It’s already happened! Someone said to me this week, “We’re not going to be in church on Sunday, because you aren’t going to be there!” This is why, sometimes, when I’m just away for a Sunday, I don’t even announce it!
But people don’t come to church to see the minister! And Jesus never takes a vacation. And what if I got to take a Sunday off every time one of you wasn’t in worship?
Besides, when I am away, that’s even more of a reason to go to church. Not only do you get to hear another preacher. But, inevitably, there will be guests there to be welcomed and greeted. Since I’m a part of our team effort when it comes to hospitality, you are needed even more when I am not there.
For the next two Sundays, Feb. 3 and 10, the Old First congregation has to be on extra alert. If there are guests present (and in 3 and 1/2 years with you, I only remember one Sunday where we had no guests!), don’t be shy; walk right up to them and say, “We’re glad you are here today. Our pastor is away. But all of us our really ministers here. And now you have an excuse to come back on Feb. 17 or after when he’ll be back. Let me take you to fellowship hour and introduce you to some others…”
Don’t worry, even if it’s not there first Sunday, getting to know people is positive and it’s a challenge when you are new, even at a church that is truly friendly and going out of its way to welcome guests.
This Sunday, Feb. 3., our preacher will be our own Rev. Maryliz Clark. You might have seen her and Warren in church, and never known she’s a minister. She was ordained in 1979 by the Boston Metro. assoc of the UCC and served her first in Auburn, Maine, She then served a second church in East Hartford, Connecticut. When she returned to South Jersey — she grew up in Haddonfield — she served as an interim minister. She’s an author too. I hope that some of you will ask her more about her ministry… what she’s learned and how it’s affected her faith. She will be preaching a sermon for us titled “God Knows.”
Feb. 3 is also a Communion Sunday, and Rev. Wanda S. will be officiating at the Table — where everyone is not only welcome, but expected. Oh, and Jesus prepares the meal (that’s why everyone is welcome!). Wanda has a deep love of the sacraments, and we see it when she officiates at this holy meal.
On Sunday, Feb. 10, the Rev. Dr. Beverly Dale will be our preacher. Bev is a member at Tabernacle UCC in University City. She is ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and authorized with ecumenical partner status in the UCC.
“Rev Bev” served as a traditional parish minister for six years in central Illinois, and then for 21 years in a non-traditional setting of campus ministry at the University of Pennsylvania.
Her work with young adults in a University setting grew her interest in how faith wrestles with human sexuality or, more often, has been unhelpfully silent or even shaming. She is a passionate, straight ally to the queer community as well as an avid feminist. She is the co-founder of PA Clergy for Choice and PA Coalition for Reproductive Justice.
Her sense of calling these days is found in the non-traditional ministry of helping people reconnect their spirits and their bodies by confronting sex-negativity both in the Christian church and our culture at large. She service is to make explicit the incarnational teaching of the Church. She works as a consultant for Body Justice and Sexuality Ministries promoting the use of individual conscience and personal discernment coupled with biblical principles as crucial elements in sexual decision-making and the faith journey. Currently she is releasing a series of short YouTube videos called “Sex is Good.” She is also an author, poet and workshop leader.
Michael is deeply appreciative of Maryliz, Wanda, Bev and Bob Robinson, who’s offering pastoral coverage while Michael gets some “sabbath” days on Little Corn Island off the coast of Nicaragua. (There are others as well who step up to help out when the pastor is away!) But for a week or so, Michael will be out of touch — just him, some books, the ocean and the sun. Thanks be to God.