A MESSAGE FROM THE REV. J.C. AUSTIN: WEEPING AND REJOICING
One of my favorite verses in Scripture comes from Paul’s letter to the Romans. It comes in a whole series of instructions Paul is giving to the church in Rome about how they should live out their faith, based on how he has laid out the essence of that faith in preceding chapters.
One of those instructions is this: “rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). I love it because it is first a call to communal solidarity; whether someone is rejoicing or weeping in the Christian church, they do not do so alone, but the whole community rallies around them and joins them, sharing in the joy or sorrow.
But second, and even more importantly, it is a call to do so at the same time. Grief does not give way to joy, nor joy to grief, but both are given their rightful space and attention by the community at the same time, because within the Christian community there are always those who are rejoicing and those who are weeping, and they all need to be joined in that right when they are experiencing it. With that in mind, then, I want to highlight two elements of our communal life here at First Pres: one of weeping and grief, and one of joy and celebration.
As you know, our dear Pastor Emeritus, Keith Brown, died several weeks ago, and I told you at the time that discussions and plans were underway for a fitting memorial service. I know that so many of us here as well as family and friends and former members and staff elsewhere want to attend that service and give thanks for the gift of Keith’s life and ministry, as well as come together to share in our grief together. And we will be doing that.
However, the sudden and significant rise in COVID infections as a result of the Delta variant is such that Keith’s family has decided to delay the service until sometime in 2022, because the risk to those traveling to the service, especially those who are more vulnerable to infection, is too high to be acceptable.
So, we will reexamine the situation in early 2022 and see if we can schedule a date for the service then. We will, of course, schedule it in such a way that we can announce it well in advance and allow people to make travel arrangements at a reasonable cost. When the date is set, we will announce it repeatedly in this newsletter, on the website, on social media, in worship, and with a special email to our entire mailing list, so don’t worry: if you haven’t heard when the date is, it hasn’t been set yet.
Our source of joy and celebration, then, is the upcoming installation of Lindsey Altvater Clifton as our Associate Pastor for Formation and Justice. As you well know, Lindsey has been serving with us since the beginning of last March, and she has already made a huge impact on our congregation through her leadership, preaching, prayers, and care.
This installation service is the formal recognition and blessing of her service with us, and it is actually a worship service of Lehigh Presbytery, because in Presbyterian governance, congregations call their own pastors, but the presbytery approves and installs them because ministers are members of the presbytery, not individual congregations.
The service is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Sunday, September 12, and I hope you will all make a special effort to be part of it, whether in person or through the livestream. It will be a moving and joyful occasion with special preaching, prayers, and music. If you are coming in person, it would be extremely helpful for you to RSVP so we can plan accordingly; you can do so by using this online form or leave a message at 610-867-5865.
I look forward to rejoicing with all of you in this special day in the life of Lindsey’s ministry and our congregation!
Grace and Peace,