May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
Even though we held our blessing of the animals service on Saturday morning, today, October 4, is the actual feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis lived in Italy from 1181-1226; and even though he was known for living a life of humility and poverty, he was actually born into a wealthy noble family. He eventually renounced his inheritance to embrace a life of poverty, and founded a religious order that would eventually be named the Franciscans. (A noblewoman, also from Assisi, named Clare would follow the same path and found a similar religious order for women, originally named the Second Franciscan Order, later renamed the Poor Clares.)
So why animals? Francis saw God's reflection in all of creation. He spoke of Brother Sun and Sister Moon, and perceived Wind, Water, Fire, and Earth as his siblings - all reflecting God, and able to praise God. He even preached to the birds, thinking that the birds deserved to hear the gospel just as much as the human parts of creation. Many of the legends about St. Francis involve creation - flowers, birds, wolves.
He was canonized (made a saint) in 1228, less than two years after his death, but in 1979, Pope John Paul II named him as the patron saint of ecology. The current pope, when he was elected, adopted Francis as his papal name, and has used St. Francis as an example when writing about caring for creation.
Bringing our animals for a blessing close to October 4 is only the surface of what we can take away from St. Francis's story - recognizing that the animals who share our lives were created by God and are beloved by God. I also think that St. Francis grasped something that has become much more urgent in the 21st Century - that all of creation is an interconnected network or web, and what we do as humans impacts all of God's creation. We should be humble - we were created by God, just as the birds and the cats and the dogs and the sun and the moon were created by God; and like all of them, we are called to praise our Creator. Rather than thinking that creation is something that we have a right to do with as we will, instead we should see ourselves as part of this Community of Creation. And it is only when all of God's creation is in harmony with one another that all of creation will be able to flourish.
May God bless all of the animals who share your life; and may the Creator bless all of creation!
Moving on to announcements for this week (Elaine and I were just talking this afternoon about how much is going on in the church these days):
Worship on Sunday - this will be our Thanksgiving worship service, at 9:15 at Summerville and 11:15 at Westfield and Facebook Live. We'll be reading a story of gratitude - Luke 17:11-19, where Jesus heals 10 lepers - and exploring all of the things that we have to be grateful for right now. (Sunday School will be offered during the Westfield service.)
Long Reach folks - I'm afraid that I have a car appointment in town tomorrow morning, so I won't be able to keep my office hours there this week.
Coffee House - our first community coffee house is going to be next Tuesday, October 10, at 7pm at Westfield United Church in the sanctuary. There is going to be an open mic, so you are invited to bring your guitar (or other musical instrument), your singing voice, your poetry... whatever you would like to share with a supportive audience! We are suggesting a $5 donation (there will be a basket by the door) whether you are there to share or there to be part of the audience. Coffee and Tea will be on!
Time and Talent Auction - Westfield folks have probably heard us talking about our upcoming Time and Talent Auction on Friday October 20 at 7pm. The sign-up sheet is now posted at the church, and people are starting to list the time and talents that they would like to be auctioned off! (And yes, I did sign up to bake a batch of croissants from scratch... you'll have to out-bid Pat though, if you want to buy them!) You are invited to consider what you might be able to offer and add it to the list; and then you are all invited (from all of our churches as well as the wider community) to the auction itself! Our UCW are on board to make desserts so you there will be treats to enjoy as you consider what you want to bid on. It's amazing, the breadth of talent that we have in our church!
Welsford Pastoral Charge Covenanting Service - you may have heard me talking about how our neighbours in Welsford Pastoral Charge called their new minister, Rev. Nathan Wright who started with them in July. They are now planning their covenanting service to celebrate this new call, which is open to anyone who would like to attend. It will be held on Sunday October 22 at 4pm at Patterson United (Wirral) and will be followed by a lunch catered by the two churches. Rev. Tori Mullin (Hampton United) will be the preacher at this special service.
And I think that's it for announcements today!
In terms of a closing thought this week, let me share a recording of "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace" with you sung by Sinead O'Conner (may she rest in peace) to a different tune than the one we sing it to in church. The words to this hymn are attributed to St. Francis (though they likely weren't written by him), as they reflect his commitment to living in right relationship with all of creation. You can listen by clicking here.
Blessings to you and yours, today and always!
Rev. Kate Jones Two Rivers Pastoral Charge (506) 757-2201 (office) (506) 343-1307 (mobile) www.tworiverspastoralcharge.com Pronouns: she/her/hers "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law?"
Jesus replied, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "You must love your neighbour as you love yourself."