I hope that you are continuing to find spaces of rest and peace, healing and safety during this time. I know it is cliché to say but I do hope as you read this that you are well, and if not well, that you are cared for. What trying times we are in for a myriad of reasons. Please know that we are here to listen, talk, cry, find spaces of joy, and seek justice with you even though we are apart. We are apart together but always community. And we recognize that the needs of the community are varied, so please reach out and let us know how we can support you as you navigate the rough waters of building and maintaining new community. Some ways that the church is building and maintaining community is in our weekly worships (Children at 10:30 and Everyone at 11am), Yass Digital Happy Hour, weekly Won’t Stop, Bible Study, and this newsletter. Y’all even apart our calendar is FULL and what a gift that is to our ever-growing community.
This week is a passage that is familiar to many and yet rings in a new way during this time. It is the story of Noah after the flood. And I don’t know about you, but this time of isolation can feel a bit like being trapped on the ark. I imagine all the animals in their little pens, the way my apartment building is a bunch of homes. And boy do we want off the ark. But is it time? Let’s read together this story from Genesis to listen to what our still speaking God has to say.
Then Noah sent out a dove to see if the waters had subsided on the earth. The dove, finding nowhere to perch, returned to the ark, for there was still water over the whole earth. Putting out his hand for the dove he brought it back into the ark. Noah waited seven more days, and again sent out the dove from the ark. In the evening, the dove returned with a freshly plucked olive branch in its beak, and Noah knew that the waters were receding from the earth. After seven more days, he again sent out the dove, and this time it did not return.
In Noah’s 601st year, on the first day of the first month, the waters had dried up on the earth. Noah opened the door on the side of the ark and saw that the ground was drying. (Genesis 8:8-13)
Most of us are not doves. For me that is the big take away from this lesson. Everyone wants off the boat. I am positive that the antelope are ready to be done with their existential dread and anxiety that comes with being trapped on a boat with a lion. And perhaps the lion was even housed next door. But Noah didn’t take the animal most itching to be released. And he definitely didn’t take the animal that was most at risk of being eaten on the ark. No, he took a dove. A bird that had the gifts to go from the ark safely and return. Noah didn’t send a sloth. A sloth is not able to assess appropriately when it is time to leave the ark. Nor did Noah just open the door and shove everyone out. And he definitely didn’t let people off because they were the loudest, or they demanded it. No, Noah sent one animal, with the specific gift of letting him know what was in the waters ahead. When the dove came back because it wasn’t time, Noah was patient. When it was time and the dove didn’t return, only then did Noah start to plan their return to land. And again, he didn’t open the doors in shallow waters, or let the animals that could sufficiently swim out first. He waited until the waters dried up to let anyone off the ark.
Friends, I am not a dove. Nor are you. And no one can make us a dove. Even if the Noah’s of our ark try and make us the first ones off - you don’t have to leave it. We must have patience. We must wait for the waters to dry. So, that when we step off the ark- out of our homes- it is safe for everyone. For there are doves among us - Doctor and scientists. And they keep coming back to the ark. When they don’t- we will know. And when that time comes, we will look together for dry land, collaborate on how to exit, and then finally get off the ark. Dry land is coming friends. But for now, the safest place for you to be is on the ark.
A quick prayer for your week: God, help me live into your call for patience. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from The Rev. Francesca Fortunato
Dear Park People,
On Sunday, May 10th, we began our Sunday school check-in time by talking about Mother’s Day, and things that the children had done, to celebrate their mothers. Some had made breakfast (home-baked muffins!) There were Mother’s Day cards and drawings, of course. But my favorite response to the question about what children had done to show love for their mothers was “We let her sleep as long as she wanted to!” Such gifts of understanding and consideration are, truly, the best.
During our formal study time, we continued reading the story of the prophet, Nehemiah; about the destruction and desolation that he found when he went to Jerusalem, and his message to the city’s leaders, about the need to rebuild, and help the people there. Relating this story to our own experience, we talked about the helpers who are enabling all of us, in our struggling city, to get through this difficult pandemic time. We then wrote a letter, with words contributed by all of the children, to send to the TV news station, New York 1, as part of their “Messages of Support” campaign. I emailed the children’s letter (signed “The Children of Park Avenue Christian Church”) to the station yesterday. Hopefully, it will be read aloud on the air soon, to give hope and encouragement for frontline workers. I will let the community know if I hear anything from New York 1, about when that might happen.
On Sunday May 17th, we will read Nehemiah 3-4, about the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. This story recounts the ways that people cooperated, in order to get the hard work done; taking turns doing the building, and standing guard to protect the builders. We will talk about the things that we can do, in our activity, and in our stillness (taking turns) to help our own communities. “They also serve who watch and wait.” Children are doing a lot of that, these days, and it isn’t easy, but it is meaningful, and I will be striving to help them understand that and express it, as we create our own prayers, for patience, kindness, and loving presence.
It has been said that we “preach the sermons that we need to hear.” While planning these lessons for the children, I realize that I’m doing that. As a native New Yorker, who loves the vibrant life of my city, so much, I struggle with the sense that I am now living in what seems like a very small village, consisting of the park, where I walk with my wife, Lynn, and the couple of nearby stores where we shop for necessities. I try to remind myself that I am actually doing something helpful for others, by living my life within these small boundaries, and never leaving the apartment without a face covering. As I collaborate with the children, on those prayers for patient; loving waiting, I will hope to find my own strength and inspiration, for the challenges ahead. Those hopes are for you - adult members of this community - too. May we find some timeless beauty and wonder, apart-and-yet-together, in this strangely time-warped time...
Blessings and well wishes as always,
Rev. Francesca Maria (Miriam) Fortunato: Children’s Minister
Pandemic of Love
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.
In this moment of COVID-19, our immigrant friends face unprecedented challenges. At the same time, in this moment of COVID-19, most of us have to change the way we engage in direct action and advocacy in order to comply with social distancing and support communal safety. As people of faith committed to prophets' vision of justice, what can we do to respond in this moment and what can we do to plan for the future when we can be together again? Join interfaith leaders and New Sanctuary Coalition Executive Director Ravi Ragbir and Multi-Faith Coordinator Micah Bucey to learn and to engage in collective action.
Classes are in English now but we are working on adding a Spanish speaking class soon.
Become a Telechaplaincy Volunteer
From the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education:
We are facing unprecedented times, and many of us are wondering how we can respond. We are receiving requests from institutions seeking additional spiritual care support, particularly through telechaplaincy. At the same time, we know some CPE students have been unable to complete units due to new restrictions for visitation. We hope telechaplaincy might provide them additional hours towards the completion of units.
We are seeking volunteers to meet these requests. If you would like to be considered for telechaplaincy support, please complete the volunteer form below. Your information will only be shared with institutional leadership working to meet the needs of those whom they serve. If you have questions or need more information, please email COVID19@acpe.edu.
You may also want to explore resources for spiritual care during this crisis, available here from our colleagues at the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab. Thank you for your dedication to our shared work.