Worship with us Sundays at 11 - Venga a adorar con nosotros los domingos a las 11

Category: Latest News

Update from Rev. Francesca Fortunato, Children and Youth Ministry Leader


The 2017-18 Sunday school year will conclude on June 24th, Pride Sunday. The previous Sunday, the 17th, was our “Kids-Pick-the-Bible-Stories” day, as well as our end of the program year party. We read Bible stories chosen by the six children present, and engaged in some lively discussion about why each child had chosen their particular story. I found it interesting that two children selected stories about King David (who, like the prophet Samuel, started his special ministries while still a child.) There also seemed to be a strong animal theme, with selections focused on animals from Genesis, and Noah. After all of their stories had been read and discussed, I asked the children whether they would like to hear one more, chosen by me. They said yes, so I read to them about Jesus blessing the children. I then asked whether they could guess why I had picked that story. Answers included, “Because it’s important for kids to learn about Jesus, too.”, “Because YOU like children,” and, “Because children needed help.” I told them that those were all good answers, but that I would add one more: “Because children are just as important to God as grownups, and just as much able to minister in this world. And it’s my job, sometimes, to remind the grownups in church about that.”

After the Bible story session, we ate snacks, played games, and danced together. Good times in good company!

On Pride Sunday, we will read 2 Corinthians 5: “Walking by faith.” We will discuss the ways that our Christian faith inspires us to “walk our talk,” by participating in marches for social justice, like Pride, The Women’s March; March For Our Lives and, most recently, Families Belong Together.Since some of the children will be marching with The Park’s contingent at Pride, we will spend our Creative Response time making LGBTQ Pride signs to carry, and Pride Jewelry to wear.

I just want to conclude my final report for this program year, by saying that I am so very happy that The Park church community have asked me to come back and continue my children’s ministry here in September. Even with more than a decade of experience in children’s ministry, I still felt a certain degree of nervousness when I started at The Park. Every congregation is unique, and you can never assume that what works well for one congregation will also work well for another. I wasn’t sure that I would be a good fit for this community, but I hoped and prayed that I would be, and did my best to make my own walk by faith, as I learned what was wanted and needed in this specific children’s ministry. You will all be in my prayers during the July and August break, and  I will be looking forward to joyful reunions in September.

Blessings and joy!
Rev. Francesca

Lifting up in Prayer

StillSpeaking Devotional “NOT IT!” by The Rev. Kaji Douša

“The man said: ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.'” – Genesis 3:12

Have you decided whose fault it was yet?

You know, for that thing, that incident that set off a cascading series of bad things. Whose fault was it?

Was it a coworker? A sibling? A faux-friend? A frenemy? A parental unit? An overzealous neighbor?

Or was it “them”?

People from that country;
People of that religious persuasion;
People who read the Bible that way;
People who voted for him.

Who wins out in the blame game?

Wandering in The Garden in the cool of the evening breeze, God gave an opportunity summarily missed. Adam might have taken his own responsibility for what happened. His failure to do so proved deadly. Not so much because of God’s anger or retribution, I believe. But because this story set into motion what seems the continuous process we all undergo as we look at things that go wrong and play a game of: “NOT IT!”

Passing the hot potato of blame from his own hands to Eve’s and from hers to the serpent who couldn’t catch it, she stood with her hands burning. And women subject to the irresponsible teachings of some hold that burning potato to this day.

Owning up to our own portions of responsibility – without lingering there in self-hatred forever – breaks the vicious cycle of the hot potato blame game. This has to stop.

Maybe it starts with us.

Prayer

God, I am sorry. Forgive me. We were wrong. Forgive us. Thank you for your redemption. Thank you for your love. Heal the scorched hands so they can be ready for your work. Amen.

The “StillSpeaking Daily Devotional” series is produced by The United Church of Christ. The original article is here http://www.ucc.org/daily_devotional_not_it

“Get Curious!” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

Beloved Church,

This week feels full. Full of love. Full of fear. Full of joy. Full of passion and so much more. What has filled your spirit up this week? For me there has been a mix of anger and fear for the treatment of children at our borders, but also excitement and love for the Juneteenth and Pride celebrations that are happening this week. I invite you to pay attention as the week moves on to what is filling and feeding your spirit? And then please bring that to church with you on Sunday! Just a reminder the congregational meeting starts at 10:30 and then we will be marching in the Pride Parade with Judson Memorial right after church.

This week we were gifted with the second season of Queer Eye on Netflix. Friends, If you have not seen it, I encourage you to do so. It is not the same show that some of us were familiar with 15 years ago. It is five new diverse men, with different gifts, sharing them with everyone they come in contact with. And while the first iteration of the program was all about the physical transformation of the men they came across, the new fab five are much more about the internal transformation that takes place when a person recognizes their own value and worth and emerge more confident in the person that they are called to be. This understanding of confidence as a gift that is shown so beautifully in this week’s scripture from 2 Corinthians.

6 So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Christ. 10 For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.

14 For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15 And Christ died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for the Lord who died and was raised for them.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view;[a] even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view,[b] we know Christ no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

In the words of Jonathan Van Ness “Can you believe?” What a gift our faith is. This week’s scripture and Queer Eye captures so beautifully what God wants for us, to become new more confident versions of ourselves when we most authentically follow Christ. But that takes work and help from a community. Our scripture says that we once knew a version of Christ that was human, but we no longer see them in that way. Can you imagine what it must have taken for those that knew Christ to make that transition in their understanding? I know that our trans brothers, sisters and neighbors can imagine what that takes from others. I know that those who have been and are enslaved, those in camps at the border, those whose identities are viewed as “less than,” can profoundly understand that as well.

I propose that to honestly and lovingly make that shift in our thinking for all people, the same shift our scripture asks us to do for Christ, we need to be curious. Listening to the stories of others you learn about the different ways God is at work in the world making people anew. Gaining the knowledge and understanding of new spaces in creation not only helps you gain better perspective on people and who they are (and who they might have been) but it helps you be a better neighbor and sibling in Christ. And when we are living more fully as neighbors in our faith lives, we are more confident in ourselves and more confident in who God has called us to be.

Friends, I hope this week you have been curious and that you will continue to question the world around you. May that curiosity inspire your passions both new and old and help you gain new areas of confidence to be your best self. The self that seeks justice and love. The self that God created you to be. The you that was made in the image of the risen Christ.

Shalom Y’all.
Rev. Stephanie

Update from Rev. Francesca Fortunato, Children and Youth Ministry Leader


On June 10th, The Park Sunday School children  read 1 Samuel 3:1-20. We talked about God’s  calling of Samuel, while he was still a child, and the idea that children, as well as adults, are still being called by God. We also discussed ways to discern callings, since most of us don’t hear the voice of God directly, as Samuel did. I asked the children to think about things that they had always loved to do, and things they really cared about; ways that they wanted to make the world better. Following the discussion, the children were invited to write, draw (or write and draw) ideas about their own spiritual callings. Their creative responses took many forms, ranging from a single word, written in big, multi-colored letters, to pictures of things they loved, with no words at all; even a couple of comic strips with dialogue balloons!

On June 17th, Father’s Day, the Park Sunday School children will have Kids Pick The Stories Day. They will be invited to choose their favorite Bible stories, either from children’s bibles that they have at home, or from the several versions that we have in our Children’s Ministry library. We will read and discuss the stories chosen by the children, with emphasis on why each child chose the story that they did; what is most exciting, fun, or inspiring about it. The 17th will also be our next-to-last Sunday school day for the 2017-18 program year, and, as a way of doing end-of-year celebration, children will share their favorite toys, games and snacks, in a free form social party time, following the Bible stories.

Blessings and joy!
Rev. Francesca

“Easy to Pray” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

Beloved Church,

What a wonderful Sunday we shared last week. I am continually grateful for the ways we grow and support each other and our diverse passions. This community truly is a blessing. Keep an eye on The Park’s Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook pages to see what we are up to this week. We hope you will join us.

Each week I take a look at our text, I pray with it, use it to inspire my week, and then hopefully offer an insightful word that helps you in your life. That being said, some texts are exceptionally easier to work with than others. This week’s scripture is one of those easy texts for me and I hope it will be for you too.

But why is this text an easy one to pray for?

My answer is simple: this text is an honest reflection of our world today, and our world needs prayer. This text has been used for hundreds of years to justify the mistreatment of women. It has been used to uphold misogynistic ideologies and help to deeply embed sexist notions into our social relationship with God. It is a story of the divide of God’s people and casts women as a subordinate within her world and intimate partner relationships. As a woman, as a strong woman, as a woman called by God to lead and support God’s people. I can tell you in my experience, this story rings true on a daily basis. See if anything rings true for you as you read this story from Genesis.

8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” 14 The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals
and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
Samuel teaches us how to listen and really hear what is being said. Listening to others is a part of life, but really hearing people is a key piece of community. Samuel listened to God but couldn’t really hear God, he couldn’t really understand the message God was telling him, until Eli shed light on God’s word for Samuel. Listening to God is only possible when we also listen to each other. Without each other we don’t get the whole part of God’s story, and it becomes harder to know the good news of God’s encompassing love and grace.

Did any of these relationships ring true for you? Eve is the obvious choice for many of us, but the surprising place I resonated with in the story, was with Adam. There have been times in my life when I have not been nice to women, and this deeply includes myself. As a young girl who was into sports and described herself as “just one of the boys,” I turned my back on the diversity of my sisters. And I don’t just mean cis-ters. We have elected leaders that treat women as less-than and use derogatory language toward people that is centered in the female body and experience. And I have been complicit in those actions at times in my life.

So, for me, this scripture is one that I find easy to use as a tool of prayer.

I pray for the women in this world. Women who have been the victims of shame, blame, and oppression for simply existing. I pray for the women in this world who are seen as less than in their jobs, their marriages and intimate partners relationships, and their family structures. I pray for the women who see themselves as less than. I pray that they know a God that loves them fully and completely and before anything else.

I pray for the men of this world. How they have systemically lifted Eve to the branch of the proverbial fruit, encouraged her to pick it, ate of the fruit as well, and then placed sole blame on her. I pray they know a God of justice, equality, and equity. I pray they follow Jesus’s example of deconstructing privilege and lifting up those that communities and societies have deemed less-than. I pray that they hold themselves and others accountable for their actions and participation in the oppression of women.

And I pray for all those who see it from both sides. Those whom God created so special that they encompass a space of identity well beyond the binaries of society. Those who have a special vision for creation and how we can move forward together.

Friends, this is a story that calls for prayer. This is a story that calls for justice. This is a story that we want to say does not resonate with us because we know a God that loves everyone equally. And God does. But we as God’s people do not. At least not yet. And in that “not yet,” is where I place my prayers for the community-to-come. A community that says without exception, “Eve, I see you. I hear you. I believe you. I love you.”

Shalom Y’all.
Rev. Stephanie

Street Closures

Please note that this Sunday there will be road closures due to the Puerto Rican Parade. Please plan for additional travel time.  Check http://maps.nyc.gov/streetclosure/

Update from Rev. Francesca Fortunato, Children and Youth Ministry Leader


On Sunday, June 3rd, The Park Sunday School children read Mark 2:13-17. We discussed the criticism (and even downright hostility) that Jesus endured, for being friends with “tax collectors and sinners.” We thought about the ways that people in our own time and place can still face pressure to avoid making friends with people who are different from themselves, and the tendency to consider some people “in” and others “out.” For our creative response, we made collages, using pictures of people cut from magazines, to illustrate the people that Jesus would choose as friends today (short answer: “everyone!”)

On Sunday June 10th, we will read 1 Samuel 3:1-20. We will discuss the idea that children, as well as adults, can receive callings from God. The children will be invited to think about those things that God might be calling them to do. In response, we will write short poems or stories (whichever form each child prefers) about answering God’s call in our own lives.

Blessings and joy!
Rev. Francesca