Good Morning Church!
It’s a beautiful early spring morning– the temps are mild, the snow is melting, the sap is running, the mud is mudding, and there’s an earthy, spring smell in the air. What’s not to love?!
We have a busy, fun few weeks ahead of us. Here’s the news for the week:
This Sunday, our own Jeff Mitchell will be preaching for us!
Festival of Sacred Music and Text on Sunday at 3pm
And this Sunday is the day! You are invited to join folks from congregations all over Potsdam at the Potsdam Methodist Church for an afternoon of special music and spoken word. Come hear what the Muslim call to prayer sounds like, and Jewish singing in Hebrew, along with some more familiar tunes. Seven different congregations will be sharing sacred aspects of their traditions for all to hear, followed by a reception with goodies and time to visit with friends and neighbors alike.
Breakfast Potluck for Palm Sunday, April 2nd
Friends, pull out your favorite breakfast recipes! Palm Sunday happens to fall on our potluck Sunday this year, and so we’re going to have some fun with it. Instead of having a lunch potluck after the service, plan to arrive at church at 9am for a delectable breakfast spread. We’re going to need some people to bring gluten-free options, meat and egg options, vegan options, and maybe just maybe someone will have fresh maple syrup!
Special Note: For this potluck, we are hoping that two people might be willing to come a little early to help set up, and then stay afterwards to clean up. Terry and Dale have been doing it every time we have a potluck, and it’s time to share some of the work. Might you be willing to jump in and help your church family in this way? If so, please send me an email and let me know.
Good Friday Service
Friday, April 7th, at 7pm, we will hold our 2nd annual Tenebrae service for Good Friday. Come join us in the sanctuary for this sacred and reflective service lit by candle light.
We will celebrate the risen Christ and God’s New Life together in the sanctuary on Sunday, April 9th. The choir will be singing and the sanctuary will be decked out with lilies. We will not be having coffee hour following the service, however, to allow you to return home and prepare for your family Easter celebrations.
Donating a Lily in Someone’s Memory for Easter
Would you like to remember someone special for Easter this year? For $10, you can purchase a lily for our Easter celebration in the sanctuary, and then take your lily home with you later. Beth Grace has offered to purchase and arrange our lilies, but we need to know how many to order, and for whom they are dedicated.
If you’d like to participate, reply to this email and let me know how many lilies you’d like to order, and for whom they are in memory of. (You can also share a short story about why this person was important to you, if you’d like.) Then, when you come to church, bring a check or cash in an envelope with a note that it’s for “Lilies.”
We will include the names of our special loved ones in an insert in our Easter bulletin.
Making Masks Optional
Friends, I am absolutely delighted to report that Session has been in discussion, and decided that beginning in May, we will no longer require people to wear masks during worship. Covid numbers have remained lower and relatively stable the last few months, and with good weather on the way– it’s finally time to change our policy! Huzzah!!
That said, you are certainly more than welcome to continue wearing a mask for as long as you want or need, and we will make sure to continue to provide them for people who still desire one, but beginning May 7th you will have the option to show your beautiful smile to your neighbors in worship.
A Special Request
A couple of weeks ago, Kristin Weitz-Brown, who now works as a mental health counselor at Potsdam Central School, called me. She has an extra special student in dire need of love and support.
Last week I had lunch with Kristin and this student, Andre Williams, to talk about Andre and his situation. Andre is an 18-year old, young Black man living in the area, whose mother could not take care of him when he was little and gave him up to her father and step-mom to care for him when he was 2 months old.
For most of his life, Andre’s grandmother cared for and raised him, but a few years ago she got lymphoma and died. Unfortunately, from what it sounds like, Andre and his grandfather do not see eye to eye on many things, and so, when his grandmother died, Andre made the hard decision to leave home.
For the past 2 years he’s been homeless– couch surfing when possible, and living outside in better weather when he hasn’t been able to find a place to live.
Right now he’s staying with some people on the Jingleville Rd. in Canton, near De Kalb, but he’s still able to attend school in his home district of Potsdam because of his situation. (They send out a van every morning at 6:30am to pick him up and bring him to school.) Andre doesn’t know how long this living situation is going to last, however, and what he really needs is a steady, consistent home to live in for the next two years, until he graduates from high school.
Back when he was younger, Andre made some bad decisions for himself and dropped out of school, so he’s currently only in 10th grade. But, in his own words, he said, “I had to learn the hard way about what’s important in life. And now I know that finishing school and being a good person are what’s important.”
He’s doing everything he can to hold himself together, but because he isn’t 21 years old yet, there’s not much the state can do to help him besides give him SNAP benefits and Medicaid. (The reasons for this are long and involved.)
When I talked to Kristin on the phone a few weeks ago, she told me that he’s a very special kid, and last week I saw for myself what she was talking about. Even though he’s homeless and raising himself, Andre has only missed 2 days of school this year. He’s kind and thoughtful. He really cares about finishing school. He would love to get a job either working at the animal shelter in Potsdam, or cooking or doing dishes at Maxfield’s. He’s smart. He’s trying to be as responsible as he can with the little money he has– making sure he keeps enough minutes on his phone so that he can stay in touch with the school and with Kristin, and buying socks and underwear, instead of candy and video games. And he’s doing what he can to support his girlfriend in Hermon, who will be having their baby in a month. (His girlfriend is a senior at Hermon-De Kalb School and lives with her mother, who is supporting her daughter and trying to be a positive influence in Andre’s life too.) Andre can’t live with them full time, but he stays there on the weekends.
Andre showed up to lunch the day we met with a notebook, so that he could take notes, and asked if I needed help being wheeled out to my car in my wheelchair after lunch was over. (He was proud to say that he used to push his Granny around and knew how to do it.)
When I asked him what he would want to do with his life when he graduates– if there were no barriers in the way– he said, “Honestly, I have no idea. I’m just trying to stay alive and get through school right now. But,” he paused to think, “I want to be there for Amy (his girlfriend) and for my son Octavier. I want to do my best to help take care of my son. That’s what I would want– whatever that means.”
Andre has given me permission to speak with you– with people who might be willing to consider having him live with them in the Potsdam School District. This is a big ask, I know, and I don’t expect that many of you would be able to take this on. But perhaps you are. If this is something you might be open to, I’d love to discuss it more with you in person, and perhaps have you meet Andre yourself.
He is fairly independent– having to grow up really fast. He said that he can’t pay for rent, but that he would help contribute to the food bill with his SNAP benefits, and he would be delighted to help out around the house in whatever ways people might need– mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, helping with household chores, etc. Also, he doesn’t drink, “party,” or involve himself in criminal activity, and has a quiet, shy personality.
This young man has never caught a break in his entire life, and with God’s grace, hopefully we can help him to find a loving family to take him in for up to 2 years, to support him, and help him carry the load of getting through high school — until he’s got his feet under him and a diploma in his hand.
Swimming in the Same Sea
There’s a country song that’s popular on the radio right now. The lyrics sing, “We’re all in the same boat. Fishing in the same hole
Wondering where the same time goes. We’re all in the same boat.”
The song is meant to suggest that we’re all struggling in life– that everyone is just trying to get by– and so we need to help each other out. Like a good country song, the moral of the story waxes with these words: “So share them peaches, if you’re holding…. help somebody who might be struggling; Spread a little love, gotta give back something. If the ship keeps rocking, we’ll all go overboard!”
The sentiment of the song is great, I’ll admit. And I appreciate it for that. Only, there’s a grave blindness to injustice built into the lyrics.
Friends, we’re not actually all in the same boat on the seas of life. Some of us are riding the waves in sturdy, steady vessels, while others of us are holding on for dear life in dingys, and still others of us are being tossed about in the tumult of the waves with water up our noses and no idea of which way is up and the other way is down.
This reality is exactly why God requires those of us with resources to share those resources. Salvation comes to God’s people, not as individuals, but in community. When we live in a way that pulls the most vulnerable of us out of the crashing waves, so that we are “all in the same boat”– that’s when the family of God is made manifest in the world.
When that becomes reality, and Andre, and kids in foster care, and incarcerated people, and people with disabilities, and people who struggle with mental health problems– when those of us who live on the margins of society have the chance to make it in life like those of us who ride in “the sturdy boats” of society– that’s when the end of this country song becomes real.
The final verse of the song sings this:
“We’re all in the same boat,
Fishing in the same hole,
Wondering where the same time goes,
(And money too).
Tryna’ fix the same broke hearts,
Wishing on the same stars,
We’re all hoping hope floats
And we’re all in the same boat
Yeah, we’re all hoping hope floats
We’re all in the same boat.”
Friends, hope floats when we choose for hope to float for everyone. And God’s realm becomes real when we decide to share it with everyone.
Hoping that Hope Floats,
p.s. Here’s what to email me back about:
1. Can you help out with our Palm Sunday potluck?
2. Would you like to buy a lily in memory of someone for Easter?
3. Might you be able to share your home with Andre until he finishes high school?