Dreaming of Big Tents at Asbury First

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Gay Men’s Chorus performing at Tent Week, Ashbury First

• August 4, 2015

Like thousands of Park Avenue Festival goers this weekend, I passed the “I Dream” graffiti wall displayed at the Asbury First United Methodist Church tent. Like many, I inscribed my own visions of hoped-for-futures. As explained to me by ministry intern Rachel Stuart, the dream wall is part of the pastoral staff’s ongoing process to know the aspirations and hopes of the community they serve; “As a way to give ourselves context for our own dreaming. Making sure we’re not living in an imaginary world that has nothing to do with the actual community of Rochester.”

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At the I Dream Wall at the Park Avenue Festival

As Rachel explained the purpose of the wall to the public — to uninhibitedly write or draw about dreams — she was at first amused by how many just walked past, quipping, “I don’t dream.”  When people began to engage, however, the wealth of responses spanned the local to the global to the poignant to the downright silly to the enigmatic: “GF having a good year at Mercy,” “I dream that Palestine will be free,” “Restoration of my marriage, “the Doctor [Who] coming to pick me up in his TARDIS”  and “28S.” And scattered about was the old standby when in doubt, WORLD PEACE.   see Reverend Mothers, Empaths of Enlightenment, American buskers and more at the Park Avenue Festival

I also learned the Wall would be displayed at Asbury First’s second annual community Tent Week, an open-to-the-public extravaganza with  a different event each night. For all events  facebook.com/AsburyFirstUMC/events

At Monday’s Brainery Spectacular (which it was), Rev. Dr. Stephen M. Cady II told me more about the overall purpose: “Church is about community and, at Asbury First, Tent Week is one of the ways we express that community.” On one night, you might find the Gay Men’s Chorus singing Beatles tunes, and on the next are synagogues, mosques and temples sharing their sacred music and dance. Asbury First is a big-tent kind of church.

As a member of the Unite Rochester blog, I have especially penciled into my schedule the event Friday, 10 a.m. – 1pm, Living Color: Discussion on Race (and hope you can too).  facebook.com/events/501592569999985

Based on my experience, while the church itself may be located in a tony East Avenue neighborhood, the congregation and pastoral staff of Asbury First have never shied awayfrom conversations on the pressing problems of racism, poverty and “the two Rochesters.” Quite the opposite. I anticipate a diverse audience from city and suburbs.  And the dialogue civil, relevant and unbounded.

On the two Rochesters, see Celebrating diversity on the Fourth of July at Meridian Centre Park in Brighton