I hope that this week has brought some new energy to your life. We are a couple weeks into the new school year, the fall colors are making themselves known, and this new strange reality that we are living seems to bring in new challenges and new spaces of hope in equal measure. So, I hope that you have (or have plans to) step away and renew this week. Breathe deep. Exhale slowly. And know that we are in this together. I hope that you have been reading your inspired reading and plan to join us for Inspired Dialogue on the 19th. I also hope that you have marked your calendars for our October 18th Bible Study with Park Avenue Synagogue. So much continues to happen in the life of the church, including our Anniversary (October 10th), we are so glad that you are part of this growing thriving community.
Being a part of a faith community is one of the greatest gifts of my life. I hope yours too. Community helps me see God at work in new ways and explore my lived experiences with people that hope to see me thrive in my life. As we know life ebbs and flows with both joy and concern. This season has been more concern than joy for most of us, but community in its many forms has been the balm we need, especially as we continue seeking the justice we desire. Community is important because we are in this together. And by “this” I mean prayer, worship, life, justice, love, joy, sorrow, and the list goes on. Being a part of a faith community reminds us that what we do matters to the whole of God’s creation. Which is why this text is one that is so helpful right now. Because it calls us to think about what it really means to follow Jesus in an unjust world. Let’s read together this passage from the Book of Matthew.
“You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor—but hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for your persecutors. This will prove that you are children of God. For God makes the sun rise on bad and good alike; God’s rain falls on the just and the unjust. If you love those who love you, what merit is there in that? Don’t tax collectors do as much? And if you greet only your sisters and brothers, what is so praiseworthy about that? Don’t Gentiles do as much? Therefore, be perfect, as God in heaven is perfect”
(Matthew 5: 43-48)
Jesus models in our scripture a way of being that we strive for, but as he was human, he knows that we will fall short. God wants us joined to a community because faith communities have a tradition of praying on other’s behalf through intercessory prayer. Our BIPOC neighbors have been expected to forgive their persecutors for far too long and that forgiveness has not brought about justice. So, for those that can’t pray for their persecutors anymore- I will. I pray that those who persecute have a change of heart. I pray that those we have named enemy for any sort of gain, will be seen as neighbors. I pray that we all follow Jesus well, and can get to a place where we can all pray for each other as neighbors and not have persecutors. I will pray for those who can’t because I believe that hollow prayers can lead to spiritual violence, and that is not what God wants in our prayer life. So, no matter where you are in your prayer journey- your community has your back in prayer. Community helps us all faithfully follow this call from Jesus.
So, friends, if you can, pray for everyone you know and know of– the good, bad, destructive, and joyful. And if you can’t - just pray what you can- because you’re in community and your community has got the rest covered.
A quick prayer for your week: O Lord, I lift to you the need for all your children to feel you near. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from The Rev. Francesca Fortunato
Dear Park People,
On Sunday October 4th, we used the Beginner’s Bible to read the story about Joseph’s “coat of many colors.” The children drew some gorgeous coats of their own, while listening to the story. Afterward, we talked about jealousy, and how being jealous (or having people feel jealous of us) affects our relationships. We thought about strategies for handling those unpleasant feelings, including re-focusing our thoughts on things that make us happy, what we like about ourselves, and what we like about other people.
We also just had fun talking about Halloween, which, though it will be celebrated a bit differently this year, due to precautions around Covid, still promises to be a very good time for the children. I invited them (well in advance, clearly) to wear their Halloween costumes to Sunday school on November 1st, and promised that I would be wearing a costume that Sunday, too (now, I have to think of something cool to wear.)
On Sunday October 11th, I will read to the children from my own Bible Psalm 133, and we’ll talk about “dwelling together in unity.” How can we do our parts to be peace-makers and unifiers, in our families and communities. The children will be using the Wiki Sticks (from their worship boxes) to physically and visually explore ideas around “sticking together” and “coming apart.”
I am glad to be “in it together” with all of the children and adults of this community, even at this time when we need to be in separate physical spaces, for our health and safety.
Blessings and well wishes as always,
Rev. Francesca Fortunato: Children’s Minister
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.