Homecoming Sunday pointed us forward into the new church year. With over 200 worshipers present, we felt the Spirit move in a way that gathered us back while also propelling us forward. Our numbers on Homecoming Sunday far exceeded recent years. As I looked out on the lawn where that picnic was, a robust gathering lingered talking and sharing, not wanting to go home.
Our Senior Choir with Katharine and Kompanie—our homegrown three-piece jazz ensemble—cast a powerful spell I could see upon your faces. The same message threaded its way through Christine’s children sermon, Katharine’s Voluntary before the sermon, and then my sermon: now is when we make room for God and practicing our faith in the year ahead. Because if we don’t sort and plan our priorities, our lives fill with lesser things by default. God respects our freedom too much to force Godself upon us. So it is we who must make room for the Lord God.
So much awaits us in the weeks ahead: gathering and consolidating our Church School, reconstituting our youth and Confirmation, assembling a work crew to go with me to the Pacific Coast of Mexico to build homes with the poor in February, Puerto Rican music and the blessing of our household pet companions, the return of the Rev. Ron Evans to preach on October 13th.
But as we dwell in the moment, and cannot help but to look ahead to opportunities God gives us, we also look backward to remember who we are as a people. Church member Bob Montlick lives at 407 Rowayton Road, as it intersects with Woodchuck Lane. Behind his home is a small, colonial cemetery where our founding pastor, Moses Mather, is buried. Bob informs me the city of Norwalk has spruced up the cemetery and placed a historical marker there in honor of Moses Mather. So I stopped by check in with the Rev. Dr. Mather and to see what they said about him.
We have all been elevated by Joe Pankowski’s monthly installments of FCC, Darien’s long and winding history. Both Joe and I know details differ as this history gets recounted. The marker featured an action illustration of Moses Mather in the pulpit as the Redcoats invaded, only to carry him and a score of church members away to prison. But were they first paraded through the streets of Long Island to mock them or sent directly to New York city’s dicey Provost Prison
The placard claims on Dec. 27th, 1781 Moses and his friends were released in exchange for Tory prisoners. The group trudged back up to Middlesex in the freeze of winter cold, and one of the prisoners trekking home, James Bull, died from the elements. I had never heard of that before.
The marker has another interesting twist in that church members were dying during the wintry Sunday trips back and forth to the mother Stamford church. And that provided impetus for the building of Middlesex Parish, which became the First Congregational Church, Darien. I’d never heard before that our members were dying trying to get to worship. Funny how that cuts the ground from under our excuses for not getting to church! Our forebears were serious about making room for God. They couldn’t conceive of life without God at the center. How about us?