Flower Dedications – Easter 2021

Delivery of fresh flowers to a few members of the congregation occurs every week, and will continue until the sanctuary re-opens for worship services.

These lovely little flower arrangements are made possible by gifts to the Diaconal Ministers’ Flower Fund from members and friends of The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church who have requested prayers and made dedications in honor or memory of loved ones.

These are the donors to the Flower Fund during the 2021 Easter celebration.

IN MEMORY OF

GIVEN BYIN MEMORY OF
Mary and Warren KrugOur parents, Elsie and Robert Maddox, and Adele and Walter Krug
Mahler-Campbell FamilyElizabeth Campbell, John Mahler, and Gary Campbell 
Beth Law and Kenneth Law, Jr.Our parents, Kenneth and Louise Law
Cindy Dickinson and Stuart DickinsonOur parents, Nancy and Hillman Dickinson
Annie Wong and Calvin ChengMan Chiu Hong, Juno Mei Chen, and Jean Hong-Wong
Jim and Ann DavidsonOur grandson, Samuel P. Beachy
Barbara and Paul DornanOur son, Andrew Charles Dornan
Mary SpatzTurley and Lucyle Mace, and Margaret Corman
Karen George and Adrienne GeorgeReverend Bryant George
John, Stacey, Jacob, and Nori GagosianOur grandparents and great-grandparents
Evelyn Ying and Greg LewisEvelyn’s parents, John and Margaret Ying
Wilson GoldenKris Golden
Meg and Doug HouseVirginia Peddle, Peggy Evans, and Alice Watson
Cathy and John Schultheis  Our grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who were members of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church
Rob SavageMy parents, Reverend O.L. Savage and Lucille Savage
Gwenn and Paul GebhardPenny and Granville Sewell, and Paul Gansevoort Gebhard

IN HONOR

GIVEN BYIN HONOR OF
Chess Campbell, and Paul and Gwenn GebhardThe Church clergy and staff, and the Internet Technology Support Team
Karen George and Adrienne GeorgeOur parents, Henry and Luvenia George
Meg and Doug HousePhil and Helen Hanna
John, Stacey, Jacob and Nori GagosianLindsey Younger, Jack and Gail Gagosian, and Jan Gagosian

From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

Through the Palms by Lisle Gwynn Garrity | A Sanctified Art | sanctifedart.org

Join us for worship this Sunday, March 28th, to celebrate Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week. I’m preaching from John 12:1-19. As we continue to worship virtually, we do not have our usual palm branches or bulletins to wave, however, I do invite you to get creative and have something to wave as part of our service on Sunday—a branch, a piece of fabric, a soft book or magazine.

Sunday’s music includes the beautiful “Festival Hymn on Ellacombe,” that includes brass, organ, the NYAPC choir and youth, and guests from Bethesda Presbyterian Church.

Join us on Zoom at 10:00 am
Dial: 1-929-436-2866 with Meeting ID: 150 620 342

Immediately following worship, there will be a second conversation with the Session to hear more about our nimbler governing structure, a new staff position, and our developing partnership with the BID.

A poem, “Peaceful Protest,” to nourish you as we approach Palm Sunday:

I wonder if Jesus could feel his heartbeat
In his throat, the way I do when I’m afraid.
I wonder if he had to take deep breaths,
In through his nose, out through his mouth,
Tricking his body into a state of calm.
I wonder if he was nauseous, like I am
When I’m headed into a hard conversation.
I wonder if he had to summon his courage,
Tucking fear away so that he could hold onto
What mattered most with both hands.
I wonder, because time has taught us
That it is not uncommon
For a peaceful protest
To start or end
With an unjust death.
So I wonder,
Did he know?
Was he afraid?
Did anyone see it?
I want to hold what matters most with both hands.

Peace and Courage,

Heather

Urgent Appeal for Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba

from Ruling Elder Marilyn Seiber, who leads our partnership with First Presbyterian Church in Havana, Cuba, part of the PCUSA Cuba Partners Network.

At a webinar on March 4 with leaders and pastors of the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba, we have learned that the economic situation in Cuba is dire and that the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba is in extreme financial straits beyond its ability to resolve.

As a result, the PCUSA’s Cuba Partners Network (CPN) has sent out an appeal to help meet the Cuban church’s $75,000 shortfall. CPN has called for an immediate response in order that funds can be transferred to Cuba by Easter Sunday, April 4. 

To support our Cuban Presbyterian Church friends and partners, go to www.nyapc.org/give-now, select credit card/direct debit, and use the drop down menu to select “Cuba Appeal 2021 Fund.” In order to meet the April 4 deadline, all donations should be made no later than Wednesday, March 31.

Background: 

The economic situation in Cuba is now dire—especially for the churches.

Cubans have been hit by the “perfect storm” of Covid, tightened U.S. economic sanctions, and the Cuban Government’s implementation of transitioning to a single currency. Cuban Presbyterian pastors have said that conditions are reaching the same as during the “Special Period” decades ago with shortages of food, medicines, and basic living supplies. The Cuban Government’s monetary policy has quadrupled prices, and the Government has increased subsidies for those employed by the Government and mandated an increased minimum wage for all Cubans. This has left the churches in an untenable financial situation because of increased costs, mandated salaries, and loss of income from congregations because of closed churches. Churches are “outside” the Government’s support program and are unable to pay pastors the mandated wage; pay for electricity, water, other utilities; continue with Synod printed communications; secure supplies and keep mission activities functioning.

The PC(USA) Cuba Partners Network has asked partner churches and individuals to participate in raising $75,000 for the Synod that will support:

  • Pastoral staff – as church employees they dd not receive the recent national pay raise given to state employees and are now at a monthly deficit
  • Printed communications – accurately sharing announcements and news as well as God’s word
  • Food and supplies – the church is negotiating directly with the government
  • Synod activities – children’s camps, electricity at the seminary

Please help our Presbyterian brothers and sisters in Cuba in this time of extreme need for the church!

Dreams, Visions and Apocalypse: Alternative Realities in the Old Testament

God calls us through dreams, interrupts our lives through visions, and we learn through apocalypse to see more, hear more, and imagine more into a future where we make more space in our reality for the divine. – Dr. Judy Fentress-Williams, Virginia Theological Seminary

“It’s been a really good year for the Old Testament,” said Dr. Judy Fentress-Williams as she introduced her McClendon Scholar webinar Saturday March 20. With the experiences over the past year of pandemic and confronting the realities of racism in this country, we are in a place of disorientation, she said, and these ancient scriptures “can help us understand what we do when the world as we know it goes away.”

Our stories resonate – with stories of wilderness, of Noah’s flood, of Israel’s exile. The stories form a kind of virtual reality. We can “try on different personalities, complaining with the Israelites in the desert, experimenting with theo-politics with Israel’s kings. But these alternative realities are not a monolith, she said. On Saturday, she reflected on three: dreams, visions, and apocalypse.

Sharing Sacred Encounters
She started with a look at Psalm 126, which begins “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.” This is a pilgrimage Psalm, composed to sing on the way to Jerusalem. This dream is a memory of the past, of a time that God made things right. It “evokes the memory of a feeling when God showed up.”

Dreams function as important literary devices in the Old Testament. Jacob’s dream of a ladder with angels ascending and descending in Genesis 28 confirms that Jacob will carry God’s promise forward. And it does more: Jacob’s encounter is not on a mountain, not where he or the ancients would have expected an encounter with God. The good news for us? “Sacred encounters can take place in the most unlikely of places.”

Fentress-Williams explored how dreams function in the story of Joseph in detail, showing how dreams don’t belong to just one person. Joseph accurately interprets Pharoah’s dreams, and saves the nation (and his own family), from famine. “Our dreams are not just for us, but we must invest in other people’s dreams,” she said.

In another dream story, young Samuel hears God calling, but needs Eli to help him understand. This story is not only about God calling Samuel, but about God calling on Eli , an old priest with mistakes in his past, to invest in the dreams of others. The story shows us that “God can use what we get wrong and what we get right,” she said, and helps us consider when it is time to “stop building our own storehouses and invest in someone else’s future.”

Visions as Touchstones
With a vision or visitation, God’s realm enters our own reality. After reading Isaiah’s call narrative from Isaiah 6:1-8, Fentress-Williams pointed out how the words paint a picture of an alternate reality – seraphs with six wings – reminding Isaiah that “he is earthly and this is not.” Prophetic calls are often visual, she said, as if God has to both show us and tell us.

And, just as dreams are not for one person alone, Isaiah’s vision is not for him alone. As a prophet, he must struggle to find language to communicate God’s vision, but with this work, Isaiah helps his people get through, and the vision reminds us that what happens on this earth is only a part of the entire picture. “The vision is Isaiah’s touchstone, … and the vision is shared with us so that it can be our touchstone as well.”

A Glimpse of God’s Realm
Apocalyptic literature also reminds us that our current reality is not the only possibility. This literature comes out of persecuted communities, communities whose experience of their worldly reality is so painful that they develop a dual consciousness. “There is no room to exist in this world, and so the space where they exist is in this other realm,” she said.

The term apocalypse means to reveal or uncover, and these narratives reveal this other realm of God. These communities are also interested in stories that point to a time when God will make things right. When we read them, we should remember the dynamics of power in our own worlds, she said. And these narratives also “remind us that God’s realm is real, revealing things to us that we all need to remember about what it means to be people of God. “

After a Q&A with Rev. Heather Shortlidge, Fentress-Williams concluded by reading Psalm 126:

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.

You can see the full video, including a question and answer Session, on this video recording.

From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

Image inspired by John 12:20-33 by Hannah Garrity | Sanctified Art | sanctifiedart.org

It has been another violent week in America, as we watched in horror the news of a gunman opening fire on Tuesday, killing eight people, six of Asian descent. Violent people exist in every country in the world, but what’s unique about America is that we allow them access to guns.

To those reeling, especially our Asian American siblings, we pray for an end to white supremacy and hate-filled rhetoric, and commit to doing the work to stand against any form of diminishment of our Asian American and Pacific Islander siblings. We stand with you and beside you, and even more importantly, God stands with you and beside you.

One way we begin to learn and grow and reform our ways is through worship. Join us this Sunday, March 21st for the fifth Sunday of Lent. The service has been crafted around Scripture readings from Jeremiah 31: 31-34 and John 12:20-33, and will continue our Again & Again theme, this week focusing on “we are reformed.” Our time together will include prayers of lament for the discriminatory laws, violence, and hatred that have plagued Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, Koreans, Vietnamese, and all Asian immigrants.

Join us on Zoom at 10:00am
Dial: 1-929-436-2866 with Meeting ID: 150 620 342

Immediately following worship, you are invited into a conversation with the Session about recent actions they have taken to create a nimbler governing structure and to continue refining the church’s staff structure. Click here for a written update from the Session and then join us after worship to talk further. If you are unable to make it this Sunday, a duplicate conversation will also be held next Sunday, March 28th.

Finally, a poem, “Keep Digging” by Rev. Sarah Are, to nourish your spirit this week:

I can feel change inside of me.
It’s a slow burn.
Change usually starts out hot—
Defensive and angry,
A self-righteous blanket
Of, “I am right and here’s why . . .”
I wrap it around my shoulders
Like a barricade.
I fight the temptation to lean forward,
To play the challenger,
To argue with confidence.
But in time,
Almost always,
The heat fades.
The air leaves the balloon.
The audacity of it all
Starts to wear off.
And eventually,
What I am left with
Is myself
And a big, open sky.
It’s colder here.
It’s quieter.
I can hear my thoughts.
And in this big, wide openness
I am able to say out loud,
“Maybe I wasn’t right.
Maybe I need to learn.
Maybe it’s time for change.
Maybe that’s okay.”
And if I’m quiet, and if I’m paying attention,
I can usually hear God whisper inside of me,
“Good work, my child. Now keep digging.”

Peace and Courage,

Heather

Slow Healing

by Tom Dunlap

A Reflection on Exodus 15:22-27; Psalm 102; Hebrews 3:1-6 from the 2021 Lenten Devotional Booklet

Dashing into the desert, the Hebrew tribes have just escaped plague-infested Egypt and are suddenly thirsty, so they start “grumbling against Moses.” In distress he cries out to the Lord and drinkable water is provided for the demanding people.

Then and there, the Lord speaks directly to them, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and … if you pay attention to His commands, I will not bring on you any of the diseases (10 plagues) I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you! (Ex 15:22-26).”

Things do get a bit better, but the impatient tribes must learn humility and how to wait on the Lord, as they heal.

And if we also listen carefully, Psalm 102 shares a second lesson in how to heal. Now, centuries later, Jerusalem is abandoned and the Temple destroyed; the majority of its residents and workers exiled. The city is a shadow of its former self. Shops boarded up. Streets empty. All around, the hills are quiet and dark at night. During this Babylonian Exile, Psalm 102 was written to lament this great loss and the isolation felt by the exiles.

Speaking for all the captives, the psalmist cries out:

My days vanish like smoke…
My heart is sick and withered like grass… I lie awake; I have become
Like a bird alone on a roof…
My days are like the evening shadows;
I wither away like dry grass…

Yet out of this isolation, this drought of the spirit, she has a vision of the Lord:

The Lord looked down from His Sanctuary on high, To hear the groans of the prisoners
And to release those condemned to death.

This vision makes the speaker aware in the midst of her pain and isolation, that the Lord of all Creation abides. Spiritually aware, she can declare:

So the Name of the Lord will be declared in Zion And His praise in Jerusalem,
When the faithful peoples and the kin-dom Assemble to worship the Lord! (Ps 102: 3-22)

So, all that has been taken away or lost, will return. Jerusalem may be in ashes and the people scattered, but the glory of the Lord endures. And when she praises this all-giving, all-loving Lord, her hope renews and returns. The ephemeral meets the Eternal. Her praise lifts her out of exile and into a spiritual awareness of the glory of the Lord. In a mysterious way the Lord lives in the praises of faithful believers.

O Lord, give us the strength and spiritual awareness to wait for our safe return to our cities and communities. For You are the Lord of healing and grace. Amen.

See the full Lenten Devotional Booklet for 2021 here.

From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

Join us for worship this Sunday, March 14th, as we celebrate the one-year anniversary of worshiping online. I’m preaching the story of Nicodemus interrogating Jesus from John 3:1-17. There will be space to reflect upon the past year and our experience of virtual worship, and we’ll also celebrate the sacrament of communion.

Join us on Zoom at 10:00am
Dial: 1-929-436-2866 with Meeting ID: 150 620 342

Do remember your communion elements and that it is Daylight Savings time. And at 2:00pm on Sunday, you are invited to return for a Zoom Memorial Service to celebrate the life of Kathy Walter.

This week, your Session moved forward with several exciting new initiatives, including approving a new, more nimble governing structure for the church. Please plan on attending one of the upcoming “Conversations with the Session” on either March 21 or 28 immediately following worship, in order to hear more from our Elders about the new structure and how it will unfold.

Some poetry by Ellen Bass to sustain you this week:

“The Thing Is”

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

Peace and Courage,

Heather

From Rev. Heather Shortlidge

Dear Friends,

This Sunday, March 7, we will join other siblings in Christ in the closing worship service of the Next Church Annual Gathering. I’ve had a chance to preview this service, and you’ll not want to miss it. The music, the liturgy, and the preaching are fantastic!

The worship service is pre-recorded and will be available here at any time on Sunday (if you try and watch the service prior to Sunday, you won’t be successful. The link will not go live until early Sunday morning). If you are registered and participating in the Next Church Annual Gathering, you can also watch the service on their platforms with other conference attendees at 11:00am. We look forward to returning to live Zoom worship on Sunday March 14, at which we will celebrate the sacrament of communion.

If you’d like to attend the March 5-7 Next Church Annual Gathering, Breaking. Blessing. Building, it’s not too late to register. The entire event is free, but you must register. All of our church officers have been strongly encouraged to attend as a way to stay connected with the larger church. Here are step by step instructions on how to register.

As people begin to receive their vaccines, the Worship & Music committee wants to update you on online worship. At its January meeting, the Session re-evaluated online worship and approved the following motion:

“Barring definitive scientific developments that would safely allow groups to gather without physical distancing and safety precautions, The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church worship services will remain outside the sanctuary through at least June 30th. The Session shall reassess a return date at the May 2021 Session meeting, considering the medical consensus of post-vaccine safe gathering in groups and the completion of the HVAC project.”

So, worship will continue online for at least several more months. In the meantime, the one-year anniversary of online worship is quickly approaching. In order to mark this milestone, we’re asking people to record a favorite moment or memory of worshipping online, in order to compile a video to use in worship on Sunday March 14th. Let us know what online worship has meant to you here: https://www.nyapc.org/celebration/

Finally, some poetry by Rev. Diana Carroll, the Rector of St. Luke’s Eastport, to nourish your spirit this week:

“But Lent”

I would love to become
the kind of person
who makes sure the dishes
are done
every night
so she can wake up
in the morning
to the peaceful welcome
of a clean kitchen.
I would love to become
the kind of person
who replies to every email
the same day it arrives
and keeps a neat,
nearly empty
inbox.
I would love to become
the kind of person
who never picks
at her cuticles
or bites
at her lips
or chews
at the insides
of her cheeks
until the dentist
gives her a lecture about it.
But Lent
is not for trying
to become someone
I am not.
It is for honoring
the person
I already am.
My wholeness.
My integrity.
My belovedness.
And so,
in this holy season,
I will not strive
for self-improvement.
I will not seek
to create new habits
or to break
the old ones.
I will not squeeze myself
into impossible expectations
guaranteed to leave me angry
and disappointed
when I fail.
Instead,
I will do nothing
but breathe,
receiving the quiet gift
of every inhale
and every exhale,
receiving it even
when I am too busy
or distracted
to notice.
Somehow,
God is present
in the breath,
in the breathing.
And from time to time,
if I simply
stop
trying,
I may be given
the grace
of knowing it.

Peace and Courage,

Heather

Rev. James Lawson Gives New Year’s Message to America

Civil Rights Leader Rev. James Lawson focused on the power of vision and nonviolence in his presentation for a McClendon Scholar in Residence webinar on Feb. 10.

Our nation’s founding documents provide “monumental and miraculous” visions for our nation, but forces of sexism, racism, violence and “plantation capitalism” have prevented the United States from realizing these visions, said Lawson. And the “nonviolent campaign” of the mid 20th century provides a model for realizing those visions today.

The Gift of Vision. Rev. Lawson, the architect of nonviolence of the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century, began his talk with a focus on vision. Drawing on the King James translation of Proverbs 19:18—“Where there is no vision, the people perish”—Rev. Lawson suggested adding a verse: “Where vision flourishes, the people prosper.”

“The God of history gave we the people of the USA visions,” said Lawson, referring to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These documents represent “monumental, miraculous vision in the midst of a world that was largely under the domination of tyrannies.” And the visions of these documents can heal our community today, he argued.

According to Lawson, our current political divides stem from “the tension of a promising future against the reality of our not wanting to use the visions we have.” Four interconnected forces hold us back: sexism, racism, violence, and plantation capitalism, he said, adding to and modifying Martin Luther King, Jr.’s triad of racism, materialism and militarism.

Sexism and Plantation Capitalism. In listing his four forces, Lawson listed sexism first, emphasizing its importance, and said that each of these four forces relies on the others, with violence permeating them all, especially what Lawson calls “plantation capitalism.”

“We do not have a free market, we do not have entrepreneurship, because we are an economy that worships wealth and fame and the power and the political domination that comes from the wealth. And we are more of a plantation capitalist society today than we were in 1787 or 1789.” Currently, our nation’s politics are “more connected to these forces than … to a vision of the equality of all humankind,” said Lawson.

A Model for Today. But what John Lewis termed the “nonviolent campaign of America” from 1953 to 1973 is a model for realizing our founding visions today. Lawson called the civil rights movement an umbrella term that originates in 1866 civil rights legislation, and said the nonviolent campaigns of the 1953 to 1973 form one part of this bigger movement. These “direct action campaigns,” from the Little Rock Nine to the Montgomery bus boycott to sit in campaigns in Nashville and across the nation, were “dramatic manifestations of our determination that the United States will end its experiment with becoming a racist nation, especially in the light of the Constitution and ‘we the people.’”

Rev. Lawson made a distinction between education and training for these nonviolent campaigns. Education focused on the “why and how” of nonviolence, while training, especially the preparation immediately before an action, focused on “preparing our emotions” for the physical/psychic threats which the protestors were likely to endure. It was a disciplined people who engaged in the struggle, and part of the education was to discover the humanity of those who opposed us, he said.

The Work of the Church. Lawson prefers Lewis’ term “nonviolent campaign” to refer to the 20th century civil rights movement, but noted that these campaigns could also be called “the Black Church Movement.” They provide “an illustration of engaging Jesus’ primary teaching of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven … a major example of what it means to be the people of God, he said. “I lay it before you – if you want to talk about what the work of the church … ought to be. There it is. … That’s the message.”

This model can be updated, and that work has already begun in the Black Lives Matter movement, which, he emphasized, has been largely nonviolent. Asking Martin Luther King’s question, “Where do we go from here?”, Lawson said academia and unions, in addition to religious organizations, all have a role to play. “What the world needs is nonviolent campaigns that make the 20th century look pale in comparison,” he said.

After his talk, the program included questions and dialog between Lawson and Rev. Joe Daniels of Emory Fellowship United Methodist Church, who is a family friend of Lawson, along with Civil Rights Leader Bernard Lafayette and Historian Taylor Branch. Asked what vision should be lifted up for our nation today as the program came to a close, Lawson returned to his theme: “We hold these truths to be self evident,” he said. “That’s the most important vision and the most teachable.”

Lawson concluded the evening:

“Nonviolence is the creative energy of the universe, that created the universe, that created the human race and spread us across the earth, and it is the power we must learn if indeed we appreciate the gift of life and want to exalt that gift in every way we can.”

You can watch Lawson’s full webinar here.