I am so inspired by this community. The way you have continued to lift each other up with the help of God is incredible. All the new gatherings, the stories I hear of you checking on each other, supporting one another- it’s so beautiful. I just want to let you know that I see you and am thankful for all the ways you are all moving forward. Forward in hope. Forward in grief. Forward in community. We hope to see you on Sunday for Bible study and then worship.
A new Inspire for May will be released on Friday so be sure to read all the tools for the journey provided for you as you take a month to think about what it means to inspire community. And as the spirit would have it, this weeks’ scripture is all about community. It reminds us that at the core of our call to serve others, meaning to serve Jesus, is a call to be and build community. And while right now we may be building community in new ways, we are building community, nonetheless. And once again we are reminded that the covenants we make in Christian community come in both big and small ways. See if you see what I mean in this week’s scripture from the Book of Acts.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ instructions and the communal life, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. A reverent fear overtook them all, for many wonders and signs were being performed by the apostles. Those who believed lived together, shared all things in common; they would sell their property and goods, sharing the proceeds with one another as each had need. They met in the Temple and they broke bread together in their homes every day. With joyful and sincere hearts, they took their meals in common, praising God and winning the approval of all the people. Day by day, God added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)
Community in the big and the small commitments- that is where we are called to experience God. The small things like selling personal property and the big things like feeding people. And while many readers may think that I mixed up what I consider big and small acts, we Christians know better. We are people of the table. Called to remember the ultimate act of grace and love by Christ, each time we eat and drink together. That’s much bigger than the call to sell your goods to make sure others are cared for. And this scripture continues to say they fed, ate, and broke bread together, surely highlighting it so much is meant to give it weight and focus. So, then why is one so much easier than the other?
Friends, community is vital to who are as Christians. And we have had defining moments together as we build the church, eat from the Lord’s table, and pray and support each other…and still the best is yet to come. We are growing in new ways, new connections, and even new people, which is God fulfilling promises- as God always does- and for me, that is just the hope that I need to keep moving forward.
A quick prayer for your week: God, I am yours and you are mine, in this beloved community. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from The Rev. Francesca Fortunato
Dear Park People,
This month’s summary report is like no other that I’ve ever written, because, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all of our lives have changed, so radically. At the end of March, we had only been doing online Sunday school for three weeks. Now, after seven weeks of it, all of us (the parents, the children, and I) have gotten used to the Zoom meeting technology and are finding it less cumbersome to use than we did initially, but we are all, also, just growing impatient with being apart. The children have been telling me how much they miss their space in the Fellowship Hall; getting to play and share snacks with their friends on Sunday mornings. I tell them (from my heart) that I miss that in-person time together, too! But I also strive to “accentuate the positive” (we can still see and hear each other; share songs, stories, and prayers). I have also been revising the curriculum (my long-range plans for the rest of the program year having been - of necessity - abandoned) and working to choose readings and activities that will inspire the children to reflect, share their feelings, and find ways to feel creative and empowered.
During the last two Sundays in April, that meant reading the story of Noah and the great flood ( a period of working together in a time of uncertainty, while waiting together in close quarters, for Noah and his family). Their experiences opened the door to discussion of the children’s own feelings about mysterious danger “out there,” and trying to be patient during the long time apart. They wrote a collaborative poem, called “The Storm,” and did rainbow pictures to hang up in their windows, as part of the world-wide “Hope Is Not Canceled” project, using God’s sign of the rainbow, at the Noah story’s happy ending, for inspiration.
In May, we will continue to focus on Hebrew scripture, beginning with the book of the prophet, Nehemiah (whose faith led him to “speak truth to power,” and find ways to help his damaged city) and the Psalms of David, which express powerful feelings of frustration and pain, as well as faith and joy, serving as an example of the ways that we can be our whole; true selves, with God. With these scriptures as springboards, we will be seeking ways to tell our own deep truths, help others, and seek hope and joy, wherever they may be found.
I hope that all of you are well, physically, and finding solace for your souls, in these strange days. My wife, Lynn, and I, are (thankfully) in good health (as far as we can tell; not having been tested) and able to take (physically distanced and masked) walks in the parks near our building, pretty much every day. I’m also taking three classes per week, via Zoom, with one of my ballroom dance teachers (truly appreciating her willingness to make this happen for her students). These things are very helpful, and I am profoundly thankful, every day, just to be with Lynn and our three cats, Gracie, Daphne, and George. Please know that all of you (adults as well as children) are in my daily prayers, and that I give thanks for being part of the Park Avenue Christian Church community.
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.