All Things New

| April 6th, 2024

Dear Beloved Community,

Several days have since passed, but the deep and abiding love I experienced alongside you this Holy Week and Easter will not soon abate. What a week! 

In the quiet of this moment (after a boisterous several days away with my family for spring break!), I find myself returning to simple moments of these holy days with you, snapshots that live in my heart.

Being led by our kids and youth who filled the aisles with palms and celebration. Folding into the swell of the Ardmore Brass’s round sound, while considering how the crowds turn, and how we turn too. Tucking bread and cup in the hands of many who experienced the Stations on the Street and Stations of the Cross – outside and inside – on Maundy Thursday. Watching you wash each others’ hands, and pray with embodied hope, and sing with the ache and gift of memory. Going determinedly together into the depths of our grief on Good Friday. Waiting, oh the waiting of Holy Saturday.

Yet these movements of Holy Week made our Easter joy precise, didn’t they? With the flower cross out front and plants sprawling along the front steps announcing the promise of new life, with new banners on the front columns calling us to justice, kindness, and humility, and with spring plantings and lilies filling our space, it seems that abiding resurrection hope was everywhere we turned! Enjoy the pictures in today’s eBlast and video across our social media accounts for a glimpse into the true joy of Easter. None of this would be possible if not for the countless number of you who welcomed guests, built and set up Stations, planted ferns, organized lilies, flowered the cross, fed the crowds on Easter, served communion, played music, led in worship, helped children wave palms, sang the songs of our faith, and brought the fullness of who you are into our beloved community this week. Thank you, thank you, thank you, dear church! 

But I have to say – every step along this Holy Week journey was made all the sweeter in watching my beloved Annabelle take the steps of faith down the aisle on Easter morning and declare to her church that she was ready to follow Jesus with her very life. As I said to you – or, rather, cried to you! – you have loved her since God was forming her in my womb and calling me to serve as your pastor. You are her best preachers and teachers, doing just as you promised us in her baby dedication, to “tell her the stories of Jesus and sing for her the songs of faith until in her own time, she can embrace Christ as her own.” For Annabelle, that time has now come. And as one whose time came on an Easter Sunday too when I took a courageous step out of the pew and met my pastor-parent at the end of a long aisle and said I was ready to follow Jesus, I am overcome with the gift of Love, this Jesus who is Way and Truth and Life, whose story we pass from generation to generation until all things – all things! – are made new. 

On this side of Easter, may we not soon forget the hosannas and the remembrances, the bread and cup and basin and towel, the shroud of shadows, the garden of our tears and of our witness, the Love that stirred “early in the morning while it was still dark.” Eastertide will offer us such a meaningful stretch of weeks ahead! 

Today’s newsletter tells of so many opportunities for you to exercise these muscles of witness and memory! For the next three Sundays, we welcome three tremendous guest preachers, who, by their very lives, are living into Easter hope. This Sunday, we welcome Dr. Corey D. B. Walker, who serves as Dean of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, Professor of Humanities, and Director of the Program in African-American Studies. Next Sunday following a tremendous opportunity to host a screening of the documentary called “Midwives of the Movement” in partnership with Baptist Women in Ministry and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina, we’ll hear from Dr. Meredith Stone, Executive Director of Baptist Women in Ministry. Finally, on April 21, we welcome back one of our own, Rev. Tim Hughes Williams, son of our church (and of David and Joani Hughes!) who has just concluded his long pastorate at Light Street Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland, as his family relocates to Boston. I say with excitement: we will all be the better for Corey, Meredith, and Tim’s proclamations this month!

Finally, throughout April, you’ll see opportunities to gather for our newly-launched affinity groups, attend a First Impressions class for newcomers, welcome our neighbors to the church house for Bookmarks events with authors Stacey Abrams and Anne Lamott, fellowship with folks in our age group or fellow film buffs, attend a community-wide lecture with Dr. Bettina Love about educational justice for Black children, and more! Later this month in worship, teaching, and gathering, we’ll focus our year of “tending” toward the urgent call to “tend creation.” 

Friends, God is at work in our midst. Resurrection springs up around us, holding our memories and our shadows in the unyielding hope of life. This is a story worth telling, and sharing, and celebrating – together! 

Together in God’s work of Love,

Pastor Emily

Ps – Here’s our family’s annual Easter photo! (One of these years, we’ll get everyone smiling at once – ha!)  We love you!