Take 5 in Advent...

Last week during worship I quietly invited the folk to be alert to Advent surprises this year...  And sure as shooting, no sooner did I mention them out loud then they started to pop-up all over the place.  Three are worth noting:

+ 150 years ago (in February) the African-American members of our congregation finally decided that they could no longer tolerate being treated like second class citizens in the Lord's house.  The precipitating event, according to the oral tradition, was that the pastor's wife, Mary Todd, would not share a common cup with Black members during Holy Communion.  That would be reason enough, but other racial and cultural offenses were common place including the segregation of non-white members to seating in the balcony.  (Another oddity to my 21st century perspective but one practiced regularly was the selling of pews to the highest bidders and/or awarding the front rows to the town's more prominent citizens - but that is for another time.)  

At any rate, in 1846 seven Black members "decided they should form their own religious institution, one that would be free of the racism they experienced.  They were: John L. Brown, Morris Potter, William Potter, David S. Thomas, Catherine Fields, Delilah Potter, and Mary Richards." ( document_ center/ MAPS/African_American_Heritage_Pittsfield_Map.pdf) They called the Rev. Samuel Harrison to be their pastor in 1850. Over the years since the founding of Second Church there has been remorse for our past sins and a variety of efforts dedicated to working together more closely. Not much, however, has happened over the past 15 years so it was a delight to receive an email last week inviting us to join with them in both the up-coming MLK worship events in January as well as a joint adult study series at a time that works for both congregations. 

Some of my members have maintained a loving and respectful relationship with Second for decades, but this was a real Advent surprise that is the cause for great joy.  We will gladly be a part of their festivities and hope they can be part of ours as we celebrate 250 years of mission and ministry later in 2014.  (For more on the Rev. Samuel Harrison, the first minister of Second Church, please go to: http://samuelharrison.org/home.htm)

+ Another Advent surprise came as today's worship unfolded.  I awoke with a nasty head cold and felt groggy all day long.  So it wasn't until a nap much later in the day that I realized all of the small blessings taking place this morning.  First there were all the announcements: support for the women's and children's shelter, a petition to support changing MA laws so that driver's licenses are not related to citizenship, a small arts project dedicated to helping raise funds for ministry, a stewardship update and a pitch for support of our worship and education ministries. My first reaction was, "Oh Lord, there goes 10 minutes of worship time!" Only later did it hit me that these announcements were one of the ways God's voice was being articulated for our people.  Next my bandmates sang their hearts out today - on "Peace on Earth" - as well as "Lo How a Rose 'Ere Blooming."  Such beauty and pathos...

Then after worship, one of the women I work closely with on worship planning said that she'd been thinking and has some suggestions about how to strengthen our early Christmas Eve worship. After my nap, I prayed a word of thanksgiving for her dedication and creativity: she was DOING liturgical planning at a deep level and I can't WAIT to see what she's come up with.  And then there were the comments after worship about my linking John the Baptist's rants to those times when we say, "I want Christmas this year to be different..."  As one friend said, "It is ALL about a longing for something deeper, yes?"

+ The third happened when I got home - and feeling wretched - jumped into my jammies and made some hot tea.  No sooner had I parked myself at the table then there was knock at the door and two other friends stopped by to help fix an on-going electrical problem.  I was not aware they were coming and only vaguely aware that Di had spoken to them last week.  So, a little embarrassed to be in my jammies, I welcomed them in and poured hot tea.  And after a lovely visit, the problem was identified, fixed and then they left.  As I lay down for a nap - with our oh so nervous puppy sleeping on my feet - I was touched by their affection and willingness to help us out because I am worthless when it comes to home repair. As I rested in the late afternoon winter darkness I had to confess that there is a growing tenderness and living affection among this congregation that is some times palpable.

The blessings of the coming Christ-child are often small and unexpected - but they are real for those with eyes to see.  Sometimes just taking five is enough to give us eyes to see.


Di said…
I felt the same way about the sweetness of our congregation when yet another member asked me for our new grandson's address so she could send him a gift. So much generosity and joy among these people!

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