Half flats and half sharps

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       (Posted from Baltimore)

As the parishioners left church they all shook the pastor’s hand. And they
kissed each other, once on each cheek. Most of them didn’t kiss me…probably
thought It would make me uncomfortable. Pastor was careful to introduce me to
everyone: "this one is like a brother to me," "this one, her
father taught me how to preach," "this one is sooo smart,"
"this one, we grew up together." I was a visitor at a family reunion.
The men huddled together in small groups on the steps outside, the women patted
a pregnant woman’s belly and spoke of upcoming weddings, the youth talked English
and stood between the old ways and the new.

Jersey City is right across the river from Manhattan. We ate lunch
together in a diner with a mural of Manhattan
etched on a long mirror…the empire state building and the twin towers proudly
piercing the sky. Too much money to re-do the mirror without the twin towers.

I’m living in a part of Baltimore where people are white, black, Latinos, or Asians.  It’s pretty easy to
figure out who is who. Not in Jersey City. I have NO idea where people are from. Everyone
on the street seemed to be an immigrant. The Free Methodist church there is in
the district called Journal Square.

Copts are a big part of Jersey City.
Copts are members of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt. Some leave Egypt because of religious persecution and come
to America to start over. Some attend our church. They hear pastor Raif preach in Arabic,
they sing songs of Jesus with the keyboard switched to the Arabic, or
oriental scale with quarter-tone notes. Western music used half-tones, Arabic
music uses quarter tones.  You might describe them as half flats and

Our church meets in a United Methodist building and owns the large home next
door. But with an average attendance of 329 people they really want to have
their own building. They could do so much more with their own building.
Holistic ministries could flourish in their own building. But how do you get
one when an empty lot costs a million dollars? When many of the 329 people are
recent immigrants working for minimum wage?

They have an agreement to buy a property by year’s end. But they still need about
$600,000. If you’re rummaging around in your dresser and find $600,000 sitting
there perhaps you should give me a call. I can hook you up with some delightful
people, embedded in Jersey City,
singing about Jesus with half-flats and half sharps.