Pentecost

Today, the church celebrates Pentecost, that great story from the book of Acts, in which there’s an outbreak of Holy Spirit in the city of Jerusalem. That day there was wind and fire and fury—some of the same things that were experienced in D.C. last night. But in addition to the fire and fury, there was also a miracle—the ability to hear and understand people of other cultures and races.

We need that miracle of Pentecost now more than ever, especially after the week that has just unfolded.

I can’t breathe were the dying words of a black man named George Floyd, as a police officer kept a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

I can’t breathe were some of the dying words of the 100,000 American victims of Covid-19, just before they were intubated, deaths that have hit communities of color the hardest.

Let us breathe were the chants of protestors, gathered just blocks from our building last night expressing their own fire and fury about white supremacy.

We need the Divine breath, the Great Spirit, that holy wind and fire, now more than ever, so that those of us who claim to follow Jesus, can begin to speak AND to act against evil, racist forces in our world.

Today’s service is being led by our young people. Five young people who have been on a confirmation journey since January. Wrestling with their faith, what it means in the world, and how the church can make a difference.

You are in for a real treat. Their voices are powerful. Their opinions and perspectives can teach us. We need to hear from them.

Today, they lift up the earth, and our knack for at best, ignoring it, and at worst, destroying it. They beg us to pay attention so that they might be able to breathe when they are older.

As Pastor Billy would say, I invite you to breathe in, and I invite you to breathe out. recognizing the Divine Spirit inside of you and the Great Spirit that is needed in our world today.

– Pastor Heather’s words of welcome at Sunday Worship, 5-31-20

What’s Going On: NYAPC’s Work with Returning Citizens Intensifies

The economic strain of the pandemic has made it even more difficult for thousands of returning citizens who are struggling to settle back into their daily lives after incarceration. During the past few weeks, members of the Returning Citizens Assistance Network at NYAPC and other congregations have helped a woman pay her rent so she and her 11-year-old daughter won’t lose their home; provided emergency food for a 57-year-old man who has lost his job; and also donated a wide variety of games, puzzles, books, and other items to youth in detention facilities who have little to do during the pandemic.

The Returning Citizens Assistance Network (RCAN) was organized by NYAPC in 2018 in partnership with the Public Defender’s Service of Washington, DC. Members from the ten congregations that form the network help those who have been in the criminal justice system by serving as mentors, assisting with job searches, volunteering to help with specific tasks, and sometimes making financial contributions to assist with emergencies. Requests for aid come from Public Defender Service on a regular basis and RCAN shares them with interested church members and works to assist as many people as possible.

NYAPC’s work with returning citizens started as a result of a McClendon Scholar Program several years ago that featured Bryan Stevenson, the well known director of the Equal Justice Initiative.  Because of this, the work of RCAN is under the direction of the McClendon Scholar in Residence Council and Theo Brown, the program director.  Any NYAPC member who would like to get more  information about RCAN and how they might help returning citizens should contact Theo Brown at dialogdays@aol.com.

Watch this video for more information about the work RCAN does with the Public Defender Service (and for glimpses of our own Docherty Center and Sanctuary!)

Dinners For Nine Continues … Virtually

How to keep our rotating “Dinners for Nine” going during the pandemic? Several hosts have stepped forward to try doing their dinners on Zoom – and succeeded! Obviously, you bring your own dinner to the computer screen, but other parts remain the same: Your host sets a date and a time, and you get to meet with a variety of congregation members.

One extra that makes it work in a virtual world: having a few questions that everyone takes turns answering. At a recent dinner, after introductions (and some showing off of food and drink), we each answered the question: What is one thing you’re doing that you might want to take with you after the pandemic?  And later in the dinner,  guests each lit a candle and sang Happy Birthday for one of the hosts!

Dinners for Nine takes place each year: Those who sign up take turns hosting and attending six dinners with rotating groups of approximately nine guests. This year’s dinner host and guests lists have already been assigned, and all hosts may not go virtual. Still, if you’d be interested in being on our Dinners for Nine list as a substitute, or in joining others who want to have a virtual dinner, email Karen Dunlap, karenodunlap@gmail.com for help in getting connected.

“Blessing for the Brokenhearted”

Dear Members and Friends,

Join us for worship this Sunday May 24th at 10:00am via Zoom. I’m preaching the final sermon in our Unraveled Series from II Samuel 21:1-14, the little-known story of Rizpah, a widow who publicly laments the lynching of her sons, refusing to leave their discarded bodies for months. It’s a difficult story, but one that can help us think about how we grieve in the wake of unthinkable loss and injustice. Rizpah shows us an honest, unapologetic grief and persistent strength in honoring the innocent lives taken from her.

Sunday Worship Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/150620342
 
On Sunday morning, we will also honor the deaths of choir member, Carl Dees, and Radcliffe Room volunteer, Barry Tindall. Both the Dees and Tindall families have postponed memorial services until we can gather in person, however, the church will mark the deaths of these two saints prior to our Prayers of the People on Sunday morning.

Finally, a blessing from Jan Richardson, from her lovely book The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief:
 
BLESSING FOR THE BROKENHEARTED

There is no remedy for love but to love more.
—Henry David Thoreau
 
Let us agree
for now
that we will not say
the breaking
makes us stronger
or that it is better
to have this pain
than to have done
without this love.

Let us promise
we will not
tell ourselves
time will heal
the wound,
when every day
our waking
opens it anew.

Perhaps for now
it can be enough
to simply marvel
at the mystery
of how a heart
so broken
can go on beating,
as if it were made
for precisely this—

as if it knows
the only cure for love
is more of it,

as if it sees
the heart’s sole remedy
for breaking
is to love still,

as if it trusts
that its own
persistent pulse
is the rhythm
of a blessing
we cannot
begin to fathom
but will save us
nonetheless.
 
Grace and Peace,
Heather

Image by Jan Richardson

Praying the Psalms: Our May FaithTalk

At our May 3 First Sunday FaithTalk, Tom Dunlap shared his years-long daily practice of reading the Psalms. Each encounter is different, he says, even with his favorites. Scripture is “like a mirror.” As he grows and changes, the Psalm offers different reflections.

In Tom’s words: “This is what I do: I settle into a quiet spot, close the door and get calm—slow deep breaths help. I read the psalm to catch its basic meaning and general shape. I read it a second time out loud and try to experience or connect with what the psalmist is feeling and seeking. In other words, I explore it and try to find some part of it, maybe just a line, that I can hold onto and think about. There is always something … But more dynamically, most psalms jolt me, I guess, out of my complacency and everyday self.

“What usually surprises me about a psalm is a mystery, not easy to define. The best I can say is that I’m usually startled by the spiritual awareness that the psalm shares with me. Many times it is getting at the mystery of God.

“For context, let me digress to say that I don’t find this glimpse of mystery or wisdom in the rest of the Bible. The mystery and wisdom are there, but most of the books are long faith-narratives, histories of generations, prophetic visions and sermons for the community of believers. Psalms are different and much shorter. They are hymns or songs that were used in worship for many generations of believers up to today in modern forms.

“The Psalms are considered a part of the Books of Wisdom, but they also resonate with emotions. They share the voices of people struggling with their pain, anger, heartbreak and their faith. All convey a sense of immediacy and on some days, they jolt me with exactly what I needed to hear. On other days a psalm of praise and celebration of God opens my eyes to all that I need to be deeply grateful for.

“That is all that I do: read the daily psalm for meaning and shape. Then read it out loud and try to experience or connect with psalmist and to find the spiritual awareness that resides in the psalm. I also feel that there is no right way to experience this poetry—and plenty of room for your imagination.”

The May 3 First Sunday FaithTalk then discussed two Psalms Tom had picked for us to delve into, Psalm 46 and Psalm 121. When you read these Psalms, are there words that stick with you, that jolt you?

_________________________________________________

Psalm 46 – New International Version

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shieldswith fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

Psalm 121 – New International Version (NIV)

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

If you want to dig deeper into reading the Psalms, here are two book recommendations to get you started:

  • Spirituality of the Psalms, by Walter Brueggmann
  • Journey Through the Psalms, by Denise Dombkowski Hopkins

From Rev. Billy Kluttz

Dear Members and Friends,

I am looking forward to sharing my sermon, Begged to Leave, with you all this Sunday. I am borrowing my title from Hannah Garrity’s beautiful artwork (pictured below) for this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Mark 5: 1-20. Her artwork comes from our sermon series, Unraveled: Seeking God When Our Plans Fall Apart.

Sunday Worship Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/150620342

This week, we will read the story of a man dealing with mental illness, or demon possession as our gospel writer would term it. In the midst of a pandemic, there is a great need for churches to talk about mental health and work to remove the stigma of mental illness. If the Coronavirus epidemic is affecting the mental health of you or someone you know, I encourage you to visit covidmentalhealthsupport.org.

Although I have personally benefited immensely from both pastoral care and professional counseling and talk therapy, I am by no means an expert on mental health. That’s why I’ll be drawing heavily from the writing and research of others during my sermon on Sunday. To give voice to their stories, I’ll be sharing moments of both their struggles and successes. Here are a few of those books that have helped shaped my writing this week and which I commend to your reading:

  • Christ on the Psych Ward by David Finnegan-Hosey
  • Grace is a Preexisting Condition by David Finnegan-Hosey
  • The Lifesaving Church by Rachael Keefe
  • Blessed Are the Crazy by Sarah Griffith Lund

On Sunday, I’ll also be encouraging you to take care of yourself; this week, that may mean taking a break during the sermon or caring for yourself in other ways. For parents, this might also mean deciding if this is a helpful conversation for your children at this time and/or preparing for conversations with your children about mental health after Sunday worship.

As always, Pastor Heather and I are here to talk with you at any time about how it is with your soul and to make appropriate referrals and suggestions for support.

Peace,
Billy

Community Club Supports Students, Even at a Distance

With schools closed and tutors dispersed, how do you maintain a one-on-one tutoring program during a pandemic? The NYAPC Community Club’s Core Council is working on several fronts to keep students connected and supported.

Stay-in-school scholarship checks continue to go out, and the council decided to keep paying student staff during this time. The club has also lent out its supply of Chromebooks to students who need them for school work, and the club’s math zone leader offers help from afar. On the creative front, the 2020 Spring Haiku contest is underway!

The scene in Peter Marshall Hall last fall

The heart of the club is the student-tutor relationship, more difficult to maintain at a distance. But tutors are keeping in touch with students by text, phone or email. Paul Dornan says he’s been sending his student word problems, “just to help him keep his edge,” and reaching out to former students and their families. And Molly Smith has developed a guide to support and encourage tutors to contact students and their families.

The end of the school year is a time of college acceptances and scholarships, awards and celebration. The club has already awarded $18,500 in Dornan college scholarships, with more scholarships from other sources still in process. And college-bound seniors and current collegians will get a chance to get together – via Zoom.

Meanwhile, the Club’s class leaders will review grade reports and make decisions about this year’s academic awards for students in all grades. And while there won’t be an Awards Ceremony in the sanctuary as in years past, Core Council is exploring ways to celebrate its students and tutors, including sharing tutor and senior reflections – always the highlight of each year’s ceremony.

Community Club’s Class of 2019

God’s Mothering Love (From Rev. Billy Kluttz)

Dear Members and Friends, 

Join us for worship this Sunday May 10th at 10:00 a.m. This week, Pastor Heather will continue our preaching series, Unraveled: Seeking God When Our Plans Fall Apart. On Sunday, we’ll remember God’s mothering love towards us in two mother-centered stories. First, we’ll read Jochebed’s brave and brilliant protection of her son Moses in a papyrus basket (Exodus 2:1-10). Then, we’ll consider Paul’s letter to Timothy in which the gift of faith is a family affair, traveling through Timothy’s grandmother and mother before gifting his own life and work (2 Timothy 1:3-7).  

Sunday Worship Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/150620342

On Thursday morning, I shared with our morning prayer group some selections from Tania Runyan’s Second Sky. In Second Sky, Runyan reimagines St. Paul’s letters as modern-day poems. I commend it to your reading as a companion alongside the epistles. Here’s her recreation of 1st Corinthians’ 13th chapter:

The Greatest of These by Tania Runyan—1 Corinthians 13

Embraces the woman whose child screams on the floor of the cereal aisle.
Enters the friend’s new mansion, lifts eyes to the skylights, gives thanks.
Yields the last word on the Facebook fight.
Looks the frownin
g barista in the eye.
Takes a breath and thanks God there is even a zipper to get stuck.
Sends a gift to the wall-punching uncle.
Glances away from the handcuffed boys on the side of the road and prays.
Smiles and listens to the grandmother complain about her knees, rubs the knees, ladles another bowl of soup.
Believes there is a reason that slumped man in the alley was born. Trusts he’ll believe it. 
Endures the quiet, thankle
ss song of work. Echoes long after the cymbals have died.

Peace be with you,

Billy 

Preschool Sunday School Makes the Leap to Zoom!

Famous donkeys, Simon Says, show and tell – NYAPC’s preschool class is going strong Sunday mornings at 9:30 am on Zoom. Our intrepid teachers, Diane Douglas, Morgan Brown and Brian Dewhurst, take turns leading the class, getting between five and fourteen participants each week.

Teachers Brian Dewhurst, Morgan Brown, and Diane Douglas

Like any virtual meeting these days, the classes combine the old with the new. The old: they start with “Bubblegum” and “Alligator” – opening songs from pre-pandemic days that give each child a chance in the spotlight (Bubblegum), and help them quiet down (Alligator). And they read a Bible story each week.

The new? They’ve played Simon Says, charades and pretended to be trees, and the class leaders have figured out how to share a virtual coloring page that the students can “color” with annotate features for craft time. Other new things: getting to eat a snack during class, showing off toys without having to share, and wearing awesome costumes, says Diane.

On Palm Sunday everyone brought palms to wave during the Bible story. “We had some great artistic palms, some palms from nature, and some creative green options,” says Morgan. On another recent Sunday Diane led a Noah’s Ark lesson, and the kids got to bring their animals and share them with the group.

Last week, Brian led the “Famous Donkeys of the Bible” lesson, which included a donkey slideshow and a chance to nominate and vote on the most famous donkey of the Bible. The winner? Balaam’s donkey! (Numbers 22:21-39)

Unraveled and Uncertain? (from Rev. Heather Shortlidge)

Dear Members and Friends,

Join us for worship this Sunday May 3rd at 10:00am. I’m continuing our preaching series, Unraveled: Seeking God When Our Plans Fall Apart.
This week I’m preaching about uncertainty, from the story of Peter walking (and sinking) on water.

Remember to prepare your elements for the sacrament of communion. Since we are in the middle of a stay at home order, it is acceptable to use what you have—crackers, wafers, cookies, even a muffin—and whatever liquid that most resembles the fruit of the vine—juice, wine, a cup of tea. It is not the elements themselves that make the sacrament holy—it is God’s presence—and God is just as present in your living rooms and kitchens as in the sanctuary at 1313 New York Avenue. See our website for the Zoom worship link.

Please keep the feedback coming about Zoom worship. Eight weeks into online services, I’ve enjoyed hearing your stories about how life is different during the pandemic and how worship has been a part of that difference. We continue to refine the service and welcome your insights and suggestions.

With sadness, we write to let you know that Bob Doan died on Sunday afternoon. A Zoom Memorial Service has been scheduled for Saturday May 9, 2020 at 11:00am. (See our website for Zoom information.) Please plan on joining us to mark Bob’s death and to remember that in life and in death, we belong to God.

Finally, the Nominating Committee is actively at work putting together a slate of nominees for the Pastoral Nominating Committee (PNC). If you know a member who would be a good addition to this team, please send their name and a short description of why you’re nominating them to the Chair, David Gillies (dcgillies@verizon.net). The hope is to elect the PNC by early summer.

And a prayer from John Philip Newell to nourish you this week:

Peace where there is war
healing where there is hurt
memory where we have forgotten the other.
Vision where there is violence
light where there is madness
sight where we have blinded each other.
Comfort where there is sorrow
tears where there is hardness
laughter where we have missed life’s joy
laughter where we remember the joy.

Praying with the Earth: A Prayerbook for Peace

Peace be with you,
Heather