I hope that you are home and safe. Like many of you I am itching to get out of my home but know that for the health and safety of all, it is best that I don’t. The care of community is no small task and I am grateful for all the ways this church cares and looks after all of God’s creation. This week continued to be filled with amazing gatherings and ways to be community- and the week isn’t over. There is the Harry Potter themes YASS Digital Happy Hour happening tonight. The weekly “Won’t Stop” is an easy way to keep engaged with our growing community. And of course, on Sunday we have Bible Study at 10am, Children’s Worship at 10:30, All church Worship at 11am, and then a special Coffee Fellowship hour starting at 12:30pm. Apart together yet still community. I am so grateful.
This week’s text is one that is always a bit challenging. It shows us the challenges of both being called to justice both communally and individually. I don’t know about you, but when I read our texts, I am always hoping to align myself with the one doing the right thing- the one that follows the teachings of Jesus and the justice seeking will of God most faithfully. And yet, I think I learn the most when I wrestle with a text- especially one where I see myself in several of the characters. This week we continue in the Book of Acts. Let’s read together and see what character you hope to be, and what character(s) you have been in your life.
Stephen, meanwhile, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked to the sky and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right side of God. “Look!” he exclaimed. “I see the heavens opened, and the Chosen One standing at God’s right hand!”
The onlookers were standing there, shouting and holding their hands over their ears as they did so. They rushed at him as one and dragged him out of the city. The witnesses then stoned him, having laid their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “O Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Please, don’t hold this sin against them!” And with that, he died. (Acts 7:55-60)
Where did you find yourself in the text? Did your mind wander as you read? I know mine did. I remembered times when I spoke boldly of God with me. I have been the onlooker covering my ears and eyes. I have been both hurtful and hurt. And I have been the one who steps outside the happenings to narrate the events to others, and although I know that I live in the present, I also carry those moments with me. Like the rings of a tree, riddled with growth marks. I have learned and grown in all of my life events because God’s grace has not only allowed it- but called me to it.
Friends, no matter where in the story you are right now, God’s grace and love pulls us forward. The trace of life events lingers with us always, but they don’t always need to be front and center. God’s grace gets that pride of place. And when we remember that, when we remember and live into the fact that God forgives and loves and grows with us no matter what, then we get to forgive and love and grow more graciously with ourselves.
A quick prayer for your week: God, forgive me, love me, and help me grow. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from The Rev. Francesca Fortunato
Dear Park People,
On Sunday, May 3rd, the Park Sunday school children began reading the story of the Prophet, Nehemiah, and talked about feelings around praying for God’s help, asking people for help, and giving help to others (all of which are done by Nehemiah, in the story.) With guidance from the children (including the marker colors that I used) I made the diagram that you see here, as a visual representation of the “circles of helping” that we see at work in our own lives.
On Sunday May 10th, we will continue reading Nehemiah’s story, as he makes his way to Jerusalem, and observes the devastation of his beloved city. At the conclusion of this chapter, Nehemiah prays for guidance, and then goes to the city’s leaders, to urge them to help him do the work of rebuilding. For our response activity, we will brainstorm together, about the ways that we can express, to the leaders in our own time and place, the needs of our communities.
The challenges to our children - like the challenges to all of us, in these hard days - are intensifying, rather than abating. Two months are a very long time in the life of a child, and it can be a real struggle to stay patient, as they long for normal, outdoor play, time with their friends, and the stimulation of going to school in the classroom, rather than online. During our check-in time, and in our times of intercessory prayer, I am learning some of the ways that the children in this community are being challenged; the people and activities that they miss, the sadness that they feel, about the suffering of others, and their worries for loved-ones (some of the children have told me about people in their personal circles, who have tested positive for Covid-19).
With all of this in mind, I want to request that everyone reading this report, take a moment to pray for the physical and emotional well-being of our church’s youngest members. Then, if it feels right to do so, take a moment to check-in with your own “inner child.” What does that little one, inside of you, need right now? Can you find your own way to “play,” just a little bit? Perhaps there’s a favorite children’s book that you’d like to re-read (I will admit that I have been doing some of that, for the comfort that it brings). Hopefully, our child-like resilience and creativity can emerge, for solace and healing, as we keep on keeping on.
Blessings and well wishes as always,
Rev. Francesca Maria (Miriam) Fortunato: Children’s Minister
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.