After months of preparation and casting vision for the life of the church, I am so grateful to each of you that joined us for the Congregational Meeting and worship last Sunday. Together we set into motion the mission and vision for the ministries of the church for 2019, while reminding us that we actually aren’t an “us” but a global “we.” I see God in each of you and am so thankful to be a member for this incredible community.
This week, we are still in the book of our sister Ruth, who with her Mother-in-law are really just trying to make their way in the world. A world that as much as I would like to say we have left behind, parallels a lot of what we see in our world today. Now all stories carry nuance, and this one is no exception. Ruth is foreign to the fields of Boaz near Bethlehem, she is a widow, childless, and caring for her Mother-in-law. So, Naomi with great love for Ruth dreamed of a better life for her and advises her to give her body to Boaz up for safety. Let’s read together this portion of Ruth’s story.
“3 Wash up and put on perfume and dress in your finest clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor. But don’t let him know you’re there until he has finished eating and drinking.
4 “When he goes to sleep, watch to see where he lies down. Then go and uncover his feet’ and lie down with him. He’ll tell you what to do next.”
5 Ruth replied, “I will do as you tell me.”
Why do you think that Naomi suggested this to Ruth? What did Ruth not possess (in Naomi’s opinion) that required Boaz in Ruth’s life? Why was Ruth’s body the payment for the attention of Boaz? And the real question, why can I place so many of my friends in 2019 in place of Ruth in this story? So many women continue to think that their worth is in their ability to be, and to be found sexual. But we are so much more.
This week, I hope we can prayerfully consider how we internalized the sexualization of people and what might become of our relationships with others, when we change our mindset. What have we gained from those notions? What do we have to change in ourselves to see the partnered and non-partnered members of our community as not only “good enough”, but “whole” in and of themselves? How can we as friends and neighbors support each other without suggesting that a partner is necessary for a successful or happy life, and that who we are as sexual people is the only way into being in a valued relationship? Partners can be wonderful and enhance our lives in new ways. But if we expand our understanding of who we are called to care for, if we expand our understanding of who our partners in life are, then new avenues of support and love make themselves known. And we see God at work in new ways and in new relationships.
A short prayer for your week: Lord, let me be whole in myself. Let me be complete in me, because I know that I am complete in you. May I be known for my internal worth and share it freely with others. Amen.
Children and Youth Ministry Update
Dear Park People,
On November 11th, 2018, the Park Sunday school children read the story of Ruth and Naomi, which led to discussion of why certain people are important to us, and the ways that we think about those in our circles of love (family, friends, church; school.) As a creative response activity, the children made colorful prayer bracelets, with the beads representing different people in their circles, as a reminder to pray for those people.
After Sunday school, the children’s ministry community had our Thanks-Giving and Receiving Swap Meet Party! Children and adults enjoyed a delicious lunch together, before examining the tables, with stacks of toys, books and clothes for swapping. Every child took home at least one new toy and book, and there was very little left on the tables (for donation elsewhere) by the time they were done making selections. It was also a great social time for the children (who played, happily, with the toys) as well as for the adults, who had time for conversation in a relaxed atmosphere.
On Sunday November 18th, the children will continue reading the Book of Ruth, this time focusing on the story of Ruth and Boaz. They will discuss the question “What are we willing to work for?”, with an emphasis on the ways that our faith can inspire us to work hard and patiently, for the things (and people) of greatest importance in our lives.
Following discussion, the children will act out the story of Ruth and Boaz (and Naomi) as a way to experience those emotions, and deepen understanding of the ways that we can express them in our own working, loving, and praying.
Blessings, well wishes, and high hopes!
Rev. Francesca Fortunato: Children’s Minister
Meet C. Anthony Bryant, The Park's new Music Leader!
To the great community that is The Park Avenue Christian Church.
I greet you with love, affection, and in Jesus’ name.
My name is C. Anthony Bryant, and I am grateful to God and this faith community for the opportunity to begin serving here to direct the music ministry as Music Leader. After having served for several years at The Abyssinian Baptist Church in The City of New York as Minister of Music for Youth and Worship Leader, and currently at First Corinthian Baptist Church, of Harlem, I want to assure you that I come not just with musical experience, but also with a love of God and a sincere heart for worship.
A graduate of Morehouse College and The Manhattan School of Music, I have been active in church for majority of my life and began singing at the age of two years. Since that time, I have garnered a few accolades, won a few awards, and ministered on a few high stages…None of these things however cause the joy that I feel when I am able to minister to God and God’s people in a worship setting.
In the coming days I look forward to our journeying together as we delve further into God’s presence musically.
I am aware that often when change happens, concerns and questions may arise. Please know that Paul Vasile and I have been in contact and are working together to ensure a smooth transition. Please feel free to reach to me with any questions you may have.
I am excited about what we will build together, and I pray you are as well.
C. Anthony Bryant (Charles)
SoulFood Fellowship Reflections
As our beloved Church undergoes construction and change, the SoulFood Fellowship at The Park is also experiencing expansion and growth from our Bible study beginnings. Physical changes at church have also brought changes to our fellowship. A quiet intimate space for our discussions was not always available, but an unheralded blessing came our way. Fellowship member Myrna graciously offered her home for an upcoming meeting.
In the comfort of Myrna’s hospitality, we included a pot-luck lunch addition to our bible discussion. It was a wonderful new experience for all, as our conversation expanded to reflect The Park’s core mission of social justice.
Meetings have now been held in three separate homes and we’ve simplified our routine to brown bag lunches, with liquid refreshments and desserts donated.
I feel so blessed to be part of this inclusive Fellowship. Our discussions, based on chosen biblical texts, now include additional readings on social justice and racial injustices still pervasive in our society, the result of promises made and not kept, to those who are oppressed by poverty, race or other limitations to fulfilling our humanity.
Each member’s individual response to our chosen readings continues to create Fellowship discussions that are amazing and thought provoking.
No one ever wants to leave our meetings! Our gatherings are soul-filling events that help me more carefully consider what I can do, if I call myself Christian, as I attempt to follow Christ’s example.