We as a community have continued to grow and serve together even in these most unusual times and it is such an incredible gift to be a part of. I continue to hold you in prayer each and every day as you navigate new normal and unexpected turns. I hope that you are taking proper care of yourself. Giving yourself permission to rest, so that you might eagerly continue to seek justice, is all part of the work of being a Christian. So thankful that we continue to do this work together in worship, fellowship, and service. In days where the streets come alive with restless spirits in pursuit of justice it can be helpful to hear some things clearly. So, please hear this: You matter. You are made in the image of a God who contains multitudes. Every part of you is holy and a reflection of the Divine. For those of us with identities that have been underserved, underrepresented, and undervalued, you matter. And because we want to be abundantly clear where we stand, The Park unequivocally states, Black Lives Matter.
It seems like every day there is a new fight ahead of us. Racial, gender, health, food, housing, and sexual inequalities are rampant in our world because of shallow readings of scripture. And that shallow work has allowed for our faith to be used as a pawn to advance a social narrative antithetical to the gospel call to love one another. There are several reasons why, but one that I have witnessed first-hand is people’s understanding that we aren’t called to wrestle and dig deep in scripture. And why? Are we afraid that we might hurt God? Are we fearful that we might wrestle our faith right out of us?
So, in light of the many ways we are called to wrestle with our faith, and in the name of spiritual growth as we build an equitable and just world, I ask you to read this scripture paying close attention to Jacob and God’s relationship. Hear these words from the book of Genesis.
In the course of the night, Jacob arose, took the entire caravan, and crossed the ford of the Yabbok River. After Jacob had crossed with all his possessions, he returned to the camp, and he was completely alone.
And there, someone wrestled with Jacob until the first light of dawn. Seeing that Jacob could not be overpowered, the other struck Jacob at the socket of the hip, and the hip was dislocated as they wrestled.
Then Jacob’s contender said, “Let me go, for day is breaking.”
Jacob answered, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”
“What is your name?” the other asked. “Jacob,” he answered.
The other said, “Your name will no longer be called ‘Jacob,’ or ‘Heel-Grabber,’ but ‘Israel’—’Overcomer of God’ —because you have wrestled with both God and mortals, and you have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:22-28)
Friends, the fight for justice is fraught with physical and spiritual dislocation. Do not give up. The blessing of God is near, you just have to keep at it. Luckily you are not in it alone. You are so loved, and we are grateful you are a part of our community. Keep up the holy fight of good trouble.
A quick prayer for your week: O Lord, I know that you are bigger than my doubt. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from The Rev. Francesca Fortunato
Dear Park People,
On Sunday, September 20th, the children read Exodus 16, using The Beginner’s Bible. I asked them to take the Play-Doh out of their worship boxes, to use while listening to the story (encouraging them to make “food” with it, since the story was about God’s provision of food for the hungry Israelites.)
After the story, we talked about how we feel when we are hungry or thirsty, and how we feel, once our hunger or thirst has been satisfied. The children all said that being hungry or thirsty made them feel unhappy and impatient (I said, “Me, too!”) and one admitted to whining, when hunger caused those frustrated feelings.
Then, we talked about how happy, and thankful we feel, for good food and drinks. The children showed off the foods that they had created with their Play-Doh. There were hot dogs, veggie burgers, and (my personal favorite) a birthday pancake, with cherries on top, and a candle! The children’s food creations were all so realistic and appetizing, that they made me feel hungry! I told the children so, and expressed my thankfulness for good, real food, waiting for me in my kitchen.
On Sunday, September 27th, we’ll be reading Genesis 22:32-38, using the Doring Kindersley Children’s Illustrated Bible. I will ask the children to take out their paper and crayons, and draw pictures of close family members (since the story deals with the relationship between Jacob and his brother.) We will discuss the challenges of getting along with the people in our families and households, and exchange ideas about ways to make peace, forgive each other, and get along, as the people of God are all called to do.
By the time you read this, it will be autumn. I hope that all of you will find opportunities to revel in the beauty of this time. Bright colored leaves. Shiny apples. Warm, cozy sweaters. May the love of God warm your hearts toward each other, as the air grows colder, and the days shorter.
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.