April 24, 2022, Message For A Resurrecting Community, by Pastor David
April 24, 2022 Message for a Resurrecting Community
In the spring of 1996 Cathy and I came into the parlor to meet with the Pastor Parish Relations Committee. A group of nice, slightly wary people welcomed us to St. Luke and we worked out some issues about whether we would live in the parsonage, and how, since we owned our own house in Philly, we could stay there, but not receive a housing allowance. We all felt ok about that.
St. Luke had a reputation for being a conservative congregation and I had a reputation as a wild-eyed liberal. I had been a leader in the Methodist Federation for Social Action, the progressive caucus, so it didn’t seem like a great fit. DS Alfred Johnson pushed for it and said sometimes the cabinet sees things that churches and pastors don’t see. We decided for that and other reasons to give it a try - thinking it might only last a couple of years. And here we are 26 years later, celebrating a relationship that has lasted and grown - and changed.
From now until my last Sunday, June 19th, eight Sundays, I would like us to think about what we’ve learned together over these 26 years, remembering the highlights and visioning about what the next 26 years might look like on this corner in Bryn Mawr. That summer of ’96, when I began as pastor, it seemed to me as though we could fit easily into the little chapel in the old building.
People told me that they were worried the church would last about another 3 years if they kept going at the rate they were going - spending more than came in and losing members. But we gathered our little group at the tomb, just like we did last Sunday, and we prayed and sang and celebrated the resurrection.
We tried some things those first couple of years, trying to attract college students from the many colleges nearby. Phil Gehman was the organist - a wonderful man and gifted musician. The music was traditional and classical. We decided to try a contemporary service every quarter after the regular 10 am service. We hired a keyboard player, and tried some drama and different kinds of things. I remember Fred Vivino in some play up in the altar here where he had a baseball glove and caught a fly ball up by the altar.
St. Luke had a tradition of hiring and nurturing seminary interns and we engaged them in some of the creative work. We worked really hard to help those folks grow and many of them still express love and appreciation to this worshipping community for helping them figure out what kind of pastor they wanted to be.
This church had traditions, and we kept with them, and my family joined in. Here’s my son and I doing some kind of performance at the Spring Musicale. It might have been “Who’s on First?” We had a great time doing that one year. We had lots of church luncheons and events that reminded us who we are and fed the body and the spirit.
I looked back at the new members that came in during that time. Nina Pantano, Nancy’s daughter, was part of the first confirmation class I ran and she joined the church in 1997. Fred and Virginia joined in 1998. Lauri Cumming, Suzanne Conroy and Marilyn Arnott joined in the year 2000.
These folks provided the front wave of a new generation of leaders in this congregation. People didn’t think it was possible when I first came, and I couldn’t really see it either, but resurrection energy was happening, and a new generation of leaders emerged. We’ll talk about the rest of that first wave next week.
This week I just want to say thank you to the people who hung on and the people who trusted that something new could happen. As usual, like the women who came to the tomb, there was a faithful group of women here who kept things goings. When people say where were you on September 11, 2001, I always remember that I was with the women of St. Luke, here for their Tuesday morning devotions - Noni Nash, Connie Borum, Shirley Brautigam, Alice Dimler, and before that Thelma Hatton, and Evelyn Reich.
Here’s a picture of Evelyn Reich, Virginia Vivino and Rick Bohot preparing a meal for some hungry people - either here or out in the world, I’m not sure.
63 Lillian Harris, Kathy Taylor, and Margie Butler kept this place bathed in prayer and care for decades.
Jesus appeared to the disciples back in the upper room on the evening of the resurrection. He breathed on them - giving them the Holy Spirit. Thomas had been holding out, saying he wouldn’t trust what the others were saying unless he saw and felt the wounds to know that the bodily resurrection was real. After Jesus appeared to them and Jesus encouraged Thomas to check out his wounds, Jesus said, ““Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Well, folks, we have seen. We have seen evidence of the bodily resurrection in this church, because we are the body of Christ. We are the hands and the feet, we are the wounded and the broken. We have held each other and encouraged each other in times of death and hurt. We were there for each other when we were discouraged and weren’t sure if the church was going to live another five years. We were there for each other when terrorists flew plans in the World Trade Center buildings. If that was all that happened in my time hear it would have been enough - but I have 21 more years to tell you about!
I can’t name everybody who was instrumental in the resurrecting energy that happened those first five years, but today I just want to especially thank Jim and Elaine McDermott for being at the core of leadership at St. Luke the whole time I’ve been here. We like to talk about the angel of the church.
There’s a reason that we give out awards in honor of Jim McD and Kathy Taylor - because their love and prayer and openness helped to form and sustain the angel of St. Luke. We may not see a physical angel or the risen Christ, but we see these folks who embody the Spirit of Christ. And they help us to trust the Spirit, because we feel the breath. We know the love. This is God’s good news.
Responsive Hymn: 2206 Without Seeing You