A few different mission commitments are coming together for Sunday, April 21:
1) We’ll worship outside in the front yard, to draw our attention to the UCC’s “Mission 4/1 Earth.” In our denomination, we’re drawing our attention during the 50 days between Easter and Pentecost becoming more aware of — and hopefully being converted to — the ways that we can be better stewards of the world God’s created and entrusted it to us. Plant a tree. Recyle. Use less paper (reading and communicating on-line make a difference). Eat locally. Walk or ride your bike or take public transportation instead of driving your car…
2) We’re also inviting the members of the Burmese Community Baptist Church to worship with us. They and their pastor Rev. San No Thuan have approached Old First to ask if we might be able to share space with them for their young church, currently gathering in people’s apartments in South Philadelphia where most of its immigrant members live.
The Burmese Community Baptist Church is made of refugees from Burma. Christians are a minority in Burma and have suffered discrimination for their faith. Because of this, the ethnically Chin people from Burma have been recognized and welcomed as refugees by the U.S., and there is a growing community in South Philadelphia. They have formed a congregation, but have only had member’s often cramped apartments in which to worship.
Their pastor, the Rev. San No Thuan, had worshiped at Old First in 2005 while he was a student at Princeton Theological Seminary, at the invitation of then member Marjorie Rosenblum. Among us, he met Bob Robinson, and has since, at Bob’s recommendation, gone on to doctoral studies at Lutheran Seminary where Bob is the Old Testament Professor. Rev. Thuan is currently pastoring the congregation in South Philly and another Chin congregation in Frederick, Maryland.
An ad hoc group from Old First, called together by the Admin SLG, has met with Pastor Thuan and leaders from the Burmese Community Baptist Church to think about what space-sharing might look like. And Michael has met with Rev. Thuan to be sure that the two congregations theological and mission commitments, though perhaps different, could “live together” respectfully– allowing people from the two churches to worship and fellowship and serve together on occasion.
The next step seemed to be to invite the two congregations to get to know one another. So we’ll welcome them to our outdoor service, and try to make our worship work for folks some of whose English is not so strong.
It’s a nice Sunday to welcome them because outdoor worship is always fun. And we share God’s world together. Also, we’re having a potluck afterward. Food always strengthens fellowship. Their pastor says they will contribute some Burmese food. But Michael wants to make sure we have enough too. So, potluckers– let’s bring plenty to share for guests.
3) After all this, we pray, 4 buses of us will be going to the POWER meeting. A long day, you say? Yep. But an important day, a good day for us to add our support alongside the almost 40 other congregations to help make “a city of opportunity that works for all.”
Our presence is our investment towards 4,000 people pressuring:
~ the mayor and the city council for a jobs agreement that gives unemployed and underemployed Philadelphians a better shot at work at the airport;
~ the schools superintendent for a commitment to the involvement of organized, empowered parents as key to the improvement of our schools;
~ our PA representatives in Washington for immigration reform that will provide a pathway to citizenship for our undocumented neighbors.
Your presence… leading to the largest civic gathering in recent Philly history can make a real difference for workers, school children, neighbors and our city.
Let Mike W., Griffin, Beth W., Steve, Margaret or Michael know you will be coming (so we can make sure there’s a seat for you on the bus!– leaving Old First between 1:15 and 1:30.