It Takes a Village to Build a Toilet Paper Pyramid that Benefits Vets & Victims

It takes a village to raise a pyramid. The Congregational Church of Patchogue initiated this project to provide toilet paper for homeless veterans and domestic violence shelter residents. But we could not have done it without toilet paper contributions from the Fire Department; two Chambers of Commerce; the VFW; the American Legion; Temple Beth El; the Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI); the Turkish Cultural Center; a few churches; the regional library; the Girl Scouts; the Alive After Five street festival committee; several children and parents from our church; many organizations,; businesses; and 1,500 individuals who contributed and participated in this sweaty and joyous event using 15,000 rolls.

Noteworthy, we received no corporate or foundation support or donations, although we did solicit them. Power to the people! Grants can be given and taken away and often arrive with stifling conditions. But they cannot match the power within 1,500 beating hearts and helping hands, each carrying a single roll of toilet paper.

Scores of lovely individuals created a team of hope, love, caring, sharing and empathy. Plus, at least two legislators (Democrat and Republican) agreed to sponsor a bill to change the laws that classify TP as a “luxury” that cannot be included in grant requests. Founded in 1793, we continue to see great community acclaim and support of our mission and ministries. We took it to the streets and it exploded into joy! This speaks loudly to our continuing relevance and vitality.

http://www.ucc.org/news_as_toilet_paper_pyramid_goes_up_on_long_island_so_does_awareness-07232018

Peace,
Pastor Dwight

TP from Street to MoonPyramid Power 2

The Star-Spangled Banner Still Waves Over a Divided Nation

Frances Scott Key, author of the words to our national anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner. He was a lawyer and poet who found himself in a boat on the Chesapeake Bay during the highly unpopular War of 1812 in an attempted prisoner exchange of a captured British officer and an American physician. Key stood on deck with pen in hand, hoping against hope that dawn’s early light would reveal the United States flag still waving. Key penned a poem that does not glorify battle; but sees that freedom from foe must sometimes be fought for as it offers gratitude for unexpected salvation.

“Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

In our country today, we face the dawn of challenges too numerous to mention. At dawn’s early light, will there be enough light to notice current threats to freedom that come from within us and among us? Will we find the courage necessary to increase the intensity of the light and to speak truth about what must be done without casting darkness on those who dare to disagree? I will entrust you to your conscience and conviction.
As for me and mine, I pray for a prisoner exchange between inertia and action. I pray that I will be courageous enough to allow my love of God to illuminate my love of country; and my love of country to illuminate my love of God. At dawn’s early light, may I proudly hail that not only is the flag still there, but so too is my courage, my country, and my abiding love of both.

Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter
7.4.18

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: ADDICTION ON PARADE

Watching Anthony Bourdain douse every episode of his hit show, Parts Unknown, in alcohol was always painful to witness. He spoke frequently and eloquently of his addiction, but always in the past tense, as if it was an historical event that happened to a person he used to be. But an addict’s addiction is never in the past. I have no idea what the toxicology results of his autopsy will eventually reveal; but I do know that Mr. Bourdain was an addict until the moment he died. Addiction is a terminal disease. Sober or not, you die with addiction as much as you die with the color of your own eyes.

Anthony Bourdain’s drug-of-choice was heroin. But moving from heroin (often called “dry goods”) to alcohol will, at best, delay the dire and inevitable consequences of addiction. I know that from personal as well as professional experience. Moving from “dry goods” to wet ones, Bourdain made addiction and self-destruction look like so much fun. He made nine straight hours of drinking and eating in a French restaurant with other men in their sixties look so jolly and innocent. His artistry and denial was so well-crafted that it almost made it seem to the addict writing this piece that I too could slosh and slip my way from one adventure to another without consequences. And that, sadly made his dangerous to people in recovery. He was a walking billboard for relapse or, if you were lucky, for relapse prevention.

Anthony Bourdain was a great artist; a seemingly sweet soul; and a fine journalist with a deep and insatiable curiosity about people. But he did not seem particularly interested in himself as an addict. In that regard, Anthony Bourdain’s life was, to its very end, itself a tale of Parts Unknown.

Take heart: Addiction is a treatable disease: it is for you, for me, for Anthony, for everybody. But once your drug-of-choice or even a “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try some time, you just might find, you get what you need” substitute is imbibed… all bets are off. The relapse rate for addicts is astronomical. The deadly game of “Russian Roulette” using drugs to get off alcohol and alcohol to get off drugs is futile. This is true whether you are a graduate of Yale or jail; or you reside on Park Avenue or park bench. But there is hope ~ not for Anthony ~ but for those still living with addiction who can use his sad and beautiful soul as a cautionary tale for anyone who forgets the hell they came from, even for a minute.

A toxicology report will attempt to define the “how” of Anthony Bourdain’s death; but we may never know “why” a brilliant, handsome, famous, wealthy and beloved man died alone in a hotel bathroom with his neck in a noose. Denial, depression, addiction and loneliness will not be on the toxicology report; but they will be written in his book of life. For an addict in recovery, trying to explain addiction to those who are not in recovery ~ no explanation is possible. For an addict in recovery trying to explain addiction to others who are in recovery ~ no explanation is necessary.

And so, another addict bites the dust. Many of us in recovery fellowships have seen so much death with so much regularity ~ the shouting and shrieking and the shock have long-ago worn off. But the sadness and the love have not. Another brilliant writer ~ not Bourdain, but Shakespeare ~ once said, “The world ends not with a bang, but a whimper.” And then we silently and solemnly bury our own.

You have left us wounded and whimpering, Tony. That said, thanks for the life lesson that your death provides. We die alone but we recover together. Your show, as countless people have already said, was about far more than food. It seems to me, as a fellow addict in recovery ~ that your show was always about trying to find just one more reason to stay alive. Thanks for celebrating us. And now let us celebrate you. Free at Last! Free at Last! Thank God almighty! Anthony Bourdain is free at last! Rest in Peace.

 

Dwight Lee Wolter is the pastor of the Congregational Church of Patchogue on Long Island, New York, and the author of several books on addiction, parenting in recovery, codependence and forgiveness.

 

 

The Carousel of Love

A CAROUSEL OF LOVE
I raised my daughter, Celeste, in Manhattan and we spent about ten hours a week in Central Park. She rode in the seat on the back of my bicycle through the park to and from school each day. Sometimes, on the way home from school, we ate sandwiches on park benches for dinner. On weekends, we entered the park in the morning with picnic lunches and emerges at night having also feasted on endless, free entertainment (not counting tips) and watched an array of interesting people speaking an array of languages. We had countless rides on the Central Park Carousel. My child climbed the “mountains” in the playgrounds countless times and I never forgot to keep a band aid in my wallet.
Now my daughter is married; has twin seven-year-old children and a three-year-old to round-out the army. She has a strong, centered and loving husband. They live in San Francisco now, about as far away from Manhattan as you can get and still be in the continental United States. I go to visit them 3-4 times a year, but it is never enough. Yesterday, they were in Manhattan, passing-through, visiting and staying with old friends in the city and making their way to a wedding in another state.
My portion of their lives this time was four hours. We met in Central Park at one of the same playgrounds where my daughter played as a child. My granddaughter climbed to the top of the same mountain that had been patiently waiting a generation for her. The skyline has changed but the sky has not.
My granddaughter looks like her mother and her mother looks like me. I know how that happens. Atop the mountain, my granddaughter licked her upper lip in the exact same way that my daughter licked her upper lip thirty years ago atop the same mountain. It was and is a sign of their internal excitement and inspiration. Same gesture. Different generation. Thirty years apart. I do not know how that happens. And I do not care.
What I do know, and what I do care about, at least at this moment, is that time circles back to scoop up its own children and places them, like fresh eggs, in the basket of eternity. And I do know that love does not hoard. And I do know that spirit does not end. And I do know that life takes no hostages and yet also spares no one. And I do know that we may be the center of someone’s universe for one inhale and one exhale and then they are gone. They may come back, but only to leave again.
Even the ones that stay, go. And even the ones who go, stay. The comings and goings; the gatherings and scatterings; the traditions and transitions; the introductions and conclusions; all take place as one generation hoists another generation onto the carousel, buckles them in with a flimsy belt that offers little more than the illusion of safety, and then the music begins, as does the creaking sound of life beginning to turn again; and then, suddenly and magically, we are laughing, loving, taking photos in hopes that the moment can be recaptured later.
A menagerie of people climb onto a menagerie of ornate carousel animals that go up and down and round and round but somehow also go nowhere, until a bell rings, and the music stops, and the carousel slows, until it too stops, and children clamor for more tickets to return to a circular moment of life that can never quite be recreated, but which can, at best, be remembered, until the memory also slows, and stops, so that another lip-licking, inspired and excited generation can take its seat on the carousel of love that is the only thing that will never truly end.

Dwight Lee Wolter
6.9.28

Carousel 2

Building the World’s Largest Toilet Paper Pyramid

Did you know that toilet paper (TP) cannot be written into a grant request for domestic violence shelters, homeless vet shelters and other charitable organizations because it is categorized as a “luxury”? On Long Island, New York (in Patchogue, a national model for downtown revitalization) “The World’s Largest Toilet Paper Pyramid” (25,000 rolls of SCOTTS toilet paper, septic-safe and uniformity of size and density is a must ~ BTW ~ Kimberly Clark, the makers of Scotts are NOT supporters (such a pity!), so we are not “plugging a product”. The pyramid will have a base of 15 X 15 feet) and will be built, disassembled and distributed to the above-mentioned and other needful, worthy causes (food pantries, etc. We have solicited requests for those in need of this product. in only four hours (yikes!) at Alive After Five (a huge festival of 25,000 revelers) on July 19th between 5:00 and 9:00 pm. The pyramid building will be accompanied with dramatic lighting and live music. It addresses a very real need of under-served populations. This is a collaborative effort between the Congregational Church of Patchogue, the VFW, American Legion, LI Against Domestic Violence, the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce, Medford Chamber of Commerce; Alive After Five, and (please!!!) contributors such as you! This is far more than a fun, zany gimmick (although trace elements of those abound).  We are trying to help homeless vets, sheltered domestic violence victims and others gain access to a very basic, anything-but (pardon the pun)-luxury-item. Please help us help!

P.S. This photo is from a year ago appeal for Long Island Against Domestic Violence. This is NOT a religious event. We DO NEED only Scotts TP, unlike in this former appeal where other brands are pictured.
CONTACT:
Dwight Lee Wolter
(631) 891-9908
dwightleewolter@gmail.com

send checks to: Congregational Church of Patchogue / 95 East Main Street / Patchogue, NY 11772 / place TP Pyramid in the memo section. Donations are tax deductible.Blessing of the Toilet Paper

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

I CANNOT ADD A WORD to the brilliant and heartfelt tributes to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. pouring out throughout the land. But we will add 50 BELL TOLLS at noon at the Congregational Church of Patchogue: one for each year since his assassination. May Rev. Dr. King, Jr. rest in peace. And may we rest when we are blessed with liberty and justice for all.advent sanctuary photo

RESURRECTION BEFORE DEATH

 

Today is Saturday, the day after the crucifixion, and the day before the Resurrection. We are all and always on the cusp of getting nailed by someone or something and of being, hopefully, somehow resurrected. Most people, sadly, do not come down from the cross alive. Having endured blame, pain and shame; they often have wounded themselves as they are being wounded by others. It is a recipe certain death of body, soul or both.
They are then taken down from the cross upon which they were crucified by themselves and others, washed, put into clean clothes, and buried. A precious few, having once been resurrected, test their fate and trust their mind that tells them that for each crucifixion there is always another resurrection. There is an escape hatch for each self-destructive and each relationship-killing, Earth-killing and Christ-killing act. There is, they assume, a resurrection for each relapse and a new beginning for each end.
But voices from the graves of those we have loved and lost shout each night in unison that this is not true. Life, it seems, owes and promises us nothing but death. Is that depressing news? Or is it an awareness of how temporary and fragile life really is. And hope and faith in resurrection is no excuse for needless death.
Our lives, it seems to me, are a manifestation of grace. We are resurrected through our wounds. We are healed at the site of our injury. We turn to face the abyss and see light in the darkness. We endure. We gain strength. We take flight. We can join those who have perished ~ or we can learn to live from them. The supposed dead continue to speak and teach. This is resurrected life before death.
Love need not be resurrected. Hope need not be reborn. Faith has not gone anywhere. The sun is still in the sky, even when obscured by clouds of doubt and darkness. They are all here, waiting, for you.

“One Stop Free Shop”

Free use of a mobile shower unit; free haircuts for men and women; free flu shots; free blood pressure screening; free blankets; free toiletries, free candy; a free, hot meal; free clothing (socks, underwear, gloves, shirts, sweaters, sweatpants and other items); and free compassion and caring were distributed on Wednesday, February, 28th between 4:00 and 6:30 at the Congregational Church of Patchogue, 95 East Main Street (Long Island, New York).

Access to health and health care is economic, physical, spiritual and political. There is no such thing, for example, as an undocumented flu virus. When one member of a community is helped, all are helped. When the right hand gets soiled from planting flowers, the left hand helps wash it.

With a zero dollar budget but many volunteers; with no proof of need, income or residency requested or required; and with no judgement or stigma about persons in need ~ a marvelous manifestation of hope, healing, health, peace, love and laughter came to town. It is our dream that, with the help of donors, this offering may continue into our bright, shared future.

THANKS TO DONATED SERVICES & ITEMS FROM: the Village of Patchogue Mayor, Paul Pontieri; Suffolk County Leg. Rob Calarco; Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone; Suffolk County Department of Health Services; Suffolk County Department of Mental Hygiene; New York State Office of Mental Health; Hands Across Long Island (HALI) for the mobile shower unit; Hudson River Health (HRH) for blood pressure screening; Swan Cleaners (donated clothes); the Congregational Church of Patchogue Soup Kitchen; and generous contributors of cash, food and clothing from people like you.

CONTACT:
Dwight Lee Wolter

A Lenten Sacrifice: The Attempted Crucifixion of Robert Mueller

Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, as a young man, served as a United States Marine in combat in Vietnam where he was shot, recovered from his wounds, and was returned to duty. He later received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He was nominated as FBI Director by George Bush. The vote was 98-0. He served 12 years as Director of the FBI, the longest term on record, which required special approval. He is a registered Republican. Think what you will about the Vietnam War, the Mueller investigation, and Jesus. But please think. This is not partisan pandering or even patriotic pouting. It is a spiritual and religious meditation on a story with Biblical parallels being played out in the season of Lent by religious leaders and government officials trying to wipe their hands of him.

Religious persons, fundamentalists and progressives included, chant “separation of church and state” and “politics does not belong in the pulpit” while Robert Mueller is being “crucified” by many religious leaders of this country who watch passively and silently as authorities mock, deny, defund, demote and attempt to dismiss him from his position as Special Counsel and investigator because of his uncompromising mission to locate and speak Truth to Power.

As recently as a couple of days ago, religious onlookers, including well-heeled progressives, declare that this is a travesty of justice, but not worthy or appropriate for discussion in religious circles because it is not aligned closely enough with doctrine, scripture or religious jargon to fit comfortably into the institutional church and its Sunday morning musings of Lent.

And yet they cannot or will not recognize that this strikingly similar story to Lent is being played-out on our national stage. For example, the defamation of Mueller, like that of Jesus, partly arises from the fact that he simply cannot be bought, frightened, intimidated or thrown off course in his mission of seeking truth and justice. Many religious leaders, huddled at prayer breakfasts with President Trump, have never been so close to power and it feels good; even if the price of their breakfast with the President is to look away as false accusations and insinuations of disloyalty inch closer and closer toward Mueller. His pursuit of truth, like that of Jesus, became a little too honest and a little too close to the halls of power for comfort. Senators, bureaucrats and ambassadors are casting lots ~ not for Mueller’s cloak ~ but for his job. Mueller’s job performance is being mocked in a public “trial” by his peers and in the court a of public opinion.

For the record, I know that Mueller is not Jesus and Washington is not Jerusalem. But enough parallels exist to warrant a reconsideration of the “hands-off” policy of introducing this or other stories into church for fear of appearing partisan in our politics and in our pulpits.

Wedged in between the time of Jesus and the time of Mueller, much of the Christian church in Germany would not deal directly with growing Nazis influence because it did not fall neatly within the traditional purview of churchly life. The Jewish ghetto in Rome is within ear-shot of the Vatican. They could literally hear what was going on. Many haunting photos still exist of vested clergy standing on church steps during Nazis parades. What was also parading past was the failure of the church to address injustice because it seems too political in nature. History, to exploit an overworked cliché, repeats itself.

 

It is time to wake up! If this is not Lent-worthy investigation from the pulpit, I don’t know what is! This reenactment of the denigration of decency and the cohabitation of religion and power is brought to you by Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and others who hold the flag in one hand and the Bible in the other as they collude to crucify Robert Mueller, like they would any other person they could not own or control.

Now the investigation of Muller and his investigation of Russia and perhaps those occupying the halls of power in our country have taken a turn. Indictments have been issued. Ut let us not fail to indict ourselves and our elected officials for sinful complicity with silence and abandonment of the principles we preach. It will soon be time for us and them to repent. Mueller’s crusade for truth is reaching the steps of the capitol and the White House. Easter is drawing near. And with it comes the time for churches and people of faith within and outside of the walls of our sanctuaries to stop believing the lie that politics does not belong in church. Jesus’ death was a political execution, orchestrated by a collusion of religion and government.

It is my prayer and my resolve to not stand idly by at the foot of another cross, watching, weeping gently, and feeling bad for the person dying upon it. The time for the church to speak and to act is now. Welcome to Lent.

Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter is the pastor of the Congregational Church of Patchogue on Long Island, New York. He is the author of several books and blogs at dwightleewolter.com

YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO A FUNERAL FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (AS WE KNOW IT)

On Sunday, December 3rd at 10:00 in the morning, the Congregational Church of Patchogue, 95 East Main Street, will host a funeral for The End of the World as We Know It. The world passed peacefully in its sleep, after a long illness. The autopsy is still in progress, but the cause of death appears to be a self-inflicted wound. Mourners are invited to write a word or brief comment on a piece of paper, read it aloud to the congregation (if they so choose), and place their comment in the casket (which was generously provided by Robertaccio Funeral Home).

While the World did not work-out as we had hoped; there is hope that the World might be resurrected into a life more closely aligned with what a loving God may have originally intended. Craig Coyle will perform “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and I Feel Fine)” by REM.

This service is not a prank. It is a sincere recognition that the world could not possibly go on this way for long. It is time to start over; just in time for Advent (the four weeks leading up to Christmas), and for the New Year. This is a Christian church service to which all, regardless of religious affiliation or the lack of it, are sincerely and warmly invited.

CONTACT:
Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter
631-891-9908