Dear Parishioners and Friends, 

       As we go our different ways this summer with vacations, trips to the mountains, or whatever you may do to take a break from the daily routines in your life, I would like you to remember that your parish family at St. Michael’s Church is always here for you wherever you may be.  And the point that I would like to emphasize is that we are a supportive community. What does that mean and how do we go about being a supportive Christian community?

 

     Author and psychiatrist Scott Peck tells the story of when his mother died. A friend came up to him and said, “Oh, Scotty, I heard your mother died, but of course she’s in Heaven; how’s your golf game?” There was no community there; no sharing of the pain. By contrast, I remember when my mother died almost twenty  years ago, I was still the  rector of a parish in White Plains, New York. Her burial took place in the little coastal town of Guilford, Connecticut, where she and my father had lived for some 25 yrs. Guilford is about an hour and a half drive from White Plains, yet still three families from the parish accompanied us to the cemetery there on a Tuesday morning. Of those three families, I had baptized members of one family, officiated at a wedding of members of another family, and buried members of the  third family. They all said to me, “We want to be there for you, in the same way that you were there for us, when we needed you.” Now that is community.

 

      We are here together, as the famous Bishop of Massachusetts, Phillips Brooks, once said, “Bearing one another’s burdens, sharing one another’s joys.” We are all connected. We are all related to each other, we belong to each other because we first belong to Christ. In secular society, we love another person for the sake of that person, but in a Christian relationship it is different: we love another person for the sake of Christ, for the sake of the Christ that we see in that person. And because we are inter-related in this way, we are supportive of each other.

 

     The Associated Press carried a story some time  ago about a young 13-year old boy by the name of Mark Lowry. Mark, at the time, was a seventh grade student at Cross Lutheran School in Yorkville, Illinois. Mark discovered that he had leukemia, and pretty soon all the school’s other seventh and eighth grade boys had learned of Mark’s condition. They were told that Mark would have to undergo chemotherapy and lose all his hair. Within a week, all 15 boys had shaved their heads to show their support for what Mark would have to go through, and their solidarity with him. When asked how long they would continue to keep their heads shaved in support of their classmate, their response was unanimous. They said, “Until Mark’s hair grows back!”

 

       That story reminds me of an incident that grew out of my seminary experience at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. You will have to remember that this was back in the Civil Rights Days of the 1960's, when a member of the class of 1966 had been shot in the back and killed as he attempted to register black voters in the South. Today, that student, Jonathan Myrick Daniels, is one of the people we commemorate on our calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Afterwards, all the members of the class of 1966 made a pact with one another, and the pact was this: that not one of them would accept a parish assignment upon graduation until all of them, including their black fellow classmates, had jobs. Now that was an act of Christian faith and community!

 

     You and I are on this earth together, to bear one another’s burdens, and to share one another’s joys. You and I experience Christ in the presence of other people, and when we do so, we become connected to them, we become supportive of them. “Where two or three are gathered in my Name, I am there among them.”

 

     So this summer, let us remember that we are all connected one to another, we are all  inter-related because of the Christ whose presence we recognize in each other. We are here to be supportive of one another, as we bear each other’s burdens and share each other’s joys. Let us also remember that our mission is to share that community with others, to make that same Christ known by our actions and our speech. In fact, you and I experience and come to know God better, when we move out to our brothers and sisters, in their opulence, in their joy, in their privation, and in their pain. For it is there that we find the living Christ.

 

Faithfully, 

 

The Rev. Philip W. Stowell, Vicar