In Praise of Community Centers That Foster Community
Hurrah! Our new mayor will reside in Gracie Mansion but will often return to his Brooklyn home because he depends on local places like the bakery, the luncheonette and the local " Y." Unlike his predecessor, he seems to know the importance of self-sustaining neighborhoods which meet everyday needs, and may saving and restoring these endangered places be a top priority of his administration! (To be continued ...)
Incidentally the "Y"'s are an invaluable community, and how we miss the gracious Lexington and 50th Street Y, with its affordable classes, exercise and meeting rooms. And one bulletin board notice drew this Presbyterian to a Unitarian Church in Brooklyn Heights where its congregation had formed surrogate extended-family groups connecting all ages "so nobody is left out." A role model for other faith groups, surely, which are pretty much segregated by age.
I don't know if our new mayor has a faith group, but they can be strong communities, as well as spiritual centers. And as we're still in the 12 Days of Christmas time, let me just stay with faith groups and a longtime concern that congregations should be at least as involved with their own members' needs, as say, providing shelters for strangers without homes. (Related to preventing and overcoming that critical condition, clergy should call attention to Alcoholic Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous groups often held on church premises. Their "open" meetings should be attended by the general citizenry, especially its policy makers and media reps. Members there do actively help one another. A real community exists. In this especially over-imbibing season, the number to call for A.A. and other 12 Step information is 212 647 1680.)
As for churches, too often, only a brief visit and perhaps a plant is given to home-bound members for Easter and Christmas. The same is true of civic groups where follow-up on ill members, even when they die, is often overlooked.
I don't know whether St. Stephen's of Hungary church is an exception but a member frantically asks for media coverage on how the Franciscan hierarchy told pastor Father Angelo he must leave the church by January 1, instead of his scheduled May retirement date. The church community is not only praying, but actively protesting this "unreasonable demand."
I do know that during Father Angelo's tenure, this church on E. 82nd Street has numerous community-building events, including an annual Thanksgiving dinner for the congregation and the community. Al-Anon meetings are held there, as are exercise classes for those over 60, many from outside the church, and sometimes more follow-up is needed when a member suddenly drops out or is known to be ill.
And isn't that what communities should be about, meeting those needs which, especially for elder and disabled persons, are mostly impersonally filled by paid professionals and social service agencies? And bless Vivien Ehrlich, when as the Dorot agency president, she ruefully wrote The Times, how elders are sadly at the bottom of the list of volunteer recipients.
Not unrelated are two Christmas cards just received with glowing news about offspring accomplishments, but no mention about the loss of elder parents in 2013. Incidentally these parents couldn't have been more caring, and you know I really won't go quietly on this one!
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