Sunday, January 22, 2023

Three Hundred Years is a Big Cloud of Witnesses

It’s January 21, 2023 and today my church - Kingston Presbyterian - celebrated 300 years as an established faith community. For the last 45 years of those 300, this has been my church community and for the last 100+ years, it has been the church community of my extended family. 

My soul is filled as I think back over all KPC has meant to me and my family over a century of seeking God, doing justice, and loving mercy. It hasn’t always been perfect or happy and there have been plenty of bumps and bruises along the way, but I have learned to love God, love others, and do things I never imagined I could do - all within this small community rooted in God’s love.

So many significant parts of my childhood and teen years reside within and outside the four walls of our church building. There were youth group sleepovers where we played games like hide and seek and capture the flag - and where we rarely ever actually slept. I learned to serve with others at our work camps in Maine and had fun at Vacation Bible School. There were musicals like Jonah and Christmas pageants galore. We grew closer to God and each other through weekend retreats to Lake Champion and camping at the Creation Music Festival. I learned to play hand bells and even found a space in our praise band. Through this faith community, I have made some of my most precious friends.

At KPC, I grew up marking most Easter mornings with a sunrise service at Lake Carnegie in Princeton, a tradition I enjoy now with my own son. For as long as I can remember Christmas Eve has meant the beauty of Silent Night by candlelight and a new ornament for our tree. These special moments and many others like them didn’t just happen spontaneously. They were tended with love by the many faithful witnesses in our congregation - some who are still with us and many more who are not.

KPC was the first true intergenerational community I came to know and a space that has been full of encouragers and role models over the years. It is where I was baptized and then, 32 years later, my own son was baptized. It is where I gained the confidence to speak in public and to take on leadership roles at a young age. It is where I was supported in trying new things and venturing out beyond my comfort zone. What a privilege that I have also been able to witness the same encouragement shown to my son and to so many others over the years.

This church is the community that surrounded me with endless practical support, love, and prayers when our young family experienced the crushing loss of my husband Joe. They wept with us, cared for us, and encouraged me to continue turning to God with all of the pain I held. I am forever grateful for those who shared their own stories of grief, love, and resilience during that time. Miraculously, this church is also where that deep loss has transformed into the ability to support so many other people who are grieving the death of a loved one through our church's now 10 year old GriefShare ministry. 

As we gathered today as a church community, I marveled at the way that we each impact one another, sometimes in ways that we never even understand or could possibly foresee. A gift that I had forgotten about giving holds a place of prominence for the person who received it. The care of a beloved church member in meticulously recording the details of past church events brings joy and laughter even years after her death. The "painting genes" of a great grandparent gently reveal themselves in the effort of her great-grandson.
Celebration Lunch at KPC 1/21/2023

This is the beauty of community - that together we are better and stronger than any one of us separately and that there is tremendous power when we follow those gentle nudgings of God's voice. Today I am thankful for the cloud of witnesses that has made Kingston Presbyterian Church what it is these 300 years later and I am looking forward to a year full of events to both honor that history and love and spur us on to new challenges ahead.

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