Saturday, July 26, 2014

Bel Kaufman, tangoing now in heaven



We lost another beloved Dutch Treat Club member, Bel Kaufman, who died at her home Thursday at the age of 103. Bel was the author of the best seller Up the Down Staircase and a ball of fire almost to the end.

I loved her 100th birthday celebration on May 10, 2011. We all stood as she walked into our dining room at the National Arts Club and sang “Happy Birthday.” We saluted her with champagne and KT Sullivan, cabaret superstar and DTC president at the time, led us in singing “Young at Heart.”

Bel was the speaker that day. (Each week our Dutch Treat Club luncheons feature a singer and a speaker.)  Bel stood at the podium for about 45 minutes talking about her remarkable life. Her mind was as sharp as could be. It had to be — she was also teaching a college literature class.

Her body was sharp as well. She was taking tango lessons — at 100.

She continued coming to lunches at 101. God bless you, Bel. I hope you find a good tango partner in that great beyond.

And please, God, don’t take anymore DTC members for awhile. Three in one week is too many. First Kay Arnold on Tuesday, then Peggy Burton and now Bel. Leave us alone for awhile, OK?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Kay Arnold dies -- she will be greatly missed


One great big shining star left our showbiz world on Tuesday, singer and actor Kay Arnold. It is a shock to all of us who loved her. She had to have been the happiest person I ever met. I always headed straight to her when I saw her in the room.

I knew Kay through the Dutch Treat Club and the Episcopal Actors’ Guild and loved spending time with her. She had an infectious laugh and always seemed to be having fun. I never saw her act and she never achieved the fame of her nephew Tom (although she had a recurring role on his then wife's TV show as Roesanne’s father’s girlfriend), but I heard her sing at the DTC holiday galas and EAG events. She had a personality that just wouldn’t quit, as you can see in this photo at the National Arts Club where she was entertaining us DTC-ers.

Details of her passing are few and no memorial has been finalized. Please keep her in your prayers.

I will miss you, Kay. You were a joy to be around. God bless you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Pianist of Willesden Lane


I think I have just seen the highlight of the 2014-2015 theatre season. I can’t imagine I will be as touched by any show between now and May as I was by The Pianist of Willesden Lane, which opened last night at 59E59 Theaters.

For most of the hour and 45 intermissionless-minutes I was unaware of even being in a theatre, so immersed was I in the story and the music and the performer who brought them to life. I was transported to Nazi-occupied Vienna and war-ravaged London, experiencing that world with a cast of characters who were as real to me as if I had known them.

Mona Golabek is not an actor, but she doesn’t need to be. Her passion for her story is nothing that could be learned. It has been lived by her family, most especially her mother, concert pianist Lisa Jura.

Adapted and directed by Hershey Felder, based on the book The Children of Willesden Lane: Beyond the Kindertransport: A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen, this one-woman play begins in 1938 Vienna where 14-year-old Lisa lives for her Friday afternoon piano lesson with her master teacher. She has inherited her love for music from her mother, also a pianist.

I admire Golabek for sharing their story. Solo plays are always hard, but I can’t imagine what it must be like to portray so much trauma from her family’s history, night after night. Wisely, she steers clear of heightened emotions, avoiding expression of anger, judgment or sentimentality. The story holds all the emotion one needs and she serves it well by her straightforward, gentle telling. I was not the only one crying at end. I could hear people sniffling and blowing their nose all around the theatre.

Alone onstage with only a Steinway grand, Golabek assumes the voice of her mother to tell the story. Young Lisa dreams of making her concert debut playing Grieg’s Piano Concerto at Vienna's storied Musikverein concert hall as she makes her way by streetcar to her beloved piano teacher. But she learns that her lessons are to be no more; he sadly tells her that because of new ordinances under the Nazi regime, teaching a Jewish child is now forbidden. Assuming the voice of the professor, Golabek recounts his regret that he is “not a brave man” as he bids his student farewell.

“You have a remarkable gift, and no matter what happens in your life, please never forget that. Good luck, Lisa. And Lisa, go with God.”

Shortly after, Lisa’s parents make the difficult decision to send her to England with the one Kindertransport ticket her father has been able to secure. Her older and younger sisters will remain. It is because of her musical gift that she is chosen. At the train station, her mother imprints on her the reason to live.

“Lisa, you must make me a promise. Never stop playing and hold on to your music, and I will be with you every step of the way. With every note, with every beat, with every phrase. I will be with you always.”

This charge propels Lisa to leave the grand English country estate where she is sent as a seamstress after she is forbidden to play the owner’s piano. She takes a train to London, finds her way to the organizers of the Kindertransport at Bloomsbury House and secures a two-week stay at a hostel run by a kindly woman named Mrs. Cohen.

The hostel is overflowing with refugee children, but Lisa is barely inside the door when she spots a piano and knows she has found her home. She goes over and begins to play the second movement of the Grieg concerto.

“Mrs. Cohen sat down in a chair, in disbelief. Through the living room window, I could see the neighbors outside. They put down their gardening tools and listened as the music drifted toward them.

"And one by one, the children came out of their rooms. There were dozens of them. They stool on the staircase in silence, listening.”

Lisa did indeed find a home there, and family with Mrs. Cohen and the children. She worked long hours sewing in a factory and playing the piano at night, even staying behind alone to play as the others fled to bomb shelters during the Blitz. Golabek brings all of these characters to life vividly. 

Throughout the recounting of her mother’s life, Golabek plays appropriate works from Beethoven, Debussy, Chopin, Bach and, of course, Grieg. And she tells an affirming story of life and love and beauty that Lisa found through her music in spite of all the pain and loss that surrounded her.

I won’t give away the ending of what happened to Lisa’s parents and sisters, but will say that thanks to the encouragement and support of Mrs. Cohen and the hostel children, Lisa earned a scholarship to the London Royal Academy of Music and became the concert pianist she had dreamed of becoming as a child in Vienna.

Golabek has followed in her footsteps, having performed at the Hollywood Bowl, the Kennedy Center and the Royal Festival Hall. Standing ovations are automatic on Broadway these days, and rarely merited, but as the stage darkened after The Pianist of Willesden Lane, I was one of the first to rise for Golabek.

 This limited engagement at 59E59 Theaters, through Aug. 24, marks the show’s New York City premiere, following critically acclaimed, sold-out runs in Chicago, Boston, Berkeley, and Los Angeles. As I walked home up Park Avenue, I considered myself blessed to have seen it.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pat Kirkwood is Angry

For the first half of Pat Kirkwood is Angry, a new play with songs that opened last night at 59E59 Theaters, I was baffled by the title. As performed solo by Jessica Walker, who also wrote the script, I would have thought perky was a more appropriate adjective than angry, even though she recounts — breezily — much about which the late British performer could have been angry. But in the second half Walker shifts tone and the show becomes more compelling.

Through monologue and song, Walker, accompanied by Joseph Atkins on piano and direct by Lee Blakeley, tells the story of Kirkwood, a popular stage and screen star in World War II England. Her voice is gorgeous and always finds the appropriate interpretation, even when her narration sounds more like cheery cabaret patter than dramatic storytelling.

Kirkwood began performing at 15, overseen by her domineering mother, and built a name for herself as a singer and actress, a name that was sullied after a youthful fling with Prince Philip. Although she swore to the end of her life that it was never sexual, it tarnished her reputation and kept her from receiving the recognition she thought she deserved in later years.

As she approaches 60, unhappily married to her fourth husband, she looks back on what she had so playfully been recounting, and finally lets the anger pour forth.

“I felt I wasn’t first choice anymore; that I’d used to be first choice and I’d let it slip through my fingers,” she says with resentment. “Made bad choices — with jobs, with liaisons, and with husbands — apart from Sparky.” He was her second husband, the only one she deeply loved and who died in his mid-40s two years after they were married and only a month after her father had died.

“I’d only done what I thought I could do perfectly, and turned down the rest, only to watch others not do them any better than I could have. They’d all kept going and overtaken me; all been honored, too, which I never could be because of the whole damn business with Prince Philip. Dame Vera Lyn, Dame Edith Evans, Dame Thora Hird, Dame practically everyone, but never Dame Pat Kirkwood. Three royal command performances, Hollywood, shows written for me by Noel Coward, Cole Porter at my feet, Desert Island Discs, my own TV series; nothing — not even so much as a CBE. And even June piggin’ Whitfield has a CBE.”  (A CBE is an order of chivalry, the most junior and populous Order of the British Empire.)

But angry or sunny, Walker knows how to deliver a song with the right emotion, from her soaring “Sail Away,” to her dramatic “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” and her soulful “Begin the Beguine.”

While I enjoyed every song she sang — her voice is exquisite — the parts of the show that affected me most were the ones when she tells of her personal losses, starting with her father’s death and her regrets that she had hardly known him, touring with her mother in tow as she had.

“Sometimes years passed without me going home to dad, but whenever we were reunited, he was always kind to me, and not hurtful, as mother frequently was.”

Her father had shown up at her home unexpectedly the Christmas she was 33. He fell ill that evening, worsening quickly and died two days later. “I was with him when he went. I heard the death rattle as I held his hand, telling him it was going to be all right.”

This is followed immediately by another quietly and powerfully told story.

“I’d not seen death before. Only a month later, on January 29th, 1954, mother and I were sitting in the front room and Sparky was standing, leaning against the mantelpiece. . . Before I could blink, he was slumped down in front of us, his head in the fireplace. ‘The fire!’ I shouted, because you see I was worried that his face was near the flames, but never thinking for a minute that he was . . . well, not thinking at all because you don’t. I pulled him round away from the grate, and it was only then, as I turned his face towards me, that I saw his eyes, staring blankly, and I knew he was gone. I knew it because I’d seen exactly the same look on my father’s face only a few weeks earlier. I knew it, but I didn’t believe it. He still had his suntan. He looked so well.”

This memory leads her into a sorrowful “So Little Time.”

She also handles the show’s ending beautifully as she portrays Kirkwood’s descent into Alzheimer’s disease and her death in 2007. Telling the audience she never forgot the words to her songs, she stands to sing “For All We Know” before placing the microphone on her stool and slowly walking off the stage. It was a lovely fade out, moving without being morbid or melodramatic.

Pat Kirkwood is Angry is part of 59E59 Theater’s Brits Off Broadway series, playing a limited engagement through June 29. Learning about Kirkwood’s life is interesting, but listening to Walker, who has sung roles across Europe, is even better. She offers rarities from Noel Coward as well as songs from revues Kirkwood starred in, which have not been heard since the 1940s. Other musical numbers include songs from Pal Joey and Wonderful Town, in which Kirkwood starred in London. 

Walker is a first-rate entertainer. I'm sure Kirkwood is pleased at last.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Just Jim Dale



And should this sunlit world, grow dark one day, the colors of my life, will leave a shining light, to show the way...”*

The lean and lanky 78-year-old man standing center stage at the Laura Pels Theatre has a story to tell. No playwright could have written a more colorful one. For 100 enchanting minutes, Just Jim Dale is a tour through the Tony-winning actor’s amazing life, told with humor and unbounded energy in this Roundabout production that opened last night for a limited engagement through Aug. 10.

The son of an iron foundry worker and shoe factory employee from the tiny English town of Rothwell - “the dead center of England in every way” — shared stories, jokes, songs and dances in his one-man show, directed by Richard Maltby Jr., with musical direction by Aaron Gandy.

Dale is a marvelous storyteller, recalling his teenage start as a comic in British music halls — “the principle entertainment for working class Brits” —, then pop singer and songwriter turned Academy Award-nominated lyricist for “Georgy Girl”, the title song from the 1966 film starring Lynn Redgrave that sold 10 million records. His portrayals of his difficulties at staying still for his recent Grammy-winning gigs as audio-book reader of the Harry Potter series, for which he created original voices for more than 200 characters, are hilarious . The colors of his life have, indeed, been "bountiful and bold."*

Young Jim Smith was 6 when he was seized by the showbiz call while watching a local variety show. The following year his father took him to London to see Me and My Girl and he declared that’s what he wanted to do. “It was electrifying. The hairs stood up on the back on my neck.”

It’s one thing to declare as a child that “that’s what I want to do,” while it’s another to actually do it, but “40 years almost to the day” later, Dale starred in the play’s revival on Broadway.

But let’s not jump ahead -- back to childhood. His father, with amazing understanding for a laboring man, told him if musical theatre work was what he wanted, “you have to learn how to move.” So he was enrolled in tap, ballroom and “the dreaded ballet” lessons for six years. “I was the Billy Eliot of our town.”

With a black and white projection of an old time music hall behind him (set by Anna Louizos), his stories are enlivened by blown-up black and white photos of himself projected behind him — the lad in black pants and white dress shirt was a dark-haired, chubbier version of the lean, gray-haired man he is today. From the beginning of his show he proves he not only learned to move back then, he also developed impeccable timing for story and joke telling and, of course, cultivated that golden voice. 

Along the way he took up the name Dale after it appeared by mistake on one of his contracts. England already had another performer named Jim Smith, and Jim Dale is nothing if not an original, so it seems right that he should have a showbiz name to himself.

No Jim Dale show would be complete without songs from his hit Broadway shows, Me and My Girl and Barnum, and he did not disappoint. His offering of the title song from the first show was enchanting, as was his “The Lambeth Walk.”

From Barnum, he not only sang “The Colors of My Life” as a tribute to his wife, Julie Schafler, and “There’s a Sucker Born Ev’ry Minute,” but also gave a breakdown of all the thrills his carnival-promoting P.T. Barnum had to offer in “Museum Song”. First he had pianist Mark York play the music slowly so we could hear each enticement, a few of which are: “Armadillas, clever caterpillas, reproductions of the Cyclops' ret'na, crystal blowing, automatic sewing, Venus on a shell and other works of art.” Then he let them fly RAPIDLY, just the way they sound on my 1980 cast album. Whew! What a joy.

"No quiet browns and grays" for this performer. He’s taken his days "and filled them till they overflow, with rose and cherry reds . . ."*

 *"The Colors of My Life" from Barnum. Lyrics by Michael Stewart Music by Cy Coleman.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Experiencing Broadway up close -- ghost stories and all



I’m still high from Saturday’s Broadway Up Close walking tour of the theatre district. It’s two hours of fun, fascinating stories and in-depth histories of the theatres and the productions and actors who played —and sometimes haunted — them.

Broadway Up Close Walking Tours was started as a germ of an idea four years ago by actor Tim Dolan. While touring the country in a small bus and truck production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Tim was fascinated by the ghost stories and legends told by local stagehands at different vaudeville and touring houses each night.

When he moved back to New York City after the tour, he started to explore the history and legends that have taken place in the current 40 Broadway theatres. He did extensive research about the history of the theatres and Broadway of long ago, and has transformed this information into fascinating stories, making them come alive even more with historical photos from The Museum of the City of New York that he shows on his iPad.

Tim is loaded with personality and a born storyteller. He clearly loves what he does and I could have listened to him all day. He’s unearthed fantastic stories from more than a century ago. With his insider knowledge and experience of theatre life today, he adds to those stories backstage looks into the inner workings of the lives of actors, stage managers and other theatre professionals, creating a comprehensive tour that changes the way even a seasoned theatre writer like myself experiences the theatre district.

His hard work and enthusiasm have paid off. In the past four years Broadway Up Close has expanded from just Tim to a staff of 12 highly passionate tour guides. Their cumulative experience encompasses Broadway, Off-Broadway, national tours, regional theatre, film and television, both onstage as well as behind the scenes. In addition to their work in the theatre each is a licensed by the city of New York as a tour guide.  And Broadway Up Close is now the third highest rated tour of NYC out of 481 activities on TripAdvisor.com.

An added bonus at the end of each tour is a group photo Tim takes of everyone with Times Square as a backdrop. It’s a nice visual souvenir of a great time. That’s me in the sunglasses and hat behind David Sheward, with Tim on the left in the kelly T-shirt.

I want to take this tour again, as well as Act II, which moves north from where we stopped at the Belasco on West 44th (we started in front of the Nederlander on West 41st.). This fall Broadway Up Close will launch Act III, which will journey even farther north. I want to be on that one too! For details, check out Broadway Up Close Walking Tours and visit them on Facebook.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Scripture scholar sister's trailblazing journey of teaching, compassion



I wrote this profile for the May 22, 2014 issue of National Catholic Reporter's Global Sisters Report


Carol Perry loved to read as a child growing up in Kingston, NY. One book she didn’t crack, though, was the Bible. Her family didn’t even own one.

She continued to love to read as a Sister of St. Ursula, just not the Bible, even though she taught religion as well as English at John A. Coleman High School in Kingston, which is about 100 miles north of New York City.

That’s an unlikely background for a woman who would one day break new ground as a Resident Bible Scholar in one of the most prominent Protestant churches in America.

“The Protestants had the Bible and the Catholics had the sacraments,” she says. “I was raw material.”

Sitting in her small 10th floor office overlooking Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan, Sr. Carol reflected on the journey that brought her to Marble Collegiate Church where her Sunday morning Bible class is standing-room only.

“In the 1950s there was not a university in the world where a Catholic woman could study the Bible,” she said, explaining that the Mothers General bugged the seminary professors, but Rome kept saying no.

Her chance came in 1957 when she joined 60-some other women from 32 countries to study sacred scripture at Regina Mundi in Rome.

“It was a total revelation to me,” she says, still with a trace of awe in her voice. She discovered the book was “dealing with flesh and blood human beings. These are not just words, there are people here. “

With her interest sparked, she went on to receive a Masters of Sacred Science from St. Mary’s at Notre Dame, Indiana, and then shared her love of scripture with her order’s novices and in occasional talks.

As providence would have it, a member of Marble’s congregation heard her at one those talks and mentioned it to one of the church’s ministers at the time, Florence Pert, a determined Alabama native who began to pursue Sr. Carol to teach a Sunday morning, pre-service adult Bible class. Sr. Carol said no -- several times. The class would start at 9 a.m., which meant she would have to spend Saturday night with sisters in the city because Kingston is a two-hour bus ride away. She also thought, “This is a Protestant church and I’m a Catholic nun.”

But Pert was unrelenting. When the convent’s communal phone rang one day, the sister closest to it answered, then approached Sr. Carol. “It’s the woman from the south from that Protestant church again,” she said.

Sr. Carol’s superior overheard and, knowing what the call was about, asked if she’d like to do it. Sr. Carol replied that, yes, actually, she would, so a “little interview” was arranged with the senior minister, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. It was through Peale, who preached there for more than half a century, that the church drew its worldwide recognition. The Catholic nun and the famous Protestant preacher and best-selling author of The Power of Positive Thinking talked and agreed to pray for one another. They finally decided to give it a try for six weeks. That was 34 years ago.

“They were wonderfully open,” Sr. Carol says. “My approach to the Bible is that this is the word of God in the values of real people with real lives and hopes and fears, not the word of God as recorded by people. They are different views with the same end. They were a really hungry audience, which is what any teacher loves.”

In those days the congregation contained few Catholics and Sr. Carol was the first nun most members had ever met. Marble Collegiate is the oldest place of worship of the Collegiate Reformed Protestant Church in New York City, organized in 1628 under the Dutch West India Company. When Sr. Carol began, it was Peale’s congregation, one that had been shaped in the 1930s in the depth of the Depression. He offered “practical Christianity” with a message of hope to a largely business community.

That has changed drastically now, with about 25 percent of the 2,300-member congregation being former Roman Catholics, although it is still described by members as the power-of-positive-thinking church.

Sr. Carol’s role also has changed. In 1997, then-senior minister Arthur Caliandro dreamt of having a full-time Biblical scholar, not just for his congregation, but for people in their places of business around the city. Sr. Carol gave up high school teaching and joined Marble full time, offering several classes at Marble throughout the week, as well as at noontime in rented spots around Manhattan. Her 10 a.m. Sunday class at Marble is viewed live by people around the world through the church’s web site. A gifted storyteller, she makes the ancient people of the Bible seem like relatives remembered from childhood, people we shared Thanksgiving dinner with many years ago. That’s how she sees them.

“They’re our ancestors,” she says.

She thinks these Bible classes are one reason so many Catholics are drawn to Marble, either enough to join or just to partake of the studies and return to their own churches on Sunday.

“People are hungry for it,” she says. “It’s the greatest book ever written, a roadmap of life and adventure. Every soap opera ever written is in Genesis. These are real people.”

She does not, however, read the Bible literally.

“We read nothing literally except the stock market report. That comes from fear. The Bible wasn’t written in English. We’ve translated it through the years.”

The meanings of words change as culture changes, she says, explaining that the word abomination in Hebrew means “a custom that foreigners have that we don’t.”

“That’s not what it means in English. Tattoos at that time were tied into the worship of pagan deities. That’s not true in 21st century New York. You have to be careful with literal versus real.”

Another draw to Marble for Catholics that Sr. Carol sees is what attracts her as well -- the welcoming spirit, with the ministers, staff and congregation regularly referring to themselves as “the Marble family.”

“I’ve found from them the most incredible Christian welcome. It’s so special. For Catholics, we think we have the truth and that is sufficient, but it isn’t because the truth is filtered through people.”

She sees issues of women, the laity and homosexuality as ones that still need addressing in many Catholic churches and she feels hope in Pope Francis, the kind of hope that sprang up after the second Vatican Council. At Marble, support is built-in. Within its large worshiping community, which reaches worldwide thanks to its live web-streaming, Marble supports groups for women, men, committed couples, people in the arts and its GLBT members.

This latter puts it most directly in opposition to Catholic teaching. Marble is quite open in its embrace, setting up a water table under its banner outside the church on Fifth Avenue every June for the Gay Pride Parade, this past year with congregants wearing “Love. Period” T-shirts. Sr. Carol supports this fully, calling equality “the last civil right.”

“I’ve done research on the Biblical texts used to condemn homosexuality and there is not a single Biblical text that has validity today that supports an antigay stance,” she says. “Marble helped me to see the gay and lesbian community with a human face. They were people in my classes, members of the community, some of them the most ardent practicing Christians.”

She remembers being asked to preach to the newly formed group, which in the 1990s was just gay men, 52 of them on that occasion.

“It was one of the most profound religious experiences of my life,” she says. “They were professional men sharing who they were by birth, over which they had no choice, and their intense desire to live Christian lives. It was a total eye-opener to me.”

Ironically, it was Sr. Carol who encountered prejudice at this otherwise accepting church. At a weekend forum for professionals in the late 1970s, a stockbroker sat next to Sr. Carol. After the two had been talking for awhile, the woman confided that she heard Marble had hired a nun to teach scripture and wondered if the nun was present, declaring she would “never sleep under the same roof with a Catholic nun,” and that she would pack her bags and leave immediately if the nun was there. She asked Sr. Carol if she knew what the nun looked like. Sr. Carol said she did. The woman replied: “Point it out to me.”

When Sr. Carol revealed her identity, the woman was gobsmacked. “My goodness,” she said. “You’re perfectly normal.” And she stayed for the entire weekend.

“She came from a background of religious prejudice,” Sr. Carol says. “Nuns were ‘its.’ That’s where interfaith relations were in the 70s. I feel I’ve been on an ecumenical mission for us to get to know each other.”

Many more people will get to know Sr. Carol now that her first book, Waiting for Our Souls to Catch Up, has been published by Asahina and Wallace in May. It’s about the challenge of having a spiritual journey in a technological world. Every chapter starts with a tough question she’s been asked over the years.

“I feel like Grandma Moses starting something new.”

This being open to new experiences has been a part of her life since childhood when among her closest friends were a Jew, a Lutheran and a member of the Greek Orthodox church. Her father, who had just begun operating his own business as a funeral director, died unexpectedly at 30 of what was probably a ruptured appendix when Sr. Carol was a baby. She and her older brother were raised by their mother who sold the business and went to work in a factory making women’s and children’s clothes. The two children shared the chores of washing the dishes and cleaning the ashes out of the furnace.

“In a sense I was a liberated woman without knowing it,” she said, adding that is probably what attracted her to the Sisters of St. Ursula, which she describes as a 400-year-old community that never had a cloister or wore habits and which was dedicated to the education of women.

“They had a spirit of openness and revolution. They were always out there. What could be better than to join them?”

She lives now in an apartment with one other sister and is an active member of St. Colman’s in East Kingston, serving as a lector on Saturday evenings. Tuesday and Wednesday nights she spends in the city with other sisters. She sees no separation between her Catholic life and her Marble life.

“They blend together,” she says. “They’re God’s world and there’s wealth in both. I consider myself one of the richest women in the world.”

Asked what is the most important thing she has learned from the Bible, she readily says, “God loves us, as amazing as that is. God cares about us and God forgives us. From the earliest books of the Bible that forgiveness is prominent. One of the biggest lessons is we’re not to fear God.”

And that’s the message she’s heard preached at Marble for more than three decades.

“It’s not a negative pulpit. We Christians can be hard on ourselves, parsing sin. That’s not what life is about. It’s received love.”