Right now it’s early spring and a beautiful afternoon here on the Green in Woodbridge. It’s gorgeous outside. The light is higher in the sky and it won’t get dark until after 7pm. While walking up from the back parking lot I met two couples with children: one family returning from a walk in the woods and the other having fun on our playground. As lovely as it is, it’s still pretty chilly, 46 degrees, and the wind is hard, feeling more like winter. One of the dads was struggling to keep a coat on their daughter. “I don’t need it, it’s spring!” she said, “you still think it’s winter.” She was right, but she still needed a coat. After a struggle the dads won out. It isn’t easy. Moving from the dead of winter to full-blown spring involves more than following the calendar. We have to reorient ourselves as one season transitions into another. We must think differently.
Occasionally I make a list of things for which I’m grateful. I understand it to be good for my health. So, I want to share with you my gratitude for our church and a few of the ways we are being blessed by God.
— I am grateful for the gift of our buildings and our commitment to opening them to the community. We are a home for AA, Alateen, Ala-non, Boy Scout Troop 907, The Orange Community Nursery School, the Neighborhood Music School’s classes and recitals as well as Elm City Girls Choir rehearsals and concerts. The Woodbridge Sr. Center served lunch in our parish house while an accessible bathroom was being built, and the Woodbridge Historical Society, the Woodbridge Garden Club, and the Massaro Farm holds events in our parish house.
— I am grateful for the events we plan to enrich our community: Spaghetti suppers, Harvest Luncheons and the Strawberry Festival; the tremendously successful Arts and Music Festival that turned our church into a community art museum, concert hall and a place to square dance; our celebration of the 50th Anniversary of our Boy Scout Troop 907 by worshipping together and sharing a meal; the Trimming Bee with supper and Christmas carols; our hilarious Community Carol Sing, Mardi Gras luncheon and Nenad’s most recent concert with the clarinetist Milos Bjelica. Church Council created an ad hoc Events Committee dedicated to bringing more fun and fellowship to our community and are planning a prom for the grownups in May. Nenad will be performing another concert and we’ll be hosting the Elm City Girls Choir in the days ahead.
— I’m grateful for the ways we participate in our broader community: working with anti-Semitism efforts in our community; participating in the Memorial Day and Veterans Day events honoring those who served and serve our country; the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service which we hosted this year; the blessing of the new accessible bathroom in the Senior Center. (I conducted a brief ceremony blessing the new bathroom which was attended by town officials, the architect, fundraisers, workers who had laid the floor and installed the plumbing and many who could not wait to use it.) Afterward a town official said to me, “you [First Church] are a very good neighbor;” we are a valued site for the Yale Divinity School internship program, and through my work with New Haven Association Committee on Ministry we care for our local churches and support those seeking ordination.
— I’m grateful for our mission serving others: funding organizations working for peace and justice at home and around the world; our work with Columbus House; our youth serving lunch to the homeless with Church on the Green, their scarf project and the Stocking Project.
— I am grateful for the ways God is blessing us as we live our faith together: for our dedicated and faithful Sunday school teachers helping to shape our children’s faith; adding a new Sunday school class for our younger children and hiring someone for childcare during worship; for our three confirmands, three new members, two baptisms, two weddings and our amazing Yale Divinity School intern, Anya Powers; visiting members and others at home, in the hospital and at hospice; grateful for the six funerals in which we truly celebrated their lives and the unending love of God; our weekly worship and Bible study continue shaping us as disciples of Christ; our wonderful Choir, its director, Faye Chen and our organist Nenad Ivović; the best Christmas pageant ever, Christmas Eve and Ash Wednesday services, our Lenten sermon series Facing Death with Hope; our moving Passion/Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday services and the promise of the resurrection we celebrate at Easter.
However, I am most grateful that God loves you, and me and everyone, and will never stop loving us. Not only that, but because Jesus lived, and died and was raised from the dead we no longer need fear death: we have all been forgiven.
In joyous expectation of return of the resurrected Jesus,
PS – I want everyone to know that beginning April I, I will be holding regular office hours Mondays from 12:30-2:30 and Wednesdays 11:30-1:30. Feel free to drop by and visit. Of course, I’m glad to meet with you at other times by appointment. I hope to see you soon!