School children will soon be asked to write essays on “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”. With the coming of autumn it is time for us to reflect on how we spent the summer as a congregation. The resounding answer for most of us is that we spent it participating joyously in our first “Festival of Faith and the Arts.” With over a dozen individual events and outings this festival occupied many happy, challenging and interesting hours as we explored the ways in which our faith is informed, expressed and inspired by the arts. Our festival concluded as it began in the context of worship on August 17 when we expressed our thanks and best wishes to Martin Ritchie who came to us from the Church of Scotland to serve as our Festival Co-ordinator. Each of us will, of course, have our own favorite memories of this Festival, but my own reflections and learnings include:
1. A Deep Appreciation for Martin’s ministry among us-bringing the experience and abilities of an artist, the faith convictions of a pastor and a warm and embracing spirit. Martin was the exact right choice for Festival Co-ordinator. His letter (read Festival of Faith and the Arts section) suggests that this was also a wonderful experience for him as he prepares for ordination in the Church of Scotland. More generally this is a wonderful reminder that there are those in ministry in every land and tongue, and we as American Christians have much to learn and much to share in fellowship with others. Behold how good it is when we dwell together in unity!
2. Exploring New Dimensions of Our Faith- the wide variety of activities – from sacred dance, to poetry, sculpture and architecture- provided us with new ways to think about what we believe, what inspires us, and what helps us to pray and serve God. Many of you have remarked about how one or another of our explorations deepened your faith. The moving prayer stations throughout our church buildings set up for NiteKirk, the magnificent music of Vivaldi, the quiet deeper exploration of images of Mary, the thrilling moves of the Alvin Ailey dance troupe all laid claim to our hearts and minds in a special way. I think it is not too much to say that we learned another dimension of discipleship in learning to “hear” God’s Word through the fine and performing arts.
3. Celebrating the Joy of Our Christian Fellowship- over and over this summer I heard many of you remark about how much fun it was having church outings and events for folk of all ages. In almost all of our events we had people from their early teens to their nineties participate together in exploring the arts. What fun! What joy! At High Tea, eating fish and chips at the Ceilidh, learning Scottish dances, we enjoyed each other and saw each other in new ways. Our carpools to Storm King and to the city gave us a chance to get better acquainted. We welcomed strangers into our midst on several occasions and had the opportunity to share in Christian hospitality with them. In short, we learned again that the faith journey is best when shared!
4. Approaching the Beloved Community- we are called by Christ himself not to “go to church” but to be the church-the body of Christ. It is my sincere reflection that the Festival of Faith and the Arts helped us move ever closer to becoming fully that Beloved Community of which the gospel writer John speaks. The Festival required much effort by many hands, staff and volunteer. Our deepest thanks goes to all who helped, planned, drove carpools, set tables, made phone calls, cleaned up, shared poems and insights, led dances, or clapped appreciatively. The Festival was a blessing to us and to our community and a joyful portion of our journey of faith.
Yours for the journey,
Rev. Dr. Eileen W. Lindner