There is room at the table for everyone...

This was one of those magical weekends where blessing upon blessing was realized and honored in a tender way. On Saturday, our daughter Jesse and her dear husband Michael traveled north to Pittsfield for the Christening on their first child: Louis Edmund Piscitello. Our other daughter, Michal and her fiancee Winton, were in touch for the festivities as well as Mike's parents, great aunt and Jesse's godparents Malcolm and Nancy. Malcolm was my Sunday School teacher - leader of our high school seminar in the 60s - and one of the inspirations for my entering ministry 30+ years ago.

Louie was christened in his mother's baptismal gown - one that was used by Michael and his older sister, too and hand-sewn by his great grandmother; the water basin we used came from my grandparents and was used to baptize Michal some 33 years ago. As Carrie Newcomer likes to sing, this was a festival of spirits on so many levels.

Afterwards, we feasted in a mighty and robust way at the local Italiana emporium of fine foods and wine.  And to paraphrase another local son, "We had a dinner... that couldn't be beat and then went off to a fine and deep sleep." This morning Louie et al - including Malcolm and Nancy - joined me for Sunday worship. Today was an experiment in gathering around the table of the Lord while sharing Middle Eastern food and prayers. And it, too was a total gas! Our band sang the Bobby McFerrin setting of the Lord's Prayer - we played some piano/bass jazz as well as traditional hymns - and talked about what it means to honor both rituals and ceremonies.
People loved being close together (80 of us met in the Chancel rather than in the traditional Sanctuary that can hold 400+ on the ground floor alone) and we sang with vigor and prayed with zest. Our children tasted new foods - flat breads and Syrian cheese - as we considered what it means to be community in Christ's spirit. And as happens from time to time, today we took another step closer to being a loving Christian community in the 21st century. My hunch is that this shift was as palpable to others as it was to me. There was fun, love, openness and joy in the air, so when the hour was over, we really didn't want to leave.

Eight years ago when we accepted the call to this congregation, it was an act
of faith: there were no guarantees that we could move beyond the status quo of fear, grief and creeping worries about closing. To be sure, there have been some rough times in this call to renewal - especially in the first 2 years - but today I can say with a measure of clarity that First Church is alive in the Spirit - and a WHOLE lot of fun. We are engaged in deep acts of social transformation in areas of sexuality, the environment and race relations. And we are dancing our way into a lively 21st century spirituality that honors tradition without being trapped in the rut that haunts so many New England congregations. My dear friends and once spiritual mentors confirmed this when they told me over lunch how much they loved the whole festival.

So while there is still more than a month before our vacations start, I am very energized to be a part of the ripening fun that is unfolding in Pittsfield. Without a doubt, I am ready for some jazz at the Montreal Jazz Festival, but before this happens we're going to welcome Peter and Joyce who will talk about their time in Palestine. We will go public with our faith-based justice organizing project, too. We'll feast with Michal and Winton as they are married at their small farm in Plainfield. And we will set the ground work for a rock and soul benefit concert in late July. 

Here's a tune by Carrie Newcomer to give you a flavor of what's starting to happen within and among us...

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