years earlier. He was very engaging with the children. He also kept all the names on the Post-It notes, promising to use some of them in future books.

A total of 23 Giffen and 38 First Pres people helped out. The cleanup was faster than ever before, a sign of the fact that we have done this before.

The driving forces behind this activity were Deb and Eric Fagans from my church, who had also created Wizard’s Wardrobe, “providing a free, after school tutoring program for elementary school students in the South End.” For that accomplishment, they received some award at a SUSU Women’s Club dinner that Saturday night, when I’m sure they were even more tired that we were.

Photos of the t-shirt, Sharon Flake, James Preller and Deb Fagens (center) from City School District of Albany

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black_history_month_logo_250Last year, in the summer of all that is orange, a friend who is a minority woman, but not black, wrote, “I actually don’t enjoy talking about being a racial minority…” for all sorts of good and understandable reasons.”

I related. I wrote, “I LOATHE talking about being a minority. And do so at least once a year – you know the venue – because I think it’s important.”

“And I rail at not being considered ‘black’ by white people or ‘black enough’ by black people Read the rest of this entry »

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