The Nativity of our Lord – A New York Christmas


We’ve travelled from Chicago to New York and are experiencing an American blizzard currently.

All wrapped up in our apartment, we gift thanks for the simple pleasures of warm food and a warm apartment this Boxing Day (or in American language, “the day after Christmas”)

We were blessed with NO delays and no hassles as we travelled with great service on JetBlue from Chicago to New York. Quickly immersed in the New York experience, we were treated to a heavy-footed yellow cab ride into Manhattan from JFK International (see Jerry Seinfeld on New York cabbies!

Thanks to David and Robyn, we are renting an apartment for our 10 day stay in NYC.  Located in uptown Manhattan between Harlem and Washington Heights, it’s a strong African-American / Latin-American area with great character.  Our host, Susan, who owns this apartment and lives upstairs is an absolute gift.  A lovely vegetarian and animal lover, her wild grey hair tied back as she peddles around Manhattan on her bike, Susan keeps about 10 beautiful ducks in the small grassed courtyard in the back, as well as four cats and two rabbits upstairs. She is a scholarship God-gift – she goes to the market and buys pick packs of fresh veges that we share, and chats quickly about her passions – food, the environment, animals and denounces rich and snooty politicians.

The New York subway is a crazy but fun experience, such an eclectic array of people.  On Christmas Eve, the mood is in the air, with Latin-American performers in full traditional dress singing with guitars and drums in the middle of the train, shaking their stuff for the ladies and having a great time.  As they move to the next carriage, a lady from the “hood” starts up her stereo with funky American blues, singing up a storm with a powerful and soulful voice, wishing everybody a Merry Christmas and gifting her music to the otherwise quiet carriage.

We are sorry to report that the Cathedral of St John the Divine on Christmas Eve was a disappointing experience to say the least.  Although the building was immaculate and beautiful, the music was of a fine quality, and the liturgy sound, the experience was hardly transformational.

To be honest, the thing that soured our experience from the get-go, was the over-the-top security who searched bags and prevented non-ticketed worshippers from passing more than half way down the nave (let alone the transept). When a older lady politely inquired of security if her old and visibly sick husband could find a place for disabled people closer down the front, she was rudely told that this wasn’t possible.  When she tried to move to the right in order to back away from him, the burly security guard pushed her, causing a frightening scene for all present.

All this was made worse by the fact that no ushers were present until shortly before the service began, even though the faithful arrived 2 hours before the service began.  When I finally inquired to a well dressed usher as to the whereabouts of an “order of service”, the reply was a “what do you mean… do you mean a ‘program’?”, I felt my whole body cringewhere was the Christian hospitality in all of this I thought — we felt walking out and missing the service altogether.

… stay tuned for the conclusion of this tale in part # 2 …  CG

Published by Christopher Golding

Australian ex-pat, vegan priest, spouse, and parent of two | School Chaplain of Seabury Hall, Maui, Hawai'i (All opinions my own)

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