Fight Poverty, Not the Poor; “White Genocide”

America is something we do, not something we are. It is an idea that can be shared by anyone who is inspired to share it.

poor people's campaignRev. Liz Theoharis from the The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, came to my church this past weekend. It was a very meaningful event on Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Part of the scripture reading was the beginning of Isaiah 10 (NIV): “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people.”

But beyond the message was the relational connections. I knew a LOT of people there, and not just my fellow parishioners. There’s a colleague from the North Country, way above Albany, who attended. He’d heard Liz speak on videos and wanted to see her in person. I sent him this Faith in Public Life webinar on Census 2020, trying to include everyone.

One friend shocked another – they had never met each other – in discussing John Calvin, the progenitor of Presbyterianism and his role in the burning of Michael Servetus. As the Calvinist said, “We never learned about THAT in my confirmation class.”

Still another buddy was stunned by the assertion, by me and another, that the National Rifle Association, founded 1871, was actually a largely non-partisan group in its first century. It’s only been since the 1970s that it became radically politicized.

Even someone breaking into our church at 4 a.m. on Sunday – a broken door window, but nothing of value apparently taken – did not cancel out the meaningfulness of the weekend.

The talk Saturday night, of course, began with more than a moment of silence for those massacred in New Zealand. I really have no words that aren’t better expressed by Arthur the AmeriNZ.

He too is incredibly impressed by the Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who offered “the strongest possible condemnation of the ideology of the people who did this. You may have chosen us, but we utterly reject and condemn you.”

I was likewise taken by the Weekly Sift guy, Doug Muder, who managed to read the whole 70+-page “manifesto” of the gunman, something I was not able to stomach. Muder wrote Fear of White Genocide: the underground stream feeding right-wing causes.

A key paragraph of the Weekly Sift rebuttal: “In my view, America (or Western culture, for that matter) isn’t something that arises from the essential nature of the White race. America is something we do, not something we are. It is an idea that can be shared by anyone who is inspired to share it.”

I suppose it’s important to understand the hate mentality, though I’m not convinced that comprehension will be enough to stem the tide of bigotry. But I do see a linkage between the attack on the poor and attacks on racial/ethnic/religious “others.” It’s driven by fear.

It’s sometimes difficult to remember that most people are good and kind and just trying to get through life like the rest of us.

Reverend Bob Lamar (1922-2019)

Bob Lamar had become the senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Albany in 1958, and served in that capacity until 1992.

Bob LamarLong before I started attending First Presbyterian Church in Albany in 2000, I knew Bob Lamar. My previous church, Trinity United Methodist, only two blocks away, was part of something called the FOCUS churches. FOCUS was where faith communities of different backgrounds (initially Baptist, Presbyterian and Methodist) worked together to create a food pantry and other needed functions. Bob Lamar was instrumental in bring that about.

Periodically, there would be joint FOCUS services, so I got to sing at First Presbyterian, my current church, and see the then-current pastor, Reverend Lamar. I wouldn’t know for another decade and a half why he was so interested in the folks in the other choirs. It was that he himself had a beautiful singing voice – I saw him perform with his old quartet when he was in his eighties, and he sounded quite good – and had other musical talents as well.

His oldest son Paul is quoted in a news article that his father “knew from when he was a teenager he wanted to go into the ministry.” Robert Clayton Lamar graduated from Yale University (1943) and Yale Divinity School (1946).

After a stint in a Connecticut church, Bob had become the senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Albany in 1958, and served in that capacity until 1992. He was instrumental in developing an interfaith community in the Capital District with then-Bishop Howard Hubbard of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and the late Rabbi Martin Silverman. After leaving the first Pres pulpit, Bob became executive director of the Capital Area Council of Churches. He was a lion in the ecumenical movement, not just locally but nationwide.

A bit of his history I only discovered recently is that Bob Lamar rose to become moderator of the United Presbyterian Church in 1974. He was co-chair of of the Joint Committee on Presbyterian Reunion from 1969-83 that resulted in the unification of the southern and northern branches of the church. Being a Methodist, I knew that denomination had its own racial and geographic skeletons before the United Methodist Church was created in 1968.

He was always very active in social justice concerns, both locally and nationally. He served as an officer and/or board member for a slew of organizations way too numerous to mention here. So he had a lot of amount of gravitas by the time I was attending First Pres.

But I never found pompous or self-absorbed. He was genuinely interested in what others had to say, even this former Methodist. As his obituary read, he had “lived a life of faith, gratitude and grace.” I’m pleased to be part of the choir honoring him on January 25 at 11 a.m. at FPC.

Dr. Charlie Kite (Aug 15, 1949-Jan 4, 2019)

The funeral of Charlie Kite is scheduled for January 20, 2019 at First Presbyterian Church.,

Charlie KiteDr. Charles Havener Kite Sr was a pillar at my church, an ordained elder and deacon. When his grandson, who is in the third grade, received his own Bible this past fall, Charlie proudly held up the Bible HE got when he was a kid.

Charlie Kite was very helpful to me when my sister Leslie had her bicycle accident in June 2018. He explained that the fact that the brain bleed was detected for only a short time was a good sign. I was happy to get feedback from a neurosurgeon and a respected faculty member in the anatomy program at Albany Medical College.

The interesting thing I that I didn’t ask him straight out. I had put put Leslie on the church prayer list and was musing about her condition during coffee hour. Charlie, and/or his wife Tara, who also teaches at the medical college, would give me the 411.

Sometime in the past couple years, my wife noted, in his presence, some pain she was having, and he’d suggest how long one could take some over-the-counter medicines at a slightly higher dosage without causing other damage.

I’ll always remember that I found out that Charlie had metastatic pancreatic cancer when he announced it at the semiannual breakfast of the Bible Guys in early December. My contact with him that day was brief but meaningful to us both.

His family, literally and figuratively, rallied around him, most visibly at church. At the first service after his diagnosis was made public, there were nearly two dozen Kites in the front of the sanctuary for an Advent candle lighting and reading. But Charlie alone got the honor of reading.

After the initial shock and sorrow, he seemed liberated to say what was truly on his mind. During December, he spoke to me every week, telling me to fight the good fight online. He specifically enjoyed the jabs I took at a certain orange-haired persona. He would have enjoyed what former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, experiencing the same medical diagnosis, had to say.

Charlie was an unabashed liberal. His late mother Dorothy (1923-2011), who I remember well, was a real advocate for civil rights and social justice. He supported LGBTQ rights, the local Planned Parenthood, the FOCUS Churches outreach programs, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

I knew very little about the signs of pancreatic cancer except that most of them mimic other diseases. In other words, “many of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by other conditions,” so it’s tricky to diagnose early.

The funeral of Charlie Kite is scheduled for this Sunday afternoon, January 20, 2019 at First Presbyterian Church at 3 p.m., with the choir singing. Double-digit inches of snow are forecast.

L Bernstein; Oakroom Artists – 1st Pres, 2 Nov

The Chichester Psalms (Leonard Bernstein, 1965) is “tuneful, tonal and contemporary, featuring modal melodies and unusual meters.”

Takeyce Walter
piece by Takeyce Walter

My sister Leslie noted on Facebook recently that the movie West Side Story opened this month, specifically October 18, back in 1961. We saw it together with our mother and our baby sister Marcia.

It assuredly wasn’t in 1961, but it was in a movie theater, and we were still kids under 11. I remember that the ticket seller thought the film was too intense for the children, especially the youngest.

West Side Story remains my favorite musical, one I know quite well, and I saw a splendid rendering in western Massachusetts in the summer of 2018. Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story Will Go Back to Basics. “Screenwriter Tony Kushner explains that the new movie will take its cues from the original Broadway show, not the Oscar-winning 1961 film—and that ‘no one will leave the movie without hearing all the classic songs.'”

On November 2, First Friday at First Presbyterian Church will feature 100 years of Leonard Bernstein. The choir, including guest singers, and instrumentalists, will be performing the Chichester Psalms (1965), which is “tuneful, tonal and contemporary, featuring modal melodies and unusual meters.” The text is from Psalms 108, 100, 23, 2, 131, and 133.

There will also be selections from other Leonard Bernstein works, including Mass, Candide, On the Town and the aforementioned West Side Story.

In the gallery, the Oakwood Artists will be doing a pop-up show.

The gallery opens at 5:30 p.m. The concert starts at 6:00 p.m.

This is a free and family-friendly event.

First Presbyterian Church of Albany
362 State St at the corner of Willett St
across from Washington Park
Albany, New York 12210
Some Bernstein conducting

Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Gary Graffman, piano, recorded with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in 1964.

Academic Festival Overture by Brahms, with a great Lenny anecdote

Christ Lag in Todesbanden @FPC 1st Friday


Friday, April 6 at 5:30 PM – 8 PM. Music starts at 6 pm (despite what the poster says)

First Presbyterian Church of Albany
362 State St at the corner of Willett St, across from Washington Park
Albany, New York 12210

In concert:



In the gallery:





Gallery opens at 5:30 pm, concert starts at 6:00 pm

This is a free and family-friendly event.