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Letter to the Metropolitan Association
Time to Remember the Comma
It was a picture perfect spring morning of Eastertide. Having spent a rejuvenating time “letting my heart sing” at the Conference spring clergy retreat in Syracuse, I took a side trip to visit a college friend who had recently relocated to Buffalo. After bidding our goodbyes, I made a spontaneous decision to spend some meditation time in nearby Niagara Falls, a place not visited since a family vacation over forty years ago. With breakfast in hand, I sat on a park bench, the Falls in full view, and spent some time in prayer and meditation, listening for the voice of God.
And God, ever faithful, spoke indeed. With six million cubic feet of water flowing over its crest every minute, it was not a surprise to hear the voice of God speaking loudly in the roar of the waters. Yet God broke through the roar and spoke in other ways and mean while I listened on that park bench. God spoke at once sharply and sweetly through the squawk of seagulls hovering over the waters. God spoke colorfully through the presence of a rainbow I managed to capture in the camera of my Blackberry. God spoke joyfully through the ‘ooh’s and aah's’ of children perhaps seeing Niagara Falls for the first time as I had years ago. And God spoke awesomely as I saw these things and more in this vista that included one of the Seven Natural Wonders of North America, right here in New York.
A motto many of us know and proclaim in the United Church of Christ is that “God is Still Speaking,” based upon Gracie Allen’s advice to “never place a period where God has placed a comma.” Easter is the time for us to remember that the comma is still God’s punctuation point. Every Easter we celebrate gives us the opportunity to remember the Holy Comma that leaves the open space for possibility beyond our present reality. What would God have the Metropolitan Association remember in our collective witness of God’s love, peace, and justice for the five boroughs, Westchester, and Nassau counties? What would God have our people needing employment, needing housing, and needing hope during these tumultuous economic and political times? What would God have our churches remember in times of trouble and turmoil? I believe in every fiber of my being that Easter is the time to remember the comma -- that beyond despair, there is hope, beyond reality there is possibility, and beyond death, there is life.
I unequivocally believe that the Metropolitan Association of the United Church of Christ is a place within the New York City metropolitan area that experiences the ‘still speak’ of God. I hear it in the churches where I’ve been privileged to visit and preach in the past few months. I hear it in the voices of our candidates moving forward in their journeys to ordination and ministers joining our Association by dual standing, by transfer of standing, or by Privilege of Call. I hear it in the diligent work of the Association’s Board and its Committees evaluating the effectiveness of by-laws, processes and procedures. I hear it in the increased presence and representation of our Association in the ministry of our Conference Executive Council and Commissions. I hear it in the new testimonies of congregations seeking to join both our Association and our Conference. And I hear it loud and clear it in the people, our people, who regardless of race, sex, age, place, sexual orientation or place of birth, come together as faithful witnesses to the indefatigable, resolute, and unconquerable power of God’s love in Jesus Christ. My brothers and sisters of the Metropolitan Association, make no mistake. The comma is still in ‘full effect.’ May we this Eastertide remember it, believe it, and live it!
Love, Joy, Peace,
Rev. Freeman L. Palmer
Interim Southeast Regional Conference Minister
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