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THIS SUNDAY: SoulFood Fellowship

Sunday, March 26, after worship, meet at the front of the church to walk together to the Manse 

You are invited! Bring a bagged lunch for our monthly gathering.  SoulFood Fellowships provide an opportunity to meet once a month for Bible study, conversation, prayer, and fellowship with others.

“Grief’s Binoculars” – Lenten Reflection for March 24 by Jennifer Garrison Brownell

March 24

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…” Psalm 23:4

My favorite nine-year-old tells me it freaks him out to look at his friend through binoculars held backwards. “It looks like they are far away, but then you take the binoculars off your eyes and they’re standing! right! there!”

I know what he means, because my husband Jeff has a degenerative illness. If you have lost a spouse, you may feel that binoculars make everything too big. Grief seems too close most of the time, you can observe every detail, every wrinkle and outline. But those of us who are living with a long slow illness are looking at grief through lenses held backwards. Grief seems small and fuzzy, distant and even unthreatening.

Every now and then, though, the binoculars get ripped off, often when we least expect it. The frustration in Jeff ’s eyes when he drops a piece of paper on the floor and can’t pick it up. The cancellation of today’s small errand because someone forgot to charge the electric wheelchair. The careful conversation with friends to decide if their house is accessible enough for a visit. It’s a shock every time, how close grief really is, how clearly it really looms.

What do we do then, when the binoculars fall for a minute, when we are poleaxed by the sudden and startling nearness of grief? Take a moment, take a breath, take the long view. Look around, binocular-less. Let our eyes adjust for a moment. Coming into focus, see the One who is right there by our side, who was there all along. The One who will not forsake us, no matter how long the valley of the shadow may stretch before us.


Thou art with me. Thou art with me. Thou art with me.


United Church of Christ Stillspeaking Devotional Published by Pilgrim Press. Shared with permission of the publisher.

Sunday Preview for March 26 from The Rev. Kaji Douša

Dear Church:

As Spring springs, so does Lent, apparently. Lent, which can be translated to mean “spring”, is drawing to a close. Every day we have had beautiful reflections either from members of the congregation or the UCC Stillspeaking Writers. I have been so nourished by these thoughts, and I pray that you have, too. This Sunday marks the Fourth Sunday of Lent, so there will be just one more Sunday before we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem with Palm/Passion Sunday.

Rabbi GersonRabbi Jordie Gerson

Many other things will spring forward this Sunday, as well. First, back by popular demand,  Rabbi Jordie Gerson will be offering the homily while I am away to rest before things ramp up for the busiest times of the church year. Rabbi Jordie will be reflecting on building the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. From what place do we build? Fear? Anxiety? Wonder? Expectation?

Meanwhile, our Gospel musician-in-residence, Dr. Tony McNeill, will return to work with our musicians for a wonderful Lenten liturgy.


Dr. Tony McNeill, Artist-in-Residence at The Park

We will also be declaring a new day for trans people, who are disproportionately targeted with legislative and physical violence in our country. For this Trans Weekend of Prayer, we will pray with our kindred in Christ for God’s protection and blessing

Immediately following worship, we will do our next major step in our building project. Around 1 pm, our workers will begin to move the pews out of the sanctuary so that the floor refinishing work can begin in time to dry before next Sunday. They need as much time as possible to get this done, so that is why they will begin so early. I believe that we have worked to accommodate the groups that had planned to meet at the church that afternoon at the Manse, including on the garden level for people with mobility concerns. If you have any questions about this, please contact the church office and we will do everything we can to make things work.

I encourage you to continue to give thought to purchasing a chair. We have already received our first gifts towards the campaign – thank you! – and look forward to welcoming more.

Join our congregation for worship this Sunday. It will be a service not to be missed!

Pax Christi,

DSC_2115 crop LR


VIDEO: Music at The Park Concert Series presents “Recovered Voices” on April 2, 2017

Sunday, April 2, 5:30 pm, The Park

Please join soprano Kristina Bachrach and pianist Miori Sugiyama on a journey through some of the forgotten vocal music by composers whose voices were needlessly suppressed or eliminated by the Nazi regime, and those artists who inspired them. (This duo, who won the inaugural International Ziering Conlon Recovered Voices Competition, will present works by Alexander Zemlinsky Hanns Eisler, Kurt Weill, Arnold Schoenberg, and more.)

$25/$15 for students ($15 for Park members if purchased in advance)

“Talked To Your Neighbors Lately?” – Lenten Reflection for March 23 by Kenneth L. Samuel

March 23

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Ephesians 4:25

The election of last November was another stark reminder of how deeply divided we are as a country. People who live in the same state, the same county, the same city, and sometimes even the same street are at polar opposite ends regarding many of the critical issues that face our nation.

Yet, an open, honest conversation with our political opposites might reveal that no matter the political affiliation, the overwhelming majority of us want many of the same things: Safety for our families . . . good education for children . . . the opportunity to work and make a livable wage . . . a clean environment . . . a government we can trust.

With all the common concerns that unite us, why do we as a country continue to find ourselves separated and alienated from the very people we ride with on mass transit . . . or shop with at the mall . . . or see at the post office . . . or sit with in the waiting room at the hospital . . . or whose children share a classroom with our own?

Could it be because instead of talking truthfully to one another about our common concerns, our common fears and our common prejudices, we have spoken to one another in sound bites, political slogans and media-hyped stereotypes?

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus makes it clear that our neighbor is not necessarily the one who lives closest to us, but the one who travels a common road with us.

We could make the road better for all of us if we began an honest dialogue with a fellow traveler whose perspectives don’t necessarily resemble our own. We could share a lot . . . learn a lot . . .  and better understand our common lot.


God, give me opportunity to open up an honest dialogue with those who are different from me.


United Church of Christ Stillspeaking Devotional Published by Pilgrim Press. Shared with permission of the publisher.

Lenten Reflection for March 22 by Casey Watrobski

CJ Watrobski (2)
By Casey Watrobski

Jeremiah 2:4-13 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

4 Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. 5 Thus says the Lord:
What wrong did your ancestors find in me
that they went far from me,
and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?
6 They did not say, “Where is the Lord
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
in a land that no one passes through,
where no one lives?”
7 I brought you into a plentiful land
to eat its fruits and its good things.
But when you entered you defiled my land,
and made my heritage an abomination.
8 The priests did not say, “Where is the Lord?”
Those who handle the law did not know me;
the rulers[a] transgressed against me;
the prophets prophesied by Baal,
and went after things that do not profit.

9 Therefore once more I accuse you,
says the Lord,
and I accuse your children’s children.
10 Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look,
send to Kedar and examine with care;
see if there has ever been such a thing.
11 Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for something that does not profit.
12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
says the Lord,
13 for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves,
cracked cisterns
that can hold no water.


Water Music Suite No. 1

Jeremiah 2:13:  For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

Have you ever looked back on your life and re-evaluated times you turned to other resources instead of turning to God?  It’s not always during times of need, but in pursuit of happiness also.

Is it possible we are just as guilty of the same two evils the people of Judah committed in Jeremiah’s day? Is it possible we have become so acclimatized to the living water that we drifted away from the fountain God provided us to see what other water was out there?  Have we become fools by digging out our own cisterns?  It might depend on what happiness is to you.

Some of us want a successful career, and of course it’s necessary to have a job, but if we look for complete gratification in our occupations, and are only Christians on Sunday mornings, then our efforts will be fruitless and result in a broken empty cistern.

What about the priorities in how we occupy our time?  Some Christians spend copious amounts of time surfing the Internet, reading Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and other social media, but spend very little time reading Scripture.  The same can be said for newspapers and magazines in digital or print.  Why do we make these choices?  Will reading and sometimes engaging, especially in our current political climate, fill our cups with the living water?  While it’s not wrong to read and participate in social media, have these types of digital platforms become more interesting and exciting than God’s Word?  Yes, social media has certainly revolutionized human relationships and has become a new way to reach people.  However, if we are turning away from the living word of God and spending an exorbitant amount of time seeking to satisfy our social drama or political thirst, then we may be just as guilty as the people of Judah.

The same can be said for how we entertain ourselves and seek pleasure.  It is not wrong to have a work-life balance.  In fact, it’s important now more than ever.  However, it’s when we begin to look for complete fulfillment and satisfaction in these things that can be considered a form of cistern-making.  We need to find new ways to turn back toward God and drink from the fountain.  We can meditate and pray, read Scripture on Kindle, volunteer in a community project, spend time with family, tell and show your partner/spouse you love them.  We need to return to the Fountain of Living Waters before we learn a little too late in life that the other water we foolishly sought out slipped through the cracks of our self-made cisterns.


God, lead us to the river to wash all of our delusions away. Help us to avoid all fruitless efforts and thirst, and forever drink from the fountain of living waters.

BRIC TV VIDEO: The Trump Administration’s ICE Raids Continue As NYC Groups Push Back, with The Rev. Kaji Douša

The recent executive orders promoted by Donald Trump are being supported by efforts that appoint federal judges in popular sanctuary cities. The goal is to crackdown on undocumented immigrants within the U.S. in conjunction with efforts to prevent immigrants from certain countries to enter our borders.

Rev. Kaji Douša, Senior Minister of the Park Avenue Christian Church, Ravi Ragbir, Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition NYC, and Janice Hoseine, Co-Chair of the New Sanctuary Coalition NYC joins us to talk about their groups’ efforts to push back against the current administration.
Twitter: @kajidousa
Instagram: kajirosa
Facebook: @parkavenuechristian

This video is from BRIC TV— the first 24/7 television channel created by, for, and about Brooklyn. It is the borough’s source for local news, Brooklyn culture, civic affairs, music, arts, sports, and technology. BRIC TV features programming produced and curated by BRIC, an arts and media nonprofit located in Downtown Brooklyn, NYC.

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“Strange Gods” – Lenten Reflection for March 21 by Emily C. Heath

MArch 21

“I lifted the burden off your shoulders; your hands are free of the brick basket! In distress you cried out, so I rescued you. I answered you in the secret of thunder. I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Listen, my people, I’m warning you! If only you would listen to me, Israel. There must be no foreign god among you. You must not bow down to any strange deity.” Psalm 81:6-9

God’s warning comes too late for most of us. As much as we try to put God first, the reality is that we all have foreign gods. I don’t mean that in the sense of coming from another land, but instead of being totally incompatible with the life of faith.

Idolatry is the word theologians have used for centuries to describe putting something else in the  place of God. Most of us are good about knowing that God should come first. But if we look closely enough when we make daily choices, or allocate our resources, we might find that we give too much to other gods instead.

But here’s the thing about bowing down to those other gods: you can give them everything you have in the hopes that they will bring you joy and contentment, but in the end they will never love you back. Instead you will find that they are not gods at all, but are black holes that suck away every good thing you have to share.

That may sound harsh, but Lent is in many ways a time to be honest. As we walk through the desert with Jesus, preparing for his death, I’m reminded of my time as a hospice chaplain. It may sound cliché, but it’s true: never once did a patient of mine find any comfort in the past purchase of a vacation house, an expensive car, or a country club membership. In fact, at the end those strange deities finally looked like the hollow shells they had always been.

So what did people find comfort in? Their faith, of course, but more than that in lives where their faith in God’s love had moved them to love others. Family members who came day after day. Friends who showed up. Lives of service to something greater than themselves. A world made somehow just a little better by their lives.

Some of the most joyful services I have officiated as a pastor have been funerals. (Some of the most joyless and anxious have been weddings, by the way.) I don’t think that’s a surprise. A life well-lived becomes a cause of hope for the rest of us, and a witness to what it looks like to be free from serving what can never love us back.


United Church of Christ Stillspeaking Devotional Published by Pilgrim Press. Shared with permission of the publisher.

Getting to the Heart of “Breaking Free From Slavery” by The Rev. Kaji S. Douša

I’ve been thinking recently about how difficult it is to shake off the effects of slavery. And as I’ve been reading the story of The Exodus, I look at what we call the “murmuring stories” of the people who had just fled slavery, and God’s chosen people were walking into the wilderness, at God’s command. The wilderness is a dry desert and, of course, they were murmuring and wondering, “Where’s our food, where‘s our water, we need it, God, we need it, Moses.” And these people, what you see in their experiences, that they were having such a hard time shifting to a place where they could trust God. Because back in Egypt, they have lived with overseers and people who had made them feel a sense of dependence and fear was that lodged all over their bodies, all over their psyche. And in the wilderness of that desert they didn’t know how not to live in fear. I think about The Exodus now, especially as I think about how my people and all the people who have inherited the legacy of slavery have such a hard time shaking the fear that overseers and owners would put into us. Who would make us think that violence was a solution, because that was their solution for controlling us. And now in this day and age, in 2017, I wonder how do we now shake the effects of slavery? And how do we keep the people who want to be our owners again from feeling like cheap labor, free labor is an option? We need to be considering this as Christians, as people of faith, as Americans. Amen.

Watch the full Sunday sermon video here:

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