UCC pastor: God’s spirit is unmistakable
On Sunday, June 27, United Church of Rockville Centre celebrated “Pride Sunday.” Only days before, our rainbow flag was stolen. After the initial shock, the church worked to do its best to turn the negative incident into something positive, to “Be the Church.”
Working with local advocacy groups, a call went out to support the church and its inclusive message by attending the Pride service. I didn’t know what to expect. Our attendance has been at about twenty since reopening. Before the flag incident, I expected maybe thirty for Pride Sunday, but planned for fifty just in case.
People began to arrive thirty minutes before worship. People of all ages (from nine to ninety-five), diverse sexualities, different skin tones, and even folks from the nearby synagogue filled the pews. Some hadn’t set foot in a church in years. Others couldn’t believe that a church could be like this. So open and accepting. So loving. The count, at least 125!
On Saturday night I went over to the church to practice my message. I had written my sermon before the theft of the rainbow flag. It was focused on how each of us is created in the image of God. I had purchased small mirrors for use during the sermon. The mirrors suggested the larger mirror near the entrance to the sanctuary on our “Faces of Faith” display, where photos of church members and friends are placed. A mirror that first timers can look into to see their face as a “Face of Faith.” We ran out of mirrors, so folks shared. What a joyous problem to have!
As I looked out over the congregation, I was in awe. God’s Spirit was unmistakable. This was the vision of the Church that I had imagined for twenty-one years of ministry. Not just my vision for United Church, but the Church in general. Where people come together, united by a common desire to act justly, love and practice mercy, and walk humbly with God. Where people can celebrate God because they see God in one another, “perfect in their imperfection” as I said on Sunday.
On Friday I reached out to our Church Council to suggest that on Sunday we collect an offering for “Pride for Youth” Long Island instead of an offering for the church. Donations totaled over $1,200. Be the Church!
Other good things are happening as well. Soon I will gather with community leaders to discuss how the Village of Rockville Centre can celebrate Pride “officially” in June 2022. A local synagogue has already suggested a joint worship service next year.
The individuals who stole the flag and committed the vandalism have been found. The flag was returned on Saturday and was displayed on Sunday morning. The church is working with the authorities to make this an exercise in grace, forgiveness, and education.
I am grateful for the wisdom and courage displayed by the church that I serve. And the opportunities that God has provided for us.
The Rev. Scott A. Ressman is the pastor of the United Church of Rockville Centre, Long Island, N.Y.
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