Each Sunday morning, during the opening hymn, our church choir processes up the center aisle, then splits and comes down the side aisles. We then sit in the choir loft/balcony. As I walk around the congregation I am reminded that we are God’s people!
The town where the church is located includes more people with graduate degrees than any other town in the state of New York, yet this church of about 600 members is very diverse, very inclusive. About half of us come some distance to be part of this body of believers. I walk by the couple in their late 90’s and several families with young children who like to sit near the front. I walk by the Pakistani family and the Japanese wife. Many men where sport shirts, and there are families where the father wears jeans, one of whom reads the Scriptures from the lectern in jeans. In the back corner of the sanctuary sits one of five mentally challenged young people in the church. Kevin, 11, has both Williams Syndrome (outgoing, totally trusting, poor people judgment) and Autism (likes repetition – words, patterns…flips a book over and over) and is very difficult for his mom to keep quiet. The boy does not miss much, and every few weeks he will loudly call out, at the appropriate moment in the sermon, “Yes” or “I like that!” After music he enjoys, he may clap. Last Sunday I heard him say “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – right mom?”
When the Lord’s Supper is celebrated almost every person in church walks up the center aisle. Dan, a quadriplegic in his mid-thirties, drives his wheel chair to the communion rail. A husband brings his frail, bent-over elderly wife.
In the choir, on my left, sits David, an administrator for a large organization with residential and placement programs for children 1-18 sent to them by the courts. Thirty years ago he was working directly with the children. Each week I ask David “what has happened this week?” His son, Matt, worked at DL for a summer. On my right is Frank, a professor at Albany Med and a research neurologist who has published over 60 articles in scientific journals. Frank has had a busy week when he sleeps except when he sings. The adult choir of 30-40 includes three music teachers, a composer/former college president, two nurses, an attorney, a waitress, a comptroller, house wives, retired people, etc.
The church embodies Romans 12. “in Christ we who are many form one body…We have different gifts: prophesying …serving…teaching, encouraging…contributing…leadership…showing mercy.” The members live out Romans 15:1 “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak” and Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens.”
Though we are 30 minutes from the church, Sally Jo and I are being well cared for! Last December, when Sally Jo broke her arm, people brought food, cleaned the house, and wrapped Christmas presents. In June, when my hip replacement put me out of commission, three men came with a back hoe and planted two large new trees, transplanted pine trees, built a grape vine support, planted four grape vines and, moved compost. Their wives joined us for lunch.
Since our accident in July, members have sent food, brought dinners we have enjoyed together, weeded the flower and vegetable gardens, spent time reading to Sally Jo, taking me to pick up the Jeep, etc. This past Monday night 17 brought salads and we provided a cake to celebrate Sally Jo’s birthday. Knowing this group was coming, a local pastor’s wife and son came over and worked their tails off mowing and trimming the yard, and cleaning the house. Our daughter-in-law, Jennifer, and a Christian neighbor from down the street help freeze vegetables from Sally Jo’s productive garden and our Christian neighbor across the street stores our surplus in her freezer – 40 pt. of blue berries to date (and we have probably given away another 20 pints). Son Dirk picked up a new computer when mine died – and two nights ago Sally Jo’s computer died. Sally Jo has received cards and notes of encouragement almost every day for five weeks!
Without the care and encouragement we are receiving I would not be able keep up with a portion of Sally Jo’s daily needs (daughter Sea carries most of this responsibility), routine work in and outside of the house – and have conversations face to face and by telephone with some of you, write these weekly IPWG to you, begin to catch up on e-mails from a month ago – and continue my preparations for the Joshua weekend.
Being the people of God brings security and blessing. Let us enjoy living In Partnership With God!