I hope this week you are experiencing God’s hope for you in inspiring ways. For me this community is the hope I see at work and for that I am so grateful. This hope is growing as well. Have you noticed? We have been growing every week and that is in no small part due to our members seeing God in new people and at work in new ways. Look around this week, introduce yourself to people you don’t know. Ask them what they are passionate about? Ask your friends what is new in their life. Grow God’s kin-dom through relationship both new and established. What a gift this community is. We have new ways to engage relationships this week that we hope you will join. YASS is this Sunday. Soul Food Fellowship is next Sunday, and Inspired Dialogue is the Monday after that. And of course, worship at 11 every Sunday (or whenever you want for our online community!). We are called to work because God is at work. And what a job we are called to do.
I know we talk a lot about our unique gifts and that is because they are important to name and share. But sometimes we don’t always see the gifts that we have. Community helps us stay accountable to what God has given us and reminds us to use them to build the kin-dom in ways only we can. But some of the hardest work we are called to do is to discern for ourselves what gifts we have that we are not called to put energy into. Discernment is a conversation with God that points us toward spiritual guidance. It can be hard and feel unending. But the result can also feel like an opening in the dense forest. That is why I really love this week’s scripture. Paul and Sosthenes wrote this letter together, and within it found the need to remind people that while we may have many gifts, some deserve more time and energy than others. This is part of the discernment of our faith lives. Let’s read together and see what Paul names as his gifts for use in community.
10 I beg you, siblings, in the name of our Savior Christ Jesus, to agree in your message. Let there be no factions; rather, be united in mind and judgment. 11 I have been informed, my siblings, by certain members of Chloe’s household, that you are quarreling among yourselves. 12 What I mean is, one of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” another, “I belong to Apollos,” still another, “I belong to Cephas,” still another, “I belong to Christ.” 13 What—has Christ been divided into parts? Was it Paul who was crucified for you? Was it in Paul’s name that you were baptized? 14 Frankly, I’m thankful I didn’t baptize any of you, except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that none of you can say you were baptized in my name! 16 Oh yes, I did baptize the household of Stephanas, but no one else as far as I can remember.
17 The point is, Christ didn’t send me to baptize but to preach the Gospel—not with human rhetoric, however, lest the cross of Christ be rendered void of its meaning! 18 For the message of the cross is complete absurdity to those who are headed for ruin, but to us who are experiencing salvation, it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:10-18)
Fill in the blank “My spiritual gift called to action for this time is______.” It’s hard right? It’s meant to be. Paul had a lot of time to discern what gifts God was calling him to use to grow and sustain the church. It’s not that Paul can’t baptize – he has done so and shared as much- but that is not his primary gift called to action. He has discerned that sharing the gospel through preaching is his primary gift called to action in this time. For him, that is the point. But preaching is not for everyone – that is why our gifts are varied and abundant.
Friends, what is your gift (or gifts) called to action? If you know, great. If you don’t know, great- let the church help you. Because we cannot do this work without you and the gifts that God has placed in you. Sometimes we just need help from the community to see these gifts and to know how to use them. So, this week- discern. Name your gifts. Pay attention to which ones feel relevant, powerful, unique, etc. And then put some passion, energy, and action behind it.
What a gift it is to build the kindom with you.
A quick prayer for your week: God, I am thankful for my many gifts. Show me which ones to use now, for your good work. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
Dear Park People,
On Sunday February 2nd, the Park Sunday school children read two different versions of Galatians 5: 22-23. The first version was from their Spark Children’s Bible; the second from the story book, “Maybe God Is Like That, Too,” in which a child searches for God in the city, and, during the course of a day at home, at school, and outdoors, sees the fruits of the Spirit in action. I asked the children to tell me where they had witnessed the fruits of the Spirit in their own lives. Some answers included “At home” (kindness), “In the park,” (peace), “At school” (patience) and “At dinner time” (goodness).
Following our discussion, I taught the song “Fruits of The Spirit” to the children, and asked them to come up with gestures to fit the words. As always, they showed great imagination and creativity, as they devised ways to express these spiritual gifts and virtues, with physical movement.
On February 9th, we will be reading Saint Paul’s “love chapter” (familiar from many weddings),1 Corinthians:13. Discussion will focus on all of the things that “love is” for us. For their creative response activity, the children will make Valentine cards for people they love, writing “love is” phrases on them (either Saint Paul’s, their own, or both).
These big questions (where is God? What is love?) are things that most of us will spend our whole lives pondering. It’s never too early to begin taking them on, consciously and intentionally. It has been a great education, as well as great joy and inspiration for me, to study theology with children, for all of these years and decades. I look forward to the ongoing journey, with these smart, sweet; caring children in the Park community.
Blessings and well wishes as always,
Rev. Francesca Maria (Miriam): Children’s Minister
Harry Baker Adams, 1924-2020 A friend of The Park whose family has included beloved Pastors and members of our historic community for generations
Harry Baker Adams died on January 22, 2020. He was born in 1924 in Stamford, Kentucky, a son of Adelaide Brettschneider Adams and the late Hampton Adams. After serving as pastor of churches in Missouri and Illinois, Harry joined the faculty of the Yale Divinity School in 1956, where he began a long and distinguished career of service to Yale and the greater community. In 1986, he was appointed as Chaplain of Yale University and in 1987, as Master of Trumbull College. He was also an accomplished author, publishing eight books, including Preaching: The Burden and the Joy, What Jesus Asks, God Confronts Man, and Seekers of the Way.
A Memorial Service will be held at Marquand Chapel at Yale Divinity School, 409 Prospect Street, New Haven, on February 8th at 2:00 p.m.
The SoulFood fellowship group spent time last year discussing and contemplating our call to take action to support climate and environment solutions. The result was a resolution approved by the Ministry Council for The Park to be environmentally responsible consistent with our ongoing commitment to be good stewards of God's creation. There are many ways in which we all can contribute to this effort. The Park staff will take steps to prioritize the use of consumable products and to refrain from purchasing new plastic products. As we use up the products in our inventory, we will transition to the use of products which are recycled, biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable. We invite you to do the same in your homes and offices. Every small step can make a positive impact!
- Bonnie English
WHEREAS, The Disciples of Christ’s commitment to the environment is codified in its Green Chalice Movement; and
WHEREAS, the United Church of Christ’s commitment to the environment is codified in its Creation Justice Movement;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that The Park Avenue Christian Church, consistent with its ongoing commitment to being a good steward of God’s creations and to being environmentally responsible, will prioritize the use of consumable products which are biodegradable, compostable or otherwise made of recycled or sustainable materials and will use every best effort to refrain from purchasing and using plastic products, including but not limited to, cups, plates, flatware, decorations, etc.
How does it work? Once you're trained you become part of the accompaniment program. You'll learn about upcoming accompaniments and can sign up for time slots and locations that work for you.