Garden Time May 2019

Beloved Church-in-the-Garden Family & Friends,

May celebrates Mother’s Day and we at the Church-in-the-Garden wish all a very happy and joyous Mother’s Day. We invite you and your mother, grandmother, godmother, aunt, sister, mother-in-law, and anyone else who believes in the power of a provider, nurturer, teacher, friend, and all the other adjectives that women stand for to join us for worship on May 12, 2019. It promises to be a blessing to all who attend.

While the national celebration of Mother’s Day is one that has been sensationalized and monetized, I still believe that at the core of our Mother’s Day observance is the recognition of the divine nature of God that, for many, is embodied in our mothers and caregivers. This day should serve as reminder of the ever present motherhood of God. However, I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to recognize the unspoken reality of this day for so many. From mothers lost and unknown to difficulties and complicated relationships between mothers and children, Mother’s Day does not engender a monolithic feeling for all. So, wherever many of us may fall in this tapestry of emotions and feelings that come with this nationally celebrated day, know that our church and this pastor acknowledge and respect the many and nuanced views and understandings that this day holds and the emotional weight it may carry. We welcome you to our house for fellowship and as a resource center to help you explore and work through these very important issues.

What a wonderful Holy Week we shared last month. Beginning on Palm Sunday to our Maundy Thursday service and culminating with our Resurrection Sunday festivities including the baptizing of two people, our church was blessed and spirit-filled! We had a tremendous turnout for our pancake breakfast and an even more came to Easter Sunday worship. Our church enjoyed worshiping with a nearby student at Hofstra and her childhood friend, as well as a family from Queens by way of Guyana. First time visitors and friends who had returned to the place where they were married years ago came to worship. From Freeport, LI to Massachusetts, our Resurrection Day was a testament to a church who believes in a risen savior. Please take some time and visit our website and you can hear full length sermons and video clips of Holy Week and many other Sunday services. 

Many of us have heard about the burning of Black churches in Louisiana, the Sri Lankan Easter Church bombings, the fatal shooting at Chabad of Poway Synagogue, and the fatal shooting at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. These atrocities have seemly become all too common and we are, or maybe already have, become desensitized to these despicable forms of violence and hate. For me, the intrusion of evil and violence in houses of faith and institutions of learning are so egregious and infuriating that I struggle to find the words to adequately convey my indignation. What is even more troubling is the revelation that the suspect in the shooting at the synagogue is reportedly a member of an Orthodox Presbyterian church, a small evangelical denomination that wants to offset mainline Presbyterian liberalism. The alleged shooter was steeped and learned in reformed theological tenets that conflated evangelical theology into white nationalism. Ultimately, it gave him a warped view and wrong sense of theological “rightness” and a religious covering to impart violence and death to those whom he felt religiously superior. 

Unfortunately, the notion of Christians perpetrating violence unto others has historical precedence and is a major mark on Christianity to this day. America’s Christian identity has much to atone for historically and the way we have justified our violence wrapped in a skewed and narrow reading of sacred texts is of grave concern and cannot be allowed to go unchecked and avoided. The ramifications are deadly and leave a trail of heartbreak and hurt for those affected.  

As American Baptists, we know that there are tensions within our denomination and with various interpretations and application to our polity and our corporate theology. Yet, if any of those differences should be conflated to espouse tenets that are fundamentally counter to the love ethic and example of Jesus Christ, we have an obligation to speak and to act out of love. To be clear, there can be no equivocation of the message of Jesus Christ that condones and countenances violence and murder in the name of the Lord or the message of the Gospels. Theology that draws a message of violence or supremacy from the Good News of Jesus Christ has to condemned and refuted wherever and whenever applicable. 

It is my hope that we as a church family, and all who consider ourselves to be followers of Jesus Christ, and those who believe in their religion as being a religion of peace and love, would work together to combat violence and religious violence especially. We must continue to stand up, speak out, and work with other faiths to end violence that extends from our myopic views of theological and religious understanding. We must dialogue with those whom we do not know theologically and learn more of our commonalities in love and for peace than our opposition to beliefs and understandings religiously that may run counter to our own. This is the work of the church and faith institutions in any given community: We are called to create spaces of encountering, learning, and community with one another and the Divine.

Therefore, let not this month go by were we do nothing and then expect change to come. Let not this month pass without us giving ourselves over to the radical and affirming love of Jesus Christ, peace, justice, and unity. The Church-in-the-Garden welcomes you all to work with us as we endeavor to strengthen our Christ led lives in the promotion of peace and love. We invite you to fellowship and join with us as we pray, worship, and actively seek to be embodiments of Jesus Christ’s love. Join us as we strive to know our neighbor better, to change structures of discrimination and oppression, and to serve and to love one another just as Christ did. Come and share your hopes for humanity with us. Come and share your story. Come to the Church-in-the-Garden and help us change our communities for the better. The Garden is open to you!

Blessings Aplenty,

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Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr.