Words from Cliff and Pastoral Notes
This Sunday is Emmanuel’s last Sunday with us. Transition times are occasions of new beginnings and recommittment to the journey.
Emmanuel has been with us for six years. He has brought a commitment to the spirituality of children and youth. He has given fine pastoral care to those in need. Born and raised in Ghana, Emmanuel brought a global awareness to our life as a parish. He has been an outstanding welcomer of new members.
He takes those gifts and more to Christ Church, Columbia, Maryland. Christ Church is an historic parish with a modern outlook. They were established as Queen Caroline Parish by the Maryland legislature in 1727. The name Christ Church was first used when the historic “Old Brick” building was consecrated as Christ Church in 1811. It is still used for small services and other events. Their current church building, New Brick, was consecrated in 1993.
I like to think of transitions in the way Godly Play speaks of the circle of the church year. The story teller pulls one end of a golden cord from a closed hand that holds the rest of the cord. This is the beginning. Remember when Emmanuel first came to us… The cord is then pulled out further and further. Think of all the ways Emmanuel has touched us over six years… Then the end of the cord appears. Emmanuel has finished his ministry with us and is called to Maryland. The priesthood is apostolic. Priests are sent from place to place… But in the church we tie the end of the cord to the beginning. It reminds us that every beginning has an end. And every ending has a new beginning.
So as we say good-bye to Emmanuel on Sunday and he ends his ministry with us, we embark on a new beginning. We hold the valuable lessons that Emmanuel has taught us. We cherish the memories of all we have done together. And we look expectantly to a new beginning, new joys, new possibilities. That is the circle of the church. Transitions are times of recommittment.
Over the years, I have been sending emails to visitors to Saint Paul’s who fill out a Welcome Card. Sometimes I get a response; other times I do not. Most of our new parishioners received an email from me on either Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. Our visitors are most likely to also receive flowers from the altar.
Several weeks ago, I saw a visitor at the 10:30 a.m. service. After the service, I welcomed him and asked if he would like to fill out a Welcome Card. He declined the request, which is also typical. The following week, I saw the same gentleman worshipping at the 10:30 a.m. service. After service, I thanked him for being at Saint Paul’s and again invited him to fill out a Welcome Card. This time he did not decline; he accepted the request and filled out the card.
As is typical of me, I sent him an email on Monday morning. He responded with a beautiful email, telling me about himself and his Anglican upbringing. But he also made this point, which I think is critically important to the life and ministry of this wonderful parish. He said “I live in Bryn Mawr and have been to a few churches there. However, there is nothing to beat a lively, diverse, and energetic church.” When I saw him again on the following Sunday, he said to me “Manny, the email you sent me was the first time that I have ever received an email from a church.”
I think Saint Paul’s has grown ever more diverse over the years, and to me, that is the story we want to tell, that this space is a like a salad bowl — every vegetable that you can think of has a place right in this bowl. Often times it isn’t what we say that assures the ‘other’ of our belief in creating a welcoming space, it is what we do.
We have built a sacred space that feels like a salad bowl with all kinds of God’s green vegetables in it. In order for the ‘other,’ like people from Sri-Lanka, Japan, Nigeria, Ghana, Ecuador, Brazil, Germany, the U.K. and, in fact, from all over the world to find a place in the bowl, we, by our actions, have to cherish the bowl.
Every Wednesday at 12 p.m., we gather together in the Chapel for a healing service. There is a group of faithful and dedicated parishioners who attend. At each worship, we read a story from the Holy Men Holy Women, and celebrate our Eucharist in honor of the holy man or woman to whom the day is dedicated. The service itself is calm, warm and it is incredibly open to the extent that on some Wednesdays, we all engage in a conversation before worship begins.
Last Wednesday, we celebrated Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. In my homily, I spoke about the privilege to be called by God, the privilege to be called as Christians and, for me, the privilege to serve in this parish as a pastor and a priest.
I shared a story of Mrs. Lippincott, who was one of the dedicated parishioners who worshipped every Wednesday. Mrs. Lippincott could barely climb the stairs leading to the chapel but she made it a point to be present week-in and week-out. There were times when she could hear me perfectly well, and there were times when she could barely hear me, and when she was unable to hear, she let me know. I was able to sit next to her and read or preach so she could hear.
For me, privilege is not about status or a sense of entitlement. Rather, it is the self-awareness that generates a deep sense of gratitude in me. I have never lost sight of the fact that I am an African–American serving in a predominantly White congregation. I don’t think I have ever felt entitled to being a pastor and a priest at this beautiful church and welcoming community. I feel very privileged to be serving here. And many, many people, including Mrs. Lippincott, help me to be grateful for the privilege of serving you all.
Events in Charlottesville this past week jolted a lot of people. It is hard to believe that in 2017 we would witness a white supremacist march and, to add insult to injury, have a 20-year-old young man drive his car into a crowd of people, killing one and injuring many. For most well-meaning Americans, issues of racial strife not only highlight the underlying problem of racism that has plagued our society for centuries, but also present an opportunity for a real assessment of our own actions and the extent to which we can all move forward in building that perfect union where each citizen is valued and affirmed, irrespective of race or gender.
(Continue Reading…) Racism results from a kind of hatred that incites violence against one another. For many African Americans and people of color, racism is a daily experience. At school, at the mall, at grocery stores, at work, in the bus, in restaurants, and even in their own homes — wherever a person of color is, he or she faces the potential violence of racism.
Times like these make me want to find a quiet place in a church for solace and shelter, affirmation and healing. I wish to reconnect with my inner self — that true self which is beyond any form of human category, to shed a tear and embrace a kind of nothingness which is present and visible. But the church often becomes the sanctuary of those who seek to perpetuate the violence of racism because they can hide under the cover of goodwill.
Maybe, just maybe. . . . that is all the more reason why we all have to find within ourselves that zeal to turn the darkness of racism into the bright light of brotherhood.
I cannot help but to offer a preview of an important new initiative that we will be embarking upon as a community of faith. Although we tried a different version of this idea some time back, this is new and with a huge emphasis on healthy.
Beginning on September 14, Saint Paul’s will open her doors to welcome everyone in our immediate vicinity and beyond for an evening of fellowship over a home-cooked, healthy meal under the Canopy of Love.
(Continue Reading…) The term “canopy” evokes images of shelter, welcome, protection, inclusivity, and compassion. These are values that Saint Paul’s stands for, and I believe a weekly supper open to the entire community will be an extension of our ministry to those who have otherwise not been a part of our common life. More importantly, it will be a tangible affirmation that they, too, are invited to sit under the Canopy of Love over a home-cooked, healthy supper.
We are recruiting volunteers to help make this happen, and so if you are a culinary enthusiast, a fan of making different salads, have a passion for creating all kinds of desserts, or simply enjoy setting up and helping to clean, please reach out to Manny or Zach. You will be welcome to join the team which will make this gathering click.