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Becky Garrison: Easter for the Outcasts

posted by gp_intern

As expected, I get a lot of Christian press releases around Christmas and Easter. Most of the material gets circular filed under “been there, done that;” “would love to attend, but I have too many other Christian commitments;” or “Christ died and rose for THIS?” But this year, I got a press release titled “Church, Artists and Sex Workers plan an Experiential Easter Service,” that piqued my curiosity.

Transmission, an underground Manhattan church, is working with sex workers and artists to celebrate Mary Magdalene’s role in the gospel resurrection story, her personal relationship with Jesus, her witness on behalf of the risen Christ, and contemporary sex worker issues. They chose Mary Magdalene because Christ appeared to her before anyone else and entrusted her with the news of his resurrection although the other apostles didn’t believe her (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-11, Luke 24:1-10; and John 20:1-18).

While some Christians call Mary Magdalene a prostitute, or say she was the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11), a careful reading will reveal these are later interpretations of the text as the institutionalized church marginalized her and concocted stories of her being a prostitute. Rather than give this story a gnostic update, Transmission appears to be going back to the Bible basics to explore, on Easter Sunday, the significant role this allegedly fallen woman played in helping to spread the gospel.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus surrounded himself with those society had rejected as outcasts and undesirables. “In my experience,” says Transmission co-founder Bowie Snodgrass, “listening to sex workers tell their stories can blow the lids off morally-loaded religious debates about sex and economics, revealing deep human truths, lives, complexities, and questions.” What does it mean to have a service that welcomes all but makes an effort to target those whom society has shunned as unclean and undesirable?

Jesus welcomed all into his kingdom, teaching us that we are all equal in God’s eyes, and as such we are equally worthy of being loved. According to Transmission’s Web site, “All are welcome regardless of age, gender, profession, or the number of times they’ve been born.”

The venue for this service is Club Avalon, formerly known as the notorious New York nightclub Limelight. Originally, this gothic revival structure was built as Holy Communion Episcopal Church by William Augustus Muhlenberg, who later instituted a radical ministry to help brothel workers and abandoned mistresses start new lives. He earned a place on the Episcopal calendar of feasts and fasts, the Anglican equivalent of being made a saint. Coincidentally, Easter Sunday happens to fall on his Feast Day. Coincidence? You decide.

Instead of having a clergyperson lead and direct the entire thing, every member of Transmission will play a part in guiding the worship experience. The service will include performance poetry, modern dance, graffiti art, a live band playing Madonna covers, and much, much more. “Rather than directing ritual activity,” says Isaac Everett, “we’re creating an interactive environment which will allow people to connect with the Easter story on their own terms and at their own pace. It’s important to us that everyone who comes has an access point, regardless of who they are.” Collaborators on this venture include members of PONY (Prostitutes Organization of New York), artists from Storahtelling (a Jewish ritual theater company), and local seminarians.

I’ve worshipped with Isaac Everett on and off for several years now and I can attest to the power of his music. This is no free-for-all, anything-goes kind of service, but a service that will be grounded by Isaac’s love of liturgy and the Word, as well as his skill as a music worship leader. I just found out that his work will be distributed by Jonny Baker’s Proost label. I’ve worked with Jonny enough to know that it’s well worth checking out his new resources that fuel faith.

Even though my Easter Sunday tends to be booked solid, something tells me I should carve out a bit of space and check out this service. For those who are in the New York City area, come join me on Sunday, April 8, starting at 6 p.m. in Club Avalon, 47 West 20th Street (at Sixth Avenue). No cover charge, just come as you are. I have no idea what to expect – but then again, neither did Mary Magdalene when she first went to the tomb.

Becky Garrison
Becky Garrison is Senior Contributing Editor for The Wittenburg Door. Her works include Swamp Water: A Memoir – an Amazon short excerpt of a spiritual memoir in progress.



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Payshun

posted March 26, 2007 at 9:52 pm


I wish I could. p



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kevin s.

posted March 26, 2007 at 11:29 pm


So is Becky suggesting that this whole performance is based on a misunderstanding of who Mary Magdalene was?



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butch

posted March 26, 2007 at 11:56 pm


So is Becky suggesting that this whole performance is based on a misunderstanding of who Mary Magdalene was? kevin s. | Who was Mary Magdalene?



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Becky Garrison

posted March 27, 2007 at 12:24 am


Mary Magdalene was one of Christ’s followers – she is listed in the Gospel accounts as being the first person Jesus appeared to following His resurrection.From what I gather, this service takes her story as a way to explore how the Resurrection opened up the kingdom to all of humanity. This inclusion of all into the Body of Christ includes those souls such as prostitutes, who tend to find themselves excluded from many church circles.



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neuro_nurse

posted March 27, 2007 at 12:51 am


And now, Heeeerrrrrrrrre’s Donny!



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butch

posted March 27, 2007 at 1:04 am


Our church is very old and rich and located in the older but still prosperous part of town. It includes a fairly large group of young sort of alternative life styles. I’ve asked the 3 pastors since I’ve been there what service is offered for those who walk by every day with chains for belts and many pierced parts of their body. I don’t have or offer any solution but people want to go to a church where all have the same uniform and don’t like those who are different. I’ll tell the story of why I left the Southern Baptist Convention. One Sunday during service a man came in drunk, he didn’t create enough disruption for me to even notice but the deacons ushered him out. In my experience churches are more exclusive than inclusive.



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butch

posted March 27, 2007 at 1:42 am


Our moralistic attitude about prostitution places women and men in slavery usually because of drug use. Legalization and control can give us control the disease aspect of drug using prostitutes.



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bob c

posted March 27, 2007 at 2:31 am


transmission is a gift to nyc & to the greater church – thanks for posting this, becky



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Donny

posted March 27, 2007 at 3:17 am


The free-for-all, anything goes kind of service can be seen at any Progressive church. Well, anything goes except the Gospel unedited.



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Don

posted March 27, 2007 at 3:51 am


Neuro_nurse, you were right. He’s just about on time, too.



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Payshun

posted March 27, 2007 at 3:53 am


Don, Neuro LOL p



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Don

posted March 27, 2007 at 3:59 am


And with an entirely predictable comment, too.



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butch

posted March 27, 2007 at 5:02 am


Is the issue of this thread or is Donny the important thing.



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butch

posted March 27, 2007 at 5:06 am


Is the issue of this thread or is Donny the important thing. butch Hope that didn’t make sense to you either. Is Donny or the issue of this thread the thing. Could it be we are watching the Donny cult developing?



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Elmer Gantry

posted March 27, 2007 at 6:02 am


I love Donny!!!



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kevin s.

posted March 27, 2007 at 6:22 am


“Neuro_nurse, you were right. He’s just about on time, too.” And you are so much better right now, aren’t you?



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Mike Morrell

posted March 27, 2007 at 6:50 am


Wow, I’d love to be in NYC for this! Better yet, I should see about creating something like this in Raleigh…it’s good to hear that the Gospel hasn’t lost its subversive qualities completely in contemporary culture!



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Amazon Creek

posted March 27, 2007 at 6:56 am


I guess I’d have to actually see the service to know what to think about it. It’s the kind of thing that could go either direction – either an anything-goes watered-down show….or….on the other hand….the building of a bridge that might spark a heckuva lot of thought both by people who may never have thought about Jesus Christ before – and those of us who do think about Jesus daily, and are supposed to be His agents spreading His love, forgiveness, and power to transform throughout the world. But…you know..maybe it’s the hopeful part of me…(Now Donny, you’re gonna have to forgive me for my hopefulness!)…but my first thought…is, “Way cool!” People are most likely to listen to what we have to say – when they’ve first been listened-to themselves – by us! Instead of we-preach, you-shut-up-and-listen….this could be DIALOGUE! I like the idea. It reminds me of a couple really cool Christian songs – Todd Agnew’s “I Wanna Be Like My Jesus” and a new one by…maybe Bebo Norman….that’s about a prostitute on the streets called, “Does anybody hear her?”



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kevin s.

posted March 27, 2007 at 7:02 am


I think the Wittenburg door might be interested in this… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ddjS_aDLNg



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Becky Garrison

posted March 27, 2007 at 3:22 pm


Thanks Kevin – sent the link on to my Sr. Editor.



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bowie snodgrass

posted March 27, 2007 at 4:05 pm


Becky, your post choked me up. Deep thanks for insights, open mind, and great big heart. Friends, thanks for your comments! You can find out more about our plans – including a draft outline of the service, the letter we sent to PONY (Prostitutes of New York), and a copy of the image in this post for download – on our blog (by following the Easter tag) @ http://www.transmissioning.org/?tag=easterWe hope to see some of you there! Blessings, Bowie



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moderatelad

posted March 27, 2007 at 5:39 pm


Just wish I would see where with all that is going to happen they will be celebrating a Risen Christ, the final sacrifice. The One who offers forgiveness for all sins and makes all things new. I pray that it is a wonderful service of Easter but from what I read it will be more about Mary M. with a couple asides of the Savior. He is Risen – He is Risen Indeed! Later – .



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Elmo

posted March 27, 2007 at 6:17 pm


I agree with Amazon Creek that this has the potential to be a transforming experience. The determining factor will be if the focus is on Christ’s resurrection, or Christ at all.



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neuro_nurse

posted March 27, 2007 at 6:33 pm


Okay, I’m guilty of Donny-baiting, and I should be ashamed of myself. Actually, I think Donny is to be commended for his post on this thread. It was narrow-minded and unforgiving (id est, Progressives/liberals/Democrats are responsible for all of the evil in the world), but mercifully brief and relatively tame in comparison to most of his other posts.listening to ________ tell their stories can blow the lids off morally-loaded religious debates about ____ and ________, revealing deep human truths, lives, complexities, and questions.You can fill in the blanks and make a similar statement about any marginalized population or population that has been the victim of prejudice.In my work, the times I have felt closest to God and his crowning creation, mankind, have been when I have pulled up a chair, sat down, and *listened* to a homeless person, drug addict or alcoholic, or unwed mother tell her or his story. I try not to preach or proselytize (or worse, subject them to my testimony ), just listen. Often in doing so, spiritual issues can be found somewhere in the heart of their stories, but I wouldn t have discovered it if I hadn t listened. Anyway, God bless this church for its work with people who are marginalized by society and whose kind we know dined with our Lord. Peace!



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Butch

posted March 27, 2007 at 6:53 pm


determining factor will be if the focus is on Christ’s resurrection, or Christ at all. Elmo | On the other hand I think the determining factor will be what God thinks.



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Butch

posted March 27, 2007 at 6:58 pm


Often in doing so, spiritual issues can be found somewhere in the heart of their stories, but I wouldn t have discovered it if I hadn t listened. neuro This principle was mentioned earlier; “seek to understand before you can be understood”



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Don

posted March 27, 2007 at 7:00 pm


Butch, I think we know what God thinks. See Luke 19:5-7; Matthew 11:9; Luke 7:19, etc. Peace,



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HASH(0x116f54fc)

posted March 27, 2007 at 7:04 pm


“This principle was mentioned earlier” Much earlier, as a matter of fact. Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.Prayer of Saint Francis



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Butch

posted March 27, 2007 at 7:25 pm


Butch, I think we know what God thinks. See Luke 19:5-7; Matthew 11:9; Luke 7:19, etc. Peace, DonYes, “we” the self rightious who assume a position of judge!



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Don

posted March 27, 2007 at 7:27 pm


“Yes, ‘we’ the self rightious who assume a position of judge!” No, we the readers of the Gospels, seeking to understand something of God’s mind by humbly trying to interpret the Scriptures in light of this specific situation.



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Don

posted March 27, 2007 at 7:28 pm


“…trying to interpret the Scriptures in light of this specific situation.” I should have written, “…trying to interpret this specific situation in the light of the Scriptures.” Sorry,



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Butch

posted March 27, 2007 at 7:35 pm


No, we the readers of the Gospels, seeking to understand something of God’s mind by humbly trying to interpret the Scriptures in light of this specific situation. DonYou go one more step to say how it will be for someone else when you say “IF’ it is yadda yadda. When you quote scripture then you are saying how it is at a service you have nothing to do with preparing, for purposes you don’t understand by people seeking for their salvation. There is no room for you between them and God, remember who God is.



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Butch

posted March 27, 2007 at 8:00 pm


to be understood, as to understand St Francis I take the prayer to task only on a nit picking point. In back and forth discussion one must understand before one can be understood and I don’t challenge the intent of the prayer that I do understand. Covey teaches “repeat what the other person said empathetically to their satisfaction before commenting. This gives the other person a chance to say I now know what you heard but that is not exactly what I meant. This is very laborious and not many people will do it but I found it works. Yes, I know I don’t practice this principle here but I will with any who agree to the procedure.



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Don

posted March 27, 2007 at 10:13 pm


Butch, did my comments really deserve such a harsh reaction? Aren’t the Gospels clear that Jesus was the friend of so-called “sinners”? And isn’t this service planned for ministering to the modern-day equivalents? Was it offensive to cite verses in the Gospels that support this analogy? What was so offensive in what I wrote? Puzzled,



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Kristi K

posted March 27, 2007 at 10:49 pm


Don-I just think that Butch is really being sensitive to the idea that we can ever know for certain “the mind of God”, as that has many people believing they have the right to judge others because they KNOW what God really thinks of them. I read your post, and though I haven’t had time to look up the scripture yet, I believe that I understand what you were getting at, and I “hear” that you are being supportive of a more all-inclusive church. But Butch is right—do be careful about assuming you know what Christ thinks about certain people—I have been SO surprised at where I find His saints! Also to Neuro Nurse—I too feel His presence more fully when I connect with the marginalized and downtrodden. Thank you for reminding us!



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moderatelad

posted March 27, 2007 at 11:20 pm


I can not believe some of the people on the thread quoting the prayer of St. Francis. Those who label people that they disagree with now expressing the idea of ‘understanding…’. Oh if they people quoting St Francis really played out what the prayer expresses.Later – .



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neuro_nurse

posted March 27, 2007 at 11:47 pm


Kristi K “I too feel His presence more fully when I connect with the marginalized and downtrodden.” Thanks, I love being a nurse, but the rewards tend to be few and far between. When I can see the face of our Lord in an unexpected place in someone who society has discarded – it’s like hitting a jackpot! moderatelad I posted the Prayer of St. Francis. I try to be very careful not to ‘label’ those with whom I disagree, but as a sinner I may slip from time to time.



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Payshun

posted March 28, 2007 at 12:15 am


Moderatelad, I see the face of God in you just like I would see it in anyone. I think you are putting your bias on a woman that has done nothing to you or to the conservatives on this board. Granted she has been a little snarky to Donny but I honestly think she has been far more gracious than not.I wish you all would police your own like we try to do w/ ours. p



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Erin

posted March 28, 2007 at 12:17 am


That is pretty exciting stuff, Becky, thanks for the update. I LOVE it when the church realizes that often IT is in the way of people meeting the risen Christ and then decides to move towards culture WITH Christ…



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Erin

posted March 28, 2007 at 12:21 am


… because Christ is, in fact, already THERE… caring for those the church often forgets, marginalizes or denegrates. AWESOME! An Easter Service that is actually incarnational ministry… cool.



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Butch

posted March 28, 2007 at 3:10 am


Don-I just think that Butch is really being sensitive to the idea that we can ever know for certain “the mind of God”, as that has many people believing they have the right to judge others because they KNOW what God really thinks of them. I read your post, and though I haven’t had time to look up the scripture yet, I believe that I understand what you were getting at, and I “hear” that you are being supportive of a more all-inclusive church. kristi Yes, you did get my point and I didn’t challenge the references.



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Hal

posted March 28, 2007 at 4:09 pm


I am honored and proud to participate in this. If Isaac Everett wanted me to sit there while he played background music for a read of the Verizon Yellow Pages I would do it. See you there, those of you who are lucky enough. I will be photographing this memorable event. And my middle name ain’t Judas so I won’t be sharing the photos with the NYPD pussypossy or the Office of Homeland Security ( maybe with the office of homeboy security……. )



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moderatelad

posted March 28, 2007 at 7:13 pm


Payshun | Homepage | 03.27.07 – 6:20 pm | #I wish you all would police your own like we try to do w/ ours. I am not interesting in being the police. If you have read my postings – I do not label others that post here as they are not public figures and are speaking for themselves, which they have the right to do as far as I am concerned. There are some people that post here that I do not comment on as I feel that it is a waste of time or idle prater. There are some that I do not respond to as they have gone out of their way to be very disrespectful. I may not agree with what some say – but if delivered in a respectful manner – they are valued people. Those that I ignore, it is not that they are not valued – just not worth my time to engage. Later – .



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Payshun

posted March 28, 2007 at 7:54 pm


Thanks for that. I appreciate your candid and honest reply. Blessings. p



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moderatelad

posted March 29, 2007 at 3:39 am


neuro_nurse | 03.27.07 – 5:52 pm | #My comment was not directed toward you but others that have taken great pride in labeling others and have shown no concept of this prayer.This is one of my favorite and there is a hymn with this text that I love dearly. I love nurses – with the few hospital stays that I have had in recent years – they have made it bearable. Be Blesse Nightengale. Later – .



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neuro_nurse

posted March 29, 2007 at 6:39 pm


moderatelad I didn’t take it personally, and I agree that there is far too much stereotyping, labeling, and name calling going on here – especially considering this is supposed to be a Christian forum. Your posts are interesting – half the time I disagree with you, and the other half I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head. “There are some people that post here that I do not comment on as I feel that it is a waste of time or idle prater. There are some that I do not respond to as they have gone out of their way to be very disrespectful.” Yup. Peace!



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neuro_nurse

posted March 29, 2007 at 6:41 pm


“there is a hymn with this text that I love dearly.” I remember that one from childhood. That’s how I remembered the Prayer of St. Francis.



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