Saturday, June 02, 2007

Marble Collegiate Church: Come Prai$e the Lord

Two years ago James and I were invited by a friend to attend a service at Marble Collegiate Church, one of the oldest reformed churches here in the city. As someone who was raised as a Jehovah's Witness, I was raised to believe that an even bigger sin than my latent faggotry would be to embrace another religion. When I came out, of both the closet and my congregation, I knew that while my Sunday mornings would now be free, my relationship with God would remain the same. Having visited other churches, because a friend invited me or because it's a holiday tradition with James' family, I'm blown away by the emptiness I feel at these services.

So what does this have to do with Brian Williams? Well, he's speaking at Marble Collegiate Church on Tuesday -- you can hear his take on the war in Iraq and the Virginia Tech shootings for $20. And that proves the point I've been making to James ever since we set foot in Marble Collegiate: they're a shameless money grubbing bunch.
I remember the sermon we heard by Dr. Arthur Caliandro, here are the words that stood out in my mind: "I was invited to a wedding...rich...Connecticut...who has $10,000?...I know someone here does....anyone have $10,000?....we need a new..." Mind you, I was still seething from having to argue with some "elite" members of the church who were asked to move from their usual Sunday seats to accomodate my friend in a wheelchair. Just before the fundraiser - er, service- began, someone approached my friend and offered her a brochure on the history of the church's stained glass windows. That made waking up at 8am sooo worthwhile.
I've tried to move past my unpleasant experience with the MCC out of respect for my friend, but this ad just brought all of those negative feelings back.
In my new life, one that has removed the public element from my faith, I've ruled out organized religion as a good vehicle for me. So of course I'm bound to compare experiences in other churches to my time with the JWs. And while the JWs have their own issues to work out, I can't call them dishonest or money hungry. The JWs don't pass around collection plates during service (that's what donation boxes are for) they never ask for money from the pulpit (though the virtues of generosity are, of course, lauded) and having seen it time and again in Kingdom Halls and stadiums (during yearly conventions) space is gladly made for the disabled. Mind you, I'll be the first to say that I have my questions and doubts about many of the religious practices I once embraced, but I never doubted the honesty of the people around me.

Not so with the folks I encountered at MMC. Sure, they welcome gays, but everyone knows its bad business to turn away the pink dollar.

If anyone plunks down $20 for Tuesday's gabfest with cutie Brian Williams let me know how it goes.

7 comments:

ThatGayConservative said...

Why would anyone pay money to hear his opinion when you can flip on the TV and get it for free?

James said...

If you ever asked the minister of a church whether he forced people to give money, he would be shocked and deny it with convinction. So why then, do they have to pass a plate around? Why? Because it SHAMES people into giving money. If you don't believe it, see how much less money you get by just putting an anonymous box at the back of the church. Like everything else, the church is a business. It has been ever since it's inception. Oh.... and why do churches get a tax exemption when they are more involved in politics than most individuals? There is no separation of church and state in this country.

ThatGayConservative said...

Why? Because it SHAMES people into giving money.

Oh please! You've never set foot in a church, have you? Contrary to what you might think, you won't be struck by lightning.

Oh.... and why do churches get a tax exemption when they are more involved in politics than most individuals?

Especially when liberals come-a-stumpin'.

There is no separation of church and state in this country.

Aye. There's nothing that says there shouldn't be, except in the minds of revisionist and/or ill educated liberals.

James said...

TGC - Funny that you chided me for running at the mouth and not backing up my comments. Not only have I stepped into the church but I was an altar boy and the church organist. My father has been the President of his church for 7 years and I have seen enough of what happens behind the scenes to make an educated comment on the subject.

Also, not sure what you meant by your double negative. Are you saying that separation of church and state is not something that the founding fathers wanted? If that's what you meant, go back to History 101. Religion is too often used by EVERYONE in this country as an excuse to hate. It's not just for Repulicans anymoe. And if you choose to defend this, your just another so-called conservative that needs an outlet for your own self-loathing.

ThatGayConservative said...

First of all, I said "shouldn't" when I meant "should".

Second, you can take "self-loathing" and shove it up and then left. There's nothing more self (and everything else) loathing than today's sniveling liberals.

Third, I don't need liberal History 101. The intent of the First Ammendment merely bars the federal government from instituting a national religion such as the Church of England. It also bars the feds from interfering with the free expression of religion, much to the chagrin of liberals and the ACLU.

Further, the First Ammendment says nothing about politicians "campaigning", if you will, in a church. Also, the First Ammendment does not cover the states. For example, if Florida wanted to institute a state religion, there's not a thing the feds or anybody else could do about it.

Not only have I stepped into the church but I was an altar boy and the church organist.

Then why your fear?

Religion is too often used by EVERYONE in this country as an excuse to hate.

Such as....

ThatGayConservative said...

Religion is too often used by EVERYONE in this country as an excuse to hate.

Such as....



I thought so.

Rev. David Lewicki said...

Hey James,

My name's David--I'm a pastor at Marble Collegiate Church. Just happened across your blog while searching for something else (isn't that how it always goes?).

I just want to say that I'm genuinely sorry you had a bad experience at the church.

I also wanted to tell you that as a pastor I really struggle with the church's relationship to money. One of the reasons I entered ministry was that I believed Jesus' own words: "I have come to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives (Luke 4)...." Jesus never intended churches to become big, fat, luxurious places. Too often, Marble looks self-satisfied and elitist. Charging $20 for Brian Williams doesn't help.

One of my missions while I'm working at the church is to change the way we deal with money. My first goal is to help us be totally transparent in the way we handle our money as an institution so that there's no question about what we do with what people give. Second, I'm bound and determined to make us an outward-looking church--one that addresses the needs of the world's poor and suffering.

Also, just so you know, Arthur's pitch for the 10 grand in the service WAS to support our annual Easter Offering--100% of which go to support organizations in New York and across the world that are feeding the poor, housing the homeless, and working for peace and justice. You would certainly agree that that's not a bad thing to ask for money for?

Anyway, I just write again to apologize. Marble is far from perfect. So am I. But there are good churches out there--and good pastors working to be faithful. Don't give up on finding one.

Peace to you,
David