The Gospel According to Louise Nevelson

This chapel is a gem. It is small and all white. It is Louise Nevelson. It is modern. Ah.

I was on my lunch hour, running to midtown to get Chris’s visa to India (where he is going in October for medical healing and treatment). But I was turned away at the 53rd Street visa office because I was missing Chris’s birth certificate. Ugh.

I had planned to run into St. Patrick’s Cathedral for my church-of-the-day visit. After Riverside, that’s the place. But then, it was too far to walk. I had to get back to work. And this — this bright, clean, small worship space tucked into that Citicorp Center (or whatever that complex is called) at 54th! This small, clean, hidden space — so much better than St. Pat’s! Lovely.

I knelt and prayed. For some reason, I remembered a friend of Chris’s, Robert Farber, who died of AIDs. I thought maybe Robert had recommended Chris and I visit this church years ago and listen to someone, a mystic, who channeled the word of God. Chris doesn’t remember a mystic. It was a dim memory of sitting in the big St. Peter’s sanctuary with a hundred people who believed in the mystic, a middle-aged guy, who rambled his dreams. I don’t remember his name. (I am embarrassed to say, it may have been my ex-husband, Jim, not Chris, with whom I visited St. Peter’s to hear the mystic ramble. It’s moot.)

I think I met Chris’s friend, Robert, who was a painter, once in the early 1990s, back when AIDS was a death sentence and not a chronic condition. We visited him in his West Village apartment. He was very weak, wrapped in a blanket in the summer. We went to see his art show in Tribeca. God, I haven’t thought of Robert in years. Visiting churches was making me think too much of death.

I startled. A doorknob rattled in the back of this Louise Nevelson chapel, which I’ve learned is called the Chapel of the Good Shepherd.

A young man, perhaps Latino, sat down. Then, another door opened in the front. There are five walls in this little church, two doors, every which way you looked, there’s Nevelson’s boxy, sculpture. Really cool.

An Anglo priest began setting the altar for mass, laying the cloth, lighting the candles. The young man and I just sat there watching. I felt I should help. The priest left.

“Is there a service here now?” I turned and asked the other parishioner.

“At 12:15,” the young man said.

Wonderful, I thought. Only a few minutes to wait for the word of God. But then the priest came back in. “Are you staying for Mass?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. God must want me to be right here right now I thought. Count me in. I hope it’s relevant. The priest handed me a red prayer book.

“Mass is at 12:30. It used to be 12:15. 12:15 is better and I’d rather it was 12:15. But it’s 12:30.” He shrugged apologetically and left.

So I sat a few more minutes. I pulled out the beige kneeler, it was covered in carpeting. I knelt there.

Then I left. I felt bad leaving when I said I’d stay. But I couldn’t in all clear conscience wait ten whole minutes for the Word. I had to get back to work, for God’s sake.

I felt a twinge of guilt leaving, but overall I felt refreshed. And the refreshed feeling lasted a little while. Thanks to Louise.

“I never feel age….If you have creative work, you don’t have age or time.”

– Nevelson.

She was a genius. This chapel is genius. I highly recommend.

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