I hope that you are all doing well and are caring for yourself and community by staying home if you can and wearing a mask and washing your hands regardless. I am grateful for all the ways you are doing the hard work of quarantining and staying home and away from your loved ones for the good of community. What a blessing it is to be cared for in this way. This week instead of reminding you of all the amazing ministries that are happening at The Park, I want to extend an intentional invitation and reminder to join us for the annual Budget Hearing. The Budget Hearing is where we cast vision together for the financial health and fiduciary responsibilities of The Park for 2021 together. If you haven’t yet, please email Stephanie Wilson to get the log in information. We will gather for the hearing after worship on Sunday. This is the faithful work of the church. And we give thanks that our finance team and ministry council have been hard at work, and we are so grateful for their prayerful service to our community.
This week our scripture comes from the book of Ezekiel. For those of you who joined us for our Interfaith Bible Study last week you got a preview of this text, but for the rest of us engaging this text for the first time (or the first time in a long time) there is so much to think about. I will admit I have not spent a lot of time with Ezekiel. So, as is my practice I read this passage over and over to let the spirit of the living God inform and imbue my understanding. And the thing that I was moved most by, is that in my faith through prayer and community, I continue to look for God, but I rarely think of God searching for me. See if you see what I mean in this week’s text.
11 For thus says Sovereign God: I myself will search for my sheep; I will seek them out. 12 As shepherds seek out their flocks when their flocks are scattered in every direction, so I will search for my sheep and rescue them, no matter where they scattered on that day of full clouds and thick darkness.
Ezekiel 34:11-12 (ILB) / Ezequiel 34:11-12 (NVI)
What a gift that is to know that God is active in reaching out to us. Now, you might think, “Doesn’t the God that creates and journeys with us know where I am at all times?”, and I would say, “yes of course.” But this searching, in my opinion, is one that means God knows who we are meant to be (which isn’t always who we are) and that God is always looking for us at our best -even though God sees us (and loves us) at our worst. I mean, is that not the beauty of God’s grace in action?
Friends, this coming week as we prepare for big meetings, as we grieve the loss of in-person gatherings, and as we seek to always witness God at work, may we be comforted to know that our God is also seeking to grow closer to us. No matter where we are on the journey. No matter where we gather for worship or community. No matter what period. And what a true gift of grace and love that is.
A quick prayer for your week: O Lord, may you always continue to seek me out as I long for you as well. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from The Rev. Francesca Fortunato
Dear Park People,
On Sunday, November 15th, the Park Sunday school children read a Christian children’s story book, called “God Bless My Friends” (by Hannah C. Hall, with illustrations by Steve Whitlow.) I chose this book for them because the theme (that it’s a blessing to have friends who are different from oneself) seemed like a timely and appropriate idea to discuss, in our community. We talked about the various ways that our friends differed. Some friends were taller than most of their classmates, while others were shorter. There were friends who came from different parts of the world, or spoke different languages at home. Friends had a wide variety of skin tones, hair colors; eye colors. Some friends were going to school in person, while other friends were going to school online...
We said prayers together, to bless our friends, and give thanks to God for all of the wonderful differences, that make our friendships interesting and special!
In addition to thinking and praying about human friends, we (teachers and children alike) were happily distracted by the presence of a new canine friend, who had come to live with one of the children. Puppies are really fun to watch! Of course, we prayed for the puppy, too!
On Sunday November 22nd, the Sunday school children will be reading from the Doring Kindersley Illustrated Children’s Bible, pages 208-209, in a section titled “Daily Life In Jesus’ Time.” The children will learn how people dressed, worked, played, ate, and worshipped during the days when Jesus was growing up, and doing his ministry. We will think about what it would feel like, to live in that time and place, and will do dramatic play together, in order to bring our imagined experiences to life.
I just realized that Thanksgiving is next week! I’m remembering, so fondly, the special Thanksgiving-and-Receiving Swap Meet party that the children hosted, last November. I feel wistful, as I’m sure many of you do, about the fact that it’s not safe to celebrate in person at this time. Striving to keep the faith, hoping and praying for healthier; easier times ahead, and setting an intention to make the most and best of these opportunities for virtual connection, since they are what we have to work with. Onward!
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.