Bloom with Curiosity:
Following the Example of Our Women of God
What a joy it was to gather with y’all and commemorate Park Avenue’s faithful history and celebrate God at work in our present and future! It’s been a big week for news in NYC. You may have heard about the news reports coming out of Rikers where long hours and absent staff are forcing officers to choose between their safety and the safety of incarcerated individuals. Reports have erupted of feces lining the ground of overcrowded holding cells and one guard locking themself in a cell to protect themself from an inmate.
It’s our responsibility, as people of God who value the personhood of all, to pay attention to the situation in Rikers and to speak out against the injustice and inhumane conditions of both inmates and officers.
This week, we’re reading from Philippians, Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi, a Christian community a Roman Colony in Eastern Europe. Paul, writing from prison, addresses a community he began with the conversion of an influential woman named Lydia (Acts 16:11-15). In this passage, Paul addresses two additional women who are faith leaders in the community before addressing the rest of those hearing the letter. Women have been and continue to be a present, documented, dynamic force at Park Avenue Christian Church, much like those of the Church at Philippi in the first century. This scripture speaks to their value and the value of the incarcerated. Read with me, Philippians 4:1-9:
“1 For these reasons, my sisters and brothers—you whom I so love and long for, you who are my joy and my crown—continue, my dear ones, to stand firm in Christ Jesus.
2 I implore Euodia and Syntyche to come to an agreement with each other in Christ. 3 And I ask you, Syzygus, to be a true comrade and help these coworkers. These two women struggled at my side in defending the Good News, along with Clement and the others who worked with me. Their names are written in the Book of Life.
4 Rejoice in the Savior always! I say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let everyone see your forbearing spirit. Our Savior is near. 6 Dismiss all anxiety from your minds; instead, present your needs to God through prayer and petition, giving thanks for all circumstances. 7 Then God’s own peace, which is beyond all understanding, will stand guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, my sisters and brothers, your thoughts should be wholly directed to all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, decent, admirable, virtuous, or worthy of praise. 9 Live according to what you have learned and accepted, what you have heard me say and seen me do. Then will the God of peace be with you.”
[Philippians 4:1-9 (ILB)/ Filipenses 4:1-9 (NVI)]
These women, Euodia and Syntyche, are warriors of the faith. They labored to bring God’s word and God’s works into the world, and Paul, here, recognizes that their leadership and contributions were significant. This is evidence of the import of women’s leadership in the early Christian Church. Lydia, Euodia, and Syntyche are the present, documented, dynamic force of women at the Church of Philippi. Their names, Paul assures us, are in the Book of Life because women’s work, leadership, and gifts matter.
Paul, writing from Prison, urges those listening to follow his example and to live by his teachings. He makes himself out to be the role model for those attending the Church at Philippi, but I think he can (and should) expand this beyond himself. Not only can the faithful look to Paul, the Prisoner, as an example of how they ought to live, but new believers in the Church at Philippi can, like us, follow the example of others, of those who taught them truths about God and life, of those whose name they believe to be written in the Book of Life. At the Church in Philippi, they follow the example of the Women of God and a Prisoner. We can do the same.
I hope to hear about some of the people who’ve led you to God and helped show you how to live well and bring about life abundant for all God’s children at our Bloom in Conversation event next Monday, October 18, where we’ll discuss our reading for this month – The Blind Men and the Elephant – and get curious about the unique ways we each experience God.
In the meantime, I offer this prayer for us all:
May our thoughts dwell on all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, decent, admirable, virtuous, or worthy of praise! May our hearts rejoice in the Savior and in the Goodness of God always! And may we value the unique contributions and gifts of those of all regardless of identity or incarceration as we follow one another towards God!
Kelsey Creech, Resident Seminarian
This Sunday's Guest Pastor:
The Rev. Madison T. Shockley II
The Rev. Madison T. Shockley II is the pastor of the Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, CA. He brings to Pilgrim Church a wealth of experience from his work in the religious, political, non-profit, and media environments. Madison was called to Pilgrim Church in 2004.
Along with performing his pastoral duties with Pilgrim, Madison serves on the board of directors of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of San Diego and Imperial Counties and the board of directors of Compassion and Choices. He also writes commentary for various online and print outlets. To read some of Madison’s articles, click here.
He holds the Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York City and has done advanced graduate work at Claremont Graduate University in New Testament Studies. He is married to Gayle P. Shockley née Welch, and they are the parents of five adult children.
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from Kelsey Creech, Resident Seminarian
Last Sunday, our children’s ministries read and reflected on themes of faithfulness and love. At 10 AM, our older students read Psalms 8, then spoke about the fact that humans are creatures and why God might have chosen us to do God’s work in the world. In our 10:30 group, we read “God is Faithful” in our Tiny Truths Wonder & Wisdom. We rested in the faithfulness of God and found comfort in the imperfectness of humanity and the love God has for us.
This Sunday, our older students will meet at 10 AM for fellowship and to read Philippians 4:1-9. We’ll talk about the expansiveness of God through the lens of the women, their conflict, and how both of their names are in the Book of Life even while they are at odds with each other. Then, at 10:30 AM, our younger children will read “The Sermon on the Hill” in our Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible. We will discuss God’s lessons for us and how we might apply Jesus’ teachings, listed in the story, to our lives.
I welcome each of you once more to join us at our Bloom in Conversation event next Monday, and I pray that you’re all warm and well fed this autumn season.
(The illustration used here is from page 138 of Tiny Truths Illustrated Bible)
“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” – Leviticus 19:34
From the Bible’s instructions to present-day laws and walls, the status of the stranger—the immigrant—has been central to faith communities. What is the role of faith in caring for the strangers in our midst, and what have migrant communities taught us about how to have thriving ministries in today’s world? We’ll approach these questions from both academic and practical perspectives in this colloquium featuring short lectures from faculty and a panel discussion with those working with immigrants in our communities.
Presenters include: Dr. Joel Baden (Yale Divinity School), Rev. Dr. Joyce Mercer (Yale Divinity School), Dr. Grace Yukich (Quinnipiac University), Ashley Makar (IRIS), Rev. Kaji Douša (Park Avenue Christian Church), Rev. David Reed-Brown (First Baptist Church in New Haven), and Rev. Alan Gibbons (First Baptist Church in New Haven).
Pandemic of Love is a mutual aid community of care that was started in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. It humbly began on March 14th, 2020 by one person and was intended to help her own local community. But, like an epidemic, the act of love and kindness spread quickly and is now a beautiful movement helping those in need throughout the world.
What is a mutual aid community? It connects people in need with patrons who can help with that need. This is a tangible way for people to give to each other, quickly, discretely and directly.
What’s the catch? There is none. Kind people are introduced to kind people which results in an act of kindness and human connection.