Prayers of rest and healing to every one of you. This week in New York the weather has shifted to be cooler with more rain which has helped with my desire to run outside every time I open a window. It’s the little things that I am noticing now that make this time pass by with greater ease. I know we often talk about finding God in the still small voice or in the unprompted moments of connection, and living into that can sometimes be hard, but then rain comes and reminds you that you may not have gone outside anyway today, and so staying in becomes a little easier this day or this hour. I have learned over the years to call those God moments and I hope your week is filled with them. Life in the church continues to flourish which is another God moment. When more people show up than expected or new friendships are formed through the zoom viewer, we know that the word we do with God is still active and thriving. We have a new online ministry this week called the weekly “Won’t Stop.” Follow our social media feeds to see that week’s “Won’t Stop” word or phrase and then tag us in pictures or videos that show the world that #TheParkWontStop working with God. This week’s phrase is “Finding Joy.” Yass is still meeting on Sundays (Netflix Party) and Thursdays (Happy Hours) and next week is a new month for INSPIRE 2020. As always there is so much happening in the life of the church and we are so glad you are a part of it.
When I was younger- though older than I should have been- I declared that I would never be a teacher. I was pushing my boundaries of independence as most of my family worked in the education system. I’m not proud of it, but we grow in grace with God and each other as we get older. Now, I can’t imagine not being a teacher. While I may not be a traditional classroom teacher, I am a teacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And I think we are now – maybe even more so than ever- acutely aware of the value of our teachers, as many parents try to navigate middle school math to much chagrin. But even out of the context of social distance learning as we grow, we are all called to teach what we know to others. And while we primarily think of teaching meaning handing down information to the next generation- as we grow in maturity as pointed out in our scripture- we learn that being a teacher and being a student go hand in hand. We are students and teachers at every age because we are a part of a system – a “body” if you will – that is dependent on every part teaching and listening and growing together for the good of the whole. And luckily the head of our body, the part that models leading and learning best, is helmed by God. Let’s read together this week’s scripture from Ephesians.
Each of us has received God’s grace in the measure in which Christ has bestowed it.
Thus you find scripture saying,
“You ascended on high,
leading captives in your train,
and giving gifts to people.”
And to some, the gift they were given is that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers. These gifts were given to equip fully the holy ones for the work of service, and to build up the body of Christ—until we all attain unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Only Begotten of God, until we become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Let us then be children no longer, tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine, or by human trickery or crafty, deceitful schemes. Rather, let us speak the truth in love, and grow to the full maturity of Christ, the head. Through Christ, the whole body grows. With the proper functioning of each member, firmly joined together by each supporting ligament, the body builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:7-8,11-16)
Friends, we are a body firmly joined together by love of each other and Christ Jesus. And while we may be more attuned to the spaces of growth that we need to lean into as we mature, it doesn’t mean that we haven’t been crucial teachers and learners our whole lives. The timeline that we are given in scripture is “until we all attain unity in our faith,” which is not a call for hegemony but a call to be open to growth our whole lives. Open to growth so that we are always learning something new from Jesus and in turn learning from and teaching each other.
A quick prayer for your week: God, help me grow with and for the body of Christ. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from The Rev. Francesca Fortunato
Dear Park People,
The Park Sunday school children are spending the second half of April reading the story of Noah and the Great Flood, from Genesis. On the 19th, we read chapter 6, in which God tells Noah that the flood is coming, and instructs him to build the Ark.
We talked about the emotions evoked by the story (what might Noah and his family have been feeling, as they received this message, and began the work of responding to it?) The children explored those questions, in the context of this week’s creative response, which was the writing of a collaborative poem. In order to get them started, I asked them to come up with word associations on the word “storm.” From there, we came up with “feeling words,” about the storm/flood, and about doing the work of preparing for those events, as God had told Noah’s family to do. I wrote down the words dictated by the children, in the order that they gave them to me, and the result is the poem that you see in the picture above.
Next Sunday, we will continue our engagement with the Noah story, as we read Genesis 7-9. Our creative response will be rainbow art, about God’s sign of the rainbow, which appears when the great flood is over. I plan to suggest that children hang their rainbow pictures in windows, as participation in the “Hope Is Not Cancelled” project, which has been led by children (with some adult participation) all over the world, as a way of helping with our sadness around the Coronavirus.
During this time of church-from-home, I have been striving for balance; not over-emphasizing our reasons for doing Sunday school by Zoom, but also allowing children space to talk (and pray) about it, especially during the informal “check-in” time, before we begin children’s worship. I heard a lot, this Sunday, about things that the children miss, especially their friends, their schools, and (yes) being in the church. My choice of the Noah story for the current curriculum is intended to inspire some more of these helpful conversations, without forcing them to happen. This is one of the ways that stories (including scripture) can provide us with gifts of emotional and spiritual healing.
I hope that all of you are finding some of that emotional and spiritual healing, for yourselves, in these intensely challenging times.
Blessings and well wishes as always,
Rev. Francesca Maria (Miriam) Fortunato: Children’s Minister
Tune in on Tuesday, April 28th at 6:30PM ET with Integrity First for America and East End Temple to meet the team taking the violent white supremacist movement to court.
IFA Executive Director Amy Spitalnick and Counsels Roberta Kaplan and Michael Bloch will discuss their groundbreaking work to #SueANazi. With bigotry and violence on the rise during coronavirus, this case is all the more urgent.
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.