Interim Pastor Monica Styron
In the northern regions of our country leaves have turned to grey and they are about to pop with color over the next few weeks. Here we are still alert to what is possible for wild winds and floods. Each condition reminding us that life has several ways to express ongoing change and get our attention.
As a newcomer to Florida I must admit I’m doing a countdown on Hurricane season preparing for the possibility of one occurring in October or even November. It has caused me to think about various disasters around our world and how the church, particularly PCUSA responds locally, nationally, and internationally.
Having lived through a flood just a few years ago I remember hearing at that time my co-pastor mention a discussion he’d had with a colleague regarding- what would our world be like without faith-based communities? He said: “Many of us treat churches like fire extinguishers. We give them little thought until they are needed. But when they are needed, they are really needed! But, if you don’t maintain a fire extinguisher (or have healthy congregations) they won’t work when you need them.”
It’s a good metaphor for both physical disasters as well as spiritual and emotional ones. Today we know that many people in our society do not associate with a church or even a particular religion. Many think of themselves as “spiritual” and can affirm that there is a God, though too mysterious or aloof to define. My own father was one of them. He didn’t believe religion, especially institutional religion, was necessary and even went so far as to say it was harmful. He then cited the many wars in history that were carried out in the name of religion. Others, may simply be unimpressed as they think churches take up a lot of space, get special privileges and don’t do enough with the resources they have.
We’ve heard the expression “to err is human” so we need to lay this one at our own doorsteps. One example is the very public arguing we’ve done over who can or can’t be included in the church, which goes against Jesus’ teachings and the way he showed us how to live with one another. When we isolate ourselves and expect that people will come to us we invite criticism for not being part of the larger community, relevant, in touch with the needs around us, or caring in our actions.
Riviera has reached out on many occasions _ to be inclusive. “Walking the talk.”
It has also supported those who have developed transformational ministries within the Miami community, like GATE. The foundation is a strong one. However, being inclusive isn’t an end in itself it’s only the gathering, the beginning, as it was on Pentecost. From there the disciples went out to serve, teach and share God’s love transforming the world. That’s our call as well.
Perhaps this transition/interim has allowed each of you and as a congregation time to think about the past accomplishments and challenges of Riviera. I hope that through the many valley’s and mountaintops you’ve all gone through you have come to appreciate, as I have, the strength of your hearts centered in God’s love. It’s in that love that we can endure most anything in life with humble hearts, appreciation, and a sense of God’s presence.
This month we begin and end on the subject of food- starting with a Beach Breakfast (Oct 4), installing new Elders and Deacons (Oct 12), and celebrating World Food Day (Oct 26). The community in which we live is hungry to know God’s love may we be guided by the spirit to fulfill our mission to reach out and “feed the hungry.”
Grace and Peace,