Greetings, Third Church Friends!

I have an admission to make. This past Sunday marked the Fiftieth Anniversary of the first Pride Parade that occurred the year after the Stonewall demonstrations began in New York City on June 28, 1969. We had bucketsful of stuff going on in worship last Sunday. Still, our silence—MY silence—on the commemoration of this event was deafening. I realized my error almost immediately after worship as I read reports of many of you who were planning to attend the celebration event here in Rochester. I apologize and expect better of myself going forward.

All oppressions and subsequent liberations are not the same, even though our responses to them regularly overlap. Some of the Third Church folks who joined the events in Rochester last Sunday will also be meeting with me this week to explore our path forward in standing against racism in our community…and in ourselves. We have not yet charted our course but we agree that our efforts need to be sustainable and supportive of the work of communities of color in Rochester. Like the summer temps, the iron is hot and we need to make good use of the situation in which we find ourselves. We also want to be sure that we will be making a difference, not only next week, but also next year and all the years ahead.

We’re letting the apostle Paul give us food for thought again; this week from Romans 7:15-25. Paul troubles us in some of his writings; and he shows how he shares our humanity in other passages. He can’t seem to stop beating himself over the head (figuratively, of course) in this part of his epistle. His brutal honesty about his shortcomings inspires me as I look at my own. Paul pugnaciously presents his take on the truth in many passages. In this one, he ’rastles mightily with the fact that he doesn’t practice what he preaches. I am comforted in knowing that I am in pretty good company when I similarly struggle. That fact does not in any way excuse me. It does allow me to stop beating myself over my head (figuratively, of course) when I fail in the same way as Paul did. Likewise in the church. We do our job a lot more effectively when we accept and confess our imperfections and figure out how to do better in the days ahead.

I have said this before, but I want to reiterate how happy I am to be in New York! I was in Florida when Covid-19 was exploding up here. Folks down there (including public officials) touted how they had things under control. I said to whomever would listen, I don’t think so! It pains me deeply to join with the I-told-you-so crowd. Even as folks in Florida and Texas and Arizona and other places can learn from New Yorkers, we have important lessons to gain from them. Like the fact that care and caution continue to be as necessary as the essential workers we’ve been praising. Our fellow citizens in other places are experiencing the suffering through which you have moved. We don’t want to go back to those days!! So please be patient with your leadership as we make the tough calls to keep us safe and to get through these challenging times.

Blessings,

The Rev. Conley A. Zomermaand, PhD
pastorz@thirdpresbyterian.org
(618) 606-1053—after office hours; emergencies