Happy Eastertide. May this first week of Eastertide resurrect in you some new spaces of hope and joy. While I know everything is different and very challenging this year, may we remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God. God continues to work in and with us in all seasons of life and now is no exception. I am sure you have noticed that the church is busier than ever. We have movie nights and happy hours, inspired readings and dialogues, worship and fellowship, bible study and children’s gatherings. My goodness God is busy with The Park. Just a reminder that worship is streaming on Sunday’s at 11am on our website, YouTube, and Facebook. And our audio only zoom line also starts at 11. There are so many ways to connect with The Park and its members, we are so grateful for each and every one of you.
The week after Easter always feels a little dreamlike for me. And while this year is drastically different than other years, I do not want to diminish how the sadness of the loss on Good Friday continues to mimic the reality of life for many of us. But even in the midst of loss and sadness, little spaces of hope – tiny miracles- seem to make themselves present this week. Maybe I am just more open to it after the experience of the resurrection of Christ? The resurrection makes the impossible possible. Things that I would have deemed impossible or thought would never happen, now seem promising and maybe even doable.
For example, I have reconnected with people that I thought were out of the picture, I have found new gratitude for the small patches of sun that come through my windows, and the 7pm applause for our front-line workers (that now includes a nightly trombone solo) lifts my spirits and has even inspired me to sing more. Before March, I would never have looked forward to a nightly gathering where my neighbors bang pots and pans from their windows- and now I look forward to it every day. Those times of “never” in our life, gain new possibility in the light of the risen Christ. Especially when we pay attention to our individual needs and processes. When we know our needs, we start to see spaces where our “nevers” change to “maybes”- or even a resounding “yes.” Which I think “never”- especially from Thomas who knows himself well, is a word that has really stuck out to me in this week’s scripture. This scripture is the continuation of our Easter scripture (John 20:1-18) so it may help you to read it all together. But if it is fresh on your mind, then continue reading this week’s scripture below.
“In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were locked in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Temple authorities.
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Having said this, the savior showed them the marks of crucifixion.
The disciples were filled with joy when they saw Jesus, who said to them again, “Peace be with you. As God sent me, so I’m sending you.”
After saying this, Jesus breathed on them and said,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven.
If you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”
It happened that one of the Twelve, Thomas—nicknamed Didymus, or “Twin”—was absent when Jesus came. The other disciples kept telling him, “We’ve seen Jesus!”
Thomas’ answer was, “I’ll never believe it without putting my finger in the nail marks and my hand into the spear wound.”
“On the eighth day, the disciples were once more in the room, and this time Thomas was with them. Despite the locked doors, Jesus came and stood before them, saying, “Peace be with you.”
Then, to Thomas, Jesus said, “Take your finger and examine my hands. Put your hand into my side. Don’t persist in your unbelief but believe!”
Thomas said in response, “My Savior and my God!”
Jesus then said,
“You’ve become a believer
because you saw me.
Blessed are those who have not seen
and yet have believed.”
Jesus performed many other signs as well—signs not recorded here—in the presence of the disciples. But these have been recorded to help you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Only Begotten, so that by believing you may have life in Jesus’ Name.” (John 20:19-31)
This story reminds me that faith has a process and that process varies for each of us. Mary heard Jesus say her name and believed. Most of the disciples saw Jesus and believed. Most of us believe because of stories we hear from scripture and experiences we have with others. But for Thomas, he had to touch.
So, what needs to happen in your life and in your faith for you to follow Christ more fully? Do you need to see results? Do you need others to believe too? I think Thomas gets a bad rap in this story. We all have doubt. Doubt is a part of the process. What I love about Thomas is that he is attuned to his needs, asks for them, and then once he touches Jesus- he believes. Thomas is just a little bit more of a process person than the other disciples. And that’s okay. Even Jesus was patient with Thomas’s process. The point is he believed.
Friends, this is a curious and painful and challenging time for all of us. Trust your process. Be patient with yourself. But most of all- continue to do the work of faith. Look for God at work and do what you need to do to follow Christ most fully in your life.
A quick prayer for your week: God, help me be patient with me, so that I may follow you more fully. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from The Rev. Francesca Fortunato
Dear Park People,
On Easter Sunday, our children’s ministry community shared the Easter Gospel, and our thoughts about what we might say, feel, or do, if we encountered the risen Christ, as Mary Magdalene did. Most of the children thought that they would be surprised but happy, and would say things like “Wow!” One response that was intriguing, for me: “I would be scared!” That made sense. Even a very happy shock can be scary, at first.
We also discussed the ways that the children had been celebrating Easter at home. Some had dyed Easter eggs (we got to see some of their beautiful creations) while others had special treat foods (chocolate, pancakes; strawberry shortcake).
Our virtual Easter parade was fun. The outfits varied in degree of formality, but all had been chosen with care. My own choice for Easter Sunday best, was to deck myself out in gold glitter. Gold glittery shirt. Gold glittery headband. I also spent about an hour, doing very elaborate makeup, but didn’t tell the children that part!
As the Easter season continues, next Sunday, we will start reading the stories of Noah and the great flood, from the Book of Genesis. I am relating to that story a lot now, as lockdowns continue, and we are all (if not alone) living in close quarters, with our immediate families, as Noah and his family did. I think that the story will push open the door for some meaningful conversations. It will also (with the sign of the rainbow, at the end) make a good segue for the next project that I plan to assign; getting our children involved in the worldwide Children’s Rainbow project, where children draw or paint rainbows to hang in their windows (facing outward) as a sign of hope.
Hoping that all of you are finding Easter joy, in these strange days! Blessings and well wishes as always,
Rev. Francesca Maria (Miriam) Fortunato: Children’s Minister
Wisdom Revealed in the Midst of Covid-19
An Intergenerational Conversation between Spiritual Leaders
Thursday, April 23 • 2:00-3:15 pm (Eastern) • via Zoom
For many reasons and in many ways, the Covid-19 global pandemic has led to an abundance of individual self-reflection and communal discernment. People are asking: What are the things that this moment has allowed us to drop, which were not serving us well in the first place? And what has emerged as life-giving that we'll want to cling to for years to come?
We are bringing together two Christian leaders for an intergenerational conversation on the wisdom they're seeing revealed in the midst of this crisis - reflecting especially on the places where faith leaders and faith communities seem to be approaching their deepest vocations.
Classes are in English now but we are working on adding a Spanish speaking class soon.
Become a Telechaplaincy Volunteer
From the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education:
We are facing unprecedented times, and many of us are wondering how we can respond. We are receiving requests from institutions seeking additional spiritual care support, particularly through telechaplaincy. At the same time, we know some CPE students have been unable to complete units due to new restrictions for visitation. We hope telechaplaincy might provide them additional hours towards the completion of units.
We are seeking volunteers to meet these requests. If you would like to be considered for telechaplaincy support, please complete the volunteer form below. Your information will only be shared with institutional leadership working to meet the needs of those whom they serve. If you have questions or need more information, please email COVID19@acpe.edu.
You may also want to explore resources for spiritual care during this crisis, available here from our colleagues at the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab. Thank you for your dedication to our shared work.