Good Morning Church!
Had you forgotten what sunshine and 60 degree weather feels like? I had. The last couple of days have been glorious, haven’t they? A confidence booster that spring is indeed on its way. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
For today, our newsletter is filled with both extremes of joyful and sorrowful news.
One the bright side– this week marks one full year since I came on as pastor here at Potsdam Presbyterian Church! It’s certainly been a rollercoaster of a year, but I am absolutely delighted to be part of this congregation. Your love for each other and commitment to living out the gospel have made this a positive first year experience– in spite of the pandemic.
Humorously, this week also marks a full year of pandemic living. It’s funny now–remembering back to my first Sunday in the pulpit. Before worship had even started that day, Session and I held an emergency meeting (our very first meeting together) to put an end to in-person worship. What a way to start a brand new pastorate, huh?!
Can you believe that we’ve made it a full 12 months through this pandemic? It’s a bit startling, when you take in the larger picture. This week I want to encourage you to spend a little time reflecting on this last year. What have you learned from the experience? How have you grown? And how, moving forward, will you live differently, as a result of the wisdom you’ve gained?
Even as we celebrate how far we’ve come this last year, I have some sad news to share– Mary Ellen Frackenpol died under hospice care in Rochester this past week. I did not have the pleasure of meeting Mary Ellen, but the stories I’ve heard convey that this will be a real loss for some of you. With both her’s and George Davis’ passing, Terry de la Vega commented the other day that, “this is the end of an era for our church.” If you’d like to send a card to the family, email me and I’ll pass along an address.
The other sad –and disturbing– news to share with you is that our church has been vandalized …again (for the 10th time). This last week, both of the LGBTQ flags we’ve had wrapped around the trees on the south side of the church lawn were intentionally ripped, torn, and cut up by someone who desired to both intimidate us and send a message of harm to Potsdam’s LGBTQ community.
For those of us who aren’t gay or transgendered, it’s hard to fathom being spit on, screamed at, or threatened with violence by people in our community on a regular basis, but this is what queer people in the North Country deal with in their everyday lives. It is not an exaggeration to say that being LGBTQ in northern New York means constantly having to look behind your back. You simply do not have the luxury of assuming that you are always safe.
Today I invite you to spend a moment looking at these flags–items that belonged to the church. What feelings do you experience looking at the damage someone did to our property?
Since most of us do not belong to the LGBTQ community, think of a flag that might represent who you are in your life– perhaps a Christian flag, or your alma mater’s flag, or an American flag. What happens if you imagine your flag being the one that was vandalized in these pictures. Those of us who aren’t LGBTQ will never be able to know what the pit feels like at the bottom of someone’s stomach who is LGBTQ, but in this small way we can learn to empathize.
Jesus went out of his way to stand with people that his society harmed, intimidated, shamed, and hated. He talked with Samaritan women, he offered care for Roman soldiers, he befriended tax collectors, he visited with adulterers, and he healed disabled people. These actions were deliberate on his part. He, himself, did not identify as a Samaritan or a Roman. He was not an adulterer, a tax collector, or a disabled man. He himself was none of these things, but he knew that the wholeness and wellness of these people mattered to God, especially because they were spat upon by the society that they lived in.
If you’ve ever been knocked down by a bully or made fun of, and someone came to stand next to you, you know how important it is to have that support. Jesus’ call to us is to care for those that our own society hates and despises– to be the hands and the feet of Jesus to them. One way that our church does that is by letting our gay and transgendered brothers and sisters know that we see them, and what’s more, we stand with them when they are being denigrated and harmed.
So, for the 11th time, Renee Stauffer will make new flags to wrap around trees or poles. If you’d like to help her in this effort– either with your crocheting skills or with money to buy materials– I’m sure she’d appreciate the support.
Now, for one last note of good news to end on–the votes are in, and the vast majority of us would like to plant a (blight resistant) American elm tree as the new sapling to grace the front yard of the church! As soon as the Tisdales receive the sapling and it’s warm enough to be transplanting, we will have a get together outside in the front yard to plant and to celebrate!
I look forward to that day with you!
In the letter written to the Galatians, Paul encouraged that church to carry each other’s burdens and to hold fast to their persistence in mimicking Christ. He writes:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially those who belong to the family of believers.”–Galatians 6:9-10
Looking for sunshine this week,