Everywhere a Sign
Alas for those who sing idle songs… – Amos 6:5 (NRSV)
Judson Memorial Church in New York City has an iconic front sign, where pithy and provocative sayings have been posted for years. Like “Black Lives Matter,” which stayed up a long time, even though it is not yet a long-enough time. Like “Beware the military industrial complex,” quoting former President Dwight Eisenhower. Alec Baldwin still remembers walking by that quote.
You can see a picture of the not-neon, not-flashy sign at www.judson.org. Some people even ask for updates, knowing that one way or another, we’ll say something provocative or silly or timely.
Sometimes at staff meetings, it became contentious about whose quote would be chosen for the week. Or when someone inferred that the process of choosing our weekly message was less than inclusive. During Covid we didn’t replace the sign regularly because no one was “at” the church.
As we slowly came back, a new message went up, saying:
“Call me when you want,
Call me when you need,
Call me in the morning,
I’ll be on my way.”
(Lil Nas X)
This sign went viral. There was nothing idol about its song. It received 1.7 million views on Instagram and 48,000 plus likes on Facebook. Yes, we are very pleased with ourselves. Especially since this sign elicited the same response that early “God is Still Speaking” messages did. It almost broke our site. It came from kids who “never thought a church would say that.” The UCC commits the sin of pride every time we argue that we are the best church no one has ever heard of. Let’s keep up the good work.
Still-speaking God, you who are always on your way to us, thanks for taking our call. Amen.
Donna Schaper is Pastor at the Orient Congregational Church on the far end of Long Island, New York. Her most recent book is I Heart Francis: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.