~ Together in September ~
“Those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”
~1 John 4:20
Dear Members and Friends,
As I write this message to you, I’m still reflecting on a meeting that took place earlier today at the church. A priest, two rabbis, and two ministers met for lunch in the conference room. It sounds like the beginning of a joke, as I often say, but our task was serious enough. Jim Guffey, the director of SHIM, asked us to meet with him to discuss the fate of our annual interfaith Thanksgiving service. At least since I’ve been taking part in that yearly event, it’s been mostly attended by a graying and dwindling congregation. The four faith communities that participate are Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran, and Presbyterian. Each of us is coping with the stress of being a religious institution in an age that trusts neither religion nor institutions. Because our first allegiance is to our own individual congregations, we clergy have sometimes treated the interfaith service as an afterthought: something owned by all of us, but ultimately owned by none. Because of this, our Thanksgiving service can sometimes feel like “the-same-old-same-old.” Same prayers, same songs, same faces year by year. In our urgency to tend our own small fields, we’ve sometimes forgotten that each of us bears an additional responsibility for a larger field: God’s world. And honestly, in this day when old barriers are being rebuilt to divide us, and new barriers—both literal and figurative—are being erected, what more important task do we have than to show the world that you can love and respect people who are different from you? It’s ironic that our most neglected job is perhaps our most urgent one: to reach across historic divides and come together in love.
And so, though it feels a long way off, the 54th annual interfaith Thanksgiving service will take place this year at our church, with a different format. Instead of hearing a twenty-minute sermon, you’ll get four 5-minute reflections on the topic of Thanksgiving from refugees and immigrants who have benefitted from the work of SHIM. But that’s not why I tell you all of this. My point is that Christ calls us to be radically different from the world around us. In times of hatred and greed, let us never forget that our calling is to love and generosity. “There is neither Jew nor gentile, slave nor free, male nor female.” September housekeeping items:
KICKOFF SUNDAY: Is September 8! A free breakfast for all ages begins at 8:30 a.m. Bring nothing but your appetite. All classes start back up on this day. The Malawi Team will be speaking about their trip in Adult Education, which now begins at 11:00 a.m. Childcare is provided, and all are welcome at this class. For information about all classes, see inside.
CONFIRMATION CLASS: I am teaching our biennial confirmation class during second hour. Confirmation students are asked to attend the adult class on September 8 to hear from their peers about the Malawi trip. We will begin meeting in the conference room (just across from the church offices) at 11:00 a.m. on September 15.
commUNITY: Our second annual community sing-along for tolerance and mutual respect will also take place on September 8, beginning at 4:00 p.m. on the church lawn. This free event will include three live bands, food trucks, a beer truck, and games for kids. Come when you want, leave when you want. One of our special musical guests will be Chris Jamison, who competed on The Voice! (To recap: get both breakfast and dinner at the church on September 8. Busy day, but the Steelers don’t play till 8:20 p.m.…)