Gifts of Women Sunday: Black Madonna

Last year, Gifts of Women Sunday: Divine Feminine was one of the last services that was held in person. This year, we are still worshiping on zoom. Gifts of Women Sunday is generally the Sunday closest to March 8 which is working women’s day. I borrowed a lot from last year’s service and wish I had thought to shorten some of the prayers around communion because somehow long prayers don’t feel the same on screen as they do in person.

The sermon was a little bit about women in the prayer litany and also pieces of what I’ve been working on this year. This wasn’t my ‘best’ sermon, but it represented pieces of me, like piecing together a quilt from squares I cut out over a year. Some of the pieces are so familiar that I didn’t really read what I wrote word for word but said what was in my heart and mind. Other pieces remind me of who I was and what I was learning about God a year or so ago, and yet are still very much the fabric of my relationship with God. I wonder if I’ll be seem ripping some of it out next year or lovingly adding appliqués. And just was we have been worshiping outside of the sanctuary, I’ve been working in my office/sewing room and the metaphors for sewing and ministry continue to overlap in my mind.

The Black Madonna archetype was in the service last year, but I don’t think I appreciated her as much then as this year. I’ve only attended a one hour seminary on the Black Madonna so I know there is so much more to explore too. I got a couple of messages about other Black Madonnnas that I didn’t mention from the congregation so it was really cool to see that other people have thought about her before she made it into the sermon.

I also got a compliment on my nail color while breaking the bread for communion (‘boys be thisteling’ at me from OPI is my purple lent nail color). I know that what I choose to wear on my body and paint on my nails is a blessing to some and a distraction to others, especially now that I’m not in a robe and we get more of a close up of my hands than ever before for communion. So, I make choices that help me to worship and/or make me feel amazing and I try to worry less about what other people are thinking. In some ways, zoom has helped me to do that, because not everything I wear can be seen (I can’t remember the last time I had shoes on for church) and I don’t accidentally hear the negative comments. I am fortunate that in my current context people use the chat feature, text, and email to say positive things about the service.

My husband got this shirt from Messinabottle.com for me for Christmas. It’s really soft and didn’t shrink in the wash. MESSage in a Bottle is a T-shirt company with MESSages that give a voice to the voiceless. Black-owned, woman-owned, MESSage driven. @messinabottle

Welcome & Announcements 

Lois: PW Purpose Statement:

Our goal as the PW of Third Church is for everything we do as an organization and as a community to be guided by our PW Purpose, and that includes ministry, resources and relationships.  

The purpose statement is this:

Forgiven and freed by God in Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves

  • to nurture our faith through prayer and Bible study,
  • to support the mission of the church worldwide,
  • to work for justice and peace, and
  • to build an inclusive, caring community of women that strengthens the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and witnesses to the promise of God’s kingdom.

Presbyterian Women are aligned under a shared Purpose, but the gifts of the Spirit allow us to live into the Purpose in our own, unique ways. Sometimes in our Third Church PW we find ourselves particularly drawn to one or two points of the Purpose. At other times our group or individuals consciously work toward fulfilling all points. There are many faithful ways to live out the PW Purpose! 

We hope that today’s worship service will help us to: remember and reflect on the PW purpose statement; honor our history; acknowledge that we are in a transitional time with PW now; and give us hope for what PW will become.

Marie: Gifts of Women:

On Celebrate the Gifts of Women Sunday, we honor women of faith, those who may have felt their faith falter at times and those who held fast to faith. We give thanks for their persistence—their witness, their words, their actions. We know we stand on their shoulders.

The National PW theme for this year is based on Matthew 25:35-36: 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

Let us prepare ourselves to worship God.

Choral Introit

After the choral introit read “nurture faith” 

Elisa: Nurture Faith

Nurturing our faith through prayer and Bible study” is the first point of our Purpose, and the reason for this priority is clear! As Presbyterian Women, we affirm the PC(USA)’s position that scripture is the written word of God, guiding and inspiring us, individually and collectively. Put another way, nurturing our faith is key to discerning how God through the Holy Spirit would like for us to be (and act) in this world.

Presbyterian Women is a community of believers; and together we study the same Bible study each year—the annual PW/Horizons Bible study!  The Third Church PW in the past has used this study in small groups.  Copies of these studies and of the Horizons magazine are available in the Third Church library.  There are many resources available on the Presbyterian Women website. 

In addition to these resources, Presbyterian Women nurtures faith by participating in ecumenical movements.  The two noted on the national website are “World Day of Prayer” and “Fellowship of the Least Coin”.  In recent years, the Third Church PW has not participated in these ecumenical services.  Discerning our opportunities for ecumenical and interfaith relationships in the East End of Pittsburgh is something we encourage each other to do as we think about the future for the Third Church PW. 

The national organization says that honoring women (or men!) who have been instrumental to your faith journey or the life of your church or PW group with an Honorary Life Membership is a way that we continue to lift up those who have nurtured faith and inspire others to do the same.  The Third Church PW has done that each year as part of our Gifts of Women Sunday.  We will honor an individual later in today’s service.

Psalm (Kyle)

Instead of the Psalm reading, I would like to read the song of Hannah 1 Samuel 2:1- 2, 5, 7-9

Hannah prayed and said,

“My heart exults in the Lord;
    my strength is exalted in my God. 
My mouth derides my enemies,
    because I rejoice in my victory.

“There is no Holy One like the Lord,
    no one besides you;
    there is no Rock like our God.

Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
    but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
The barren has borne seven,
    but she who has many children is forlorn.

The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
    he brings low, he also exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
    he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes
    and inherit a seat of honor. 
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
    and on them he has set the world.

“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
    but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness;
    for not by might does one prevail.

Prelude/Meditation

Louise: Call to Confession[1]

To you, O God, we give up the burdens of this week, trusting your love and mercy.  To you, O God, we surrender ourselves, trusting our risen Lord to lead us always in the way of peace, today, tomorrow and forever.  Please join me in reading the prayer of confession printed in your bulletin.  Let us pray together.

Louise: Prayer of Confession (unison) 

God of glory and righteousness, we confess that we do not live as citizens of your kin-dom. We give allegiance to worldly thrones. We ignore the neediest in our midst. We discount our own worth. We forsake your just rule and the rules of your kin-dom. Take from us the spirit of isolation, greed, lust for power and false pride. Give us instead the spirit of interdependency, generosity, humility and love. In all things grant us time for amendment of life that we may serve you all the length of our days. Through Christ Jesus we pray. Amen.[2]

Louise: Assurance of Pardon

Beloved in Christ, you are blessed by God to inherit the kin-dom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. By the power of the Holy Spirit, you are refashioned every day to live according to God’s reign, in the freedom of Christ Jesus. Friends, know that you are forgiven and be at peace. [3]

Response Gloria Patri

Moment of Dedication

Susan:

History of Handling Money

Part of the history of how the PCUSA churches handle money includes a time when women were not allowed to serve on boards or have a voice in how the church finances were invested or spent.  The lack of women in the place decisions were made lead to underfunding of organizations that serve women and children.  The women of the church gathered and raised their own resources to support mission and social justice.  Today, women have roles in the church boards and have voice and vote in all matters including our financial ones.  Our Third Church PW still maintains their own accounts that allow them to support missions that are near and dear to their hearts.

Sherie: Support Mission 

For more than 200 years, Presbyterian women have demonstrated a commitment to serve the mission of the church in special, caring ways. From our early beginnings as missionary societies to our work with hospitals and schools, our caring has been tangible. What does it mean to support the mission of the church worldwide? For Presbyterian Women, it means that we respond to God’s love for us by offering our many gifts to ensure wholeness for all. Standing alongside the PCUSA and our ecumenical partners, we bring Christ’s love to the world.  There are many opportunities to participate with the national and presbytery level PW in mission.  Any Presbyterian Woman (or man) can choose to participate as in individual giving time talent and treasure to the missions they choose through the national PW website. 

The most admirable attribute of our Third Church PW is their support for mission partners.  Throughout the years they have supported a variety of organizations including: Alpha House, Families Outside, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Operation Safety Net, Orr Compassionate Care, Hosanna Industries, Achieva, Mars Home for Youth, Medical Benevolence Foundation, Synod Mission Project, East Liberty Family Health Care Center, Healthy Start Pittsburgh, Wilkinsburg Community Ministry, and Treasure House Fashions.  Third Church PW also supports Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community and sponsors scholarships at Maryville College and Walters State Community College.   

Perhaps the organization Third Church associates with its PW the most is the Days for Girls program.  It was supposed to be a one-time “hands on” mission project that has taken on a life of its own.  With support from the Third Church PW and Mission Committee this program has welcomed members of our local community from two half-way houses and a group of adults with special needs; remains a safe place for Literacy Pittsburgh Students to practice their English; and grown to include local college students.  

Through the pandemic the Pittsburgh Chapter of Days for Girls continues through at home sewing and weekly zoom meetings.  Even in less-than-ideal circumstances the chapter has contributed meaningfully to the national organization.

Marie: Work for Peace and Justice 

We are called to share God’s love with the world, by being God’s hands in the world. We answer God’s call to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8).

Presbyterian Women in the Congregation, Presbytery and Synod groups respond to local or regional justice and peace needs. Our work can be action, advocacy or awareness-building—or a mixture depending on the gifts of our groups. In addition to local and regional emphases, Presbyterian Women Churchwide suggests addressing the injustices of: Mass incarcerationPovertyRacism, Human trafficking, Violence And promoting Quality education, Informed advocacy through The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)and Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD).  PW groups focus their justice work around substance use disorder (SUD), using suggested actions or prayers or around eco-justice, using a flier of awareness-raising points and suggested actions.  The national PW website includes “The Justice and Peace Calendar” as well as other ways groups or individuals can participate in actions days and learn more about how Presbyterian Women supports the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s work in the areas of advocacy and social justice, education, hunger and poverty, immigration, gender and racial justice and environmental ministries.

Anthem

Intercessory Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer (Lois will read the leader piece and all PW committee members will unmute and say the response)

A Litany for Women Who Disrupt Systemic Poverty 

Leader: Holy and loving God, author of life and giver of every good gift, you visit us with your glory and set us on paths of justice and compassion. Receive our thanks and praise! Hear especially our gratitude for women who have kept your commandments in caring for the least among us. For Mary and Hannah’s proclamation of your righteousness and for all who continue this praise and declaration 

All: We give you thanks. 

Leader: For Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah’s insistence on their worth and for all who challenge the economics of patriarchy, 

All: We give you thanks. 

Leader: For Esther who negotiated with power and for all who strategize on behalf of the powerless, 

All: We give you thanks. 

Leader: For Lydia’s just use of wealth and for all who use their influence for good, 

All: We give you thanks. 

Leader: For Tabitha’s care for the well-being of others and for all who are turned outward with compassionate care, 

All: We give you thanks. 

Leader: For the woman at the well who risked speaking to you and who shared good news, for all who speak up and speak out, 

All: We give you thanks. 

Leader: For women who organize themselves, increasing power by numbers; 

For women who dance, paint, sing, all artists who expand our vision of justice; 

For young women crying out against all manner of evil; 

For women with length of days who teach by experience; 

For women who educate, propose new policies, legislate and activate; 

All: We give you thanks. 

Leader:  Hear our thanks and praise, O God. For we pray in the name of the one who dwells in our midst and calls us to serve, Christ our God.[4]  And we continue to pray as Jesus taught us, saying 

  —Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.  Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever, and ever. Amen.    

Elisa: Scripture reading: 

Matthew 25:35-36

New Revised Standard Version

35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

Children’s Time (Mary Louise)

Meditation

Thank you MaryLouise for the telling the story of Hannah.  For the sermon today I’m going to talk a little bit about the other women mentioned in the Litany.

Our ancestors in the faith include many bold women who disrupted systemic poverty. As Hannah before her, Mary, the mother of our God, sang out and proclaimed God who overturns the bonds of poverty. The lesser-known five daughters of Zelophehad—Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah—negotiated with Moses for release from their destiny of poverty. Tabitha (Dorcas) witnessed to and worked for others’ freedom from poverty. Each of these women in her own way recognized and challenged the status quo of wealth and power. These stories document that women disrupting systemic poverty is not a new thing.[5] Each of the women in the liturgy have much to teach us about living a faithful life filled with love of God and neighbor, and compassion especially for those who are in need of physical care or who have been excluded from other forms of community.

Esther

Esther was a Jewish woman who became the queen of Persia.  When the king’s assistant made a decree to kill all of the Jews, Esther asked the king to spare her people.  By speaking the truth about herself and making a brave and bold request of the king, Esther saved God’s people.   The memory verse from this story is Esther 4:14 “Who knows, perhaps you have to come to your royal position for such a time as this.”  And sometimes today we shorten it to “perhaps you were born for such a time as this” to provide encouragement to those who need to do a difficult thing. 

Lydia

You can read about Lydia in Acts 16.  Lydia was a successful businesswoman and community leader that was baptized by Paul and had her entire household baptized too.  Her home became one of the places believers could gather to hear Paul and become something like what we call a new worshiping community.  She generously opened her home to Paul and other members of the community who wanted to learn more about Jesus.  

Tabitha

Tabitha is her Jewish name. She has a Greek name, Dorcas, because she (and many others) have been colonized by Rome. When Paul calls her to life, he uses her Aramaic name, Tabitha. The words he uses have a decolonizing tone. God calls us by our real names, (whatever that might mean for each of us), because God is calling us as our truest or most authentic self. The purpose of the use of her real name, and her resurrection (for the writer of Luke and Acts) is to spread the good news about the inbreaking kin-dom of God in the world.

Tabitha is a woman of wealth and status whose death impacts her entire community. Her story gives us a picture of how women served important roles in early Christian communities (known then as followers of The Way). Tabitha used her time, talent, and treasure to support those around her. Much like those of use today who are sewing reusable menstrual pads with Days for Girls.  Tabitha’s story highlights the role of widows too. Sometimes we think of widows as those needing care, but they are often those giving care. In Tabitha’s story, we see them tending to her body for burial. And can I just say, when I die, I hope my friends and family show people DFG menstrual hygiene kits and talk about how I loved everyone “sew” much. But even in this life, I hope women find ways to encourage, support, and even brag a little about other women they know doing good work. 

The kin-dom of God is here when become authentically us, we call each other by our real names, know each other’s true selves, and use our time, talent, and treasure to uplift all of our neighbors. 

Sisters and brothers, I encourage you to Love God “sew” much. Love yourself “sew” much. Love your neighbor “sew” much. Period[6].

We can look to women in scriptures for examples of how to live a faithful and to guide our prayers.  

I feel called (and hopefully all of us feel called) to continually look for new ways of understanding God in order to deepen our relationship with the divine.  I especially seek out ways that help us see a feminine side of God because our traditional church language does not provide enough of that for me (and maybe for some of you).  I’ve been looking for avenues to explore what it means to be a Christian and a feminist.  I think there are a lot of young women trying to do the same.  

In my quest for communion with the divine feminine, I found “A Prayer book for Remembering the Women: four seven-day cycles of prayer” by J. Frank Henderson with hymn texts by Mary Louise Bringle. The edition I use was published in 2001, which helps me remember that looking for examples of women in scripture and in prayer has been the desire of believers for a while even if it’s coming back into vogue with the newest wave of feminism. In the introduction Henderson writes, “These four orders of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are offered here for the use of the church in the new millennium. They are simple, relatively brief and readily adaptable. These rites are intended for use by the entire church–an inclusive church. Though the texts refer frequently to biblical women and feminine images of God from the Bible, they are for both women and men. Biblical women are examples for men as well as women, and for their own spiritual benefit men need to hear and respond to the biblical stories of women that have been neglected by the church for so long. Obviously, biblical women and their stories are highly significant today for women in the church.” pp. 5-6

Another part of my quest for a relationship with the divine has led me to consider different archetypes in faith traditions, mostly in the Christian tradition, but I do see other scriptures and mystic traditions as helpful too.  

Role of women in scriptures and in mystic traditions varies, recently I learned about an archetype of the Black Madonna that can be found mostly in Catholicism but also in other traditions[7].  I knew about Our Lady of Czestochowa Poland from the Felician Sisters I worked with at OLSH.  The miraculous survival of this image reminds believers that the Black Madonna will be with you in the fires of your life.  She is known for her solidarity with those who need her and for healing the country by aiding the nonviolent movement that threw off an authoritarian regime.  Similarly, Aparecida, known as the one who appears and the mother of the excluded, is seen as a liberator and healer in Brazil.  These manifestations of non-white Mary and Jesus along with many others are venerated for similar attributes.  They are solidarity with the excluded, an inclusive, generous, and welcoming nature, healing of the country by nonviolently overthrowing a corrupt ruling power, and care for the earth.  The black Madonna as an archetype reminds us to choose to love even when there is reason to hate, to see darkness for positive attributes, to care for our earth and one another.  

The women found in scripture, in prayer books, and as archetypes in different faith traditions as well as the women who have been part of my church family throughout my life, and especially now at Third Church have guided me towards a faith styled after Matthew 25:35-36 (NVSR) 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’

I hope and pray that we can continue to be a church that supports women and follows their leadership for faith and mission.

Communion

Prayer Before Communion:

Let us pray to the Holy Spirit to make us aware of her presence today as we prepare to celebrate Holy Communion:

O Holy Spirit 

yours is the feminine face of the Holy,

the luminous moon who lights up the night

as we travel from captivity to liberation,

the pillar of fire who guides our way home,

the cloud hovering over the mountain peaks,

living sign that the drought is over.

You are the indwelling presence of the Divine.

Whenever we gather to praise the One

you are here in our midst.

When we cry out for justice

you make our hearts tender.

When we stand with those on the margins

you make our legs strong.

When we create works of art

and parent or children

and harvest our gardens

you guide and sustain us.

You are the Sabbath Bride, the Beloved,

returned from exile.

You restore balance in our relationships

and wholeness to our fragmented souls.

You infuse our lovemaking with honey.

You fill the cup of our hearts,

which tremble with longing,

with the wine of your answering love.

You are the song of our homecoming.

You are the Sabbath Queen, the Great Mother,

who sits at the heart of the table

tearing off hunks of the secret bread

that contains the exact flavor each of us loves best.

You feed us all,

the proud and the repentant,

the believer and the skeptic,

from your hands.

Your unconditional forgiveness dissolves otherness.

O Holy Spirit

we are the vessel for your inflowing.

Your radiance requires the clay of our embodiment.

Your flame burns at the core of the earth.

Your warmth penetrates the seedbed and animates

            the seedlings.

You bless the head of every animal

and kiss the tear-streaked face of humanity.

You are the vision that builds community,

and you are our refuge

when the fabric of community unravels.

Be with us now

as we navigate this landscape of mystery

where your most cherished attributes – 

wild mercy and boundless compassion,

righteousness and wisdom – 

seem to be cast aside and trampled 

by imperious world powers 

and we are paralyzed by helplessness.

Help us.

May we remember you and lift you up.

May we recognize your face and celebrate your beauty

in everything and everyone,

everywhere, always. [8]

Black Madonna, Your Lap Has Become the Holy Table

Dark Madonna, Mother of the World, 

Thank you for making a place for me at the table of the Holy One.

Yours is a feast to which everyone is invited.

In the circle of your generosity, we are safe.

You give me courage to face the darkness and embrace it,

knowing that in the depths of the night, inside the womb of the Spirit, 

the light of the world is rising, ready to break through.

Black virgin, you have become the tabernacle that cradles the Word of God.

You lift up the Eucharistic chalice in celebration.

You spread our ample lap and uncover a restorative banquet.

“Come,” you say – to me, and to all the world.

Your voice is warm milk, sweetened with wild honey.

“Eat, and be filled.”

[pause]

Let us lift our hearts to God. 

[pause]

It is right and our deep joy to give you all our gratitude, O God, because in love and with a creativity we cannot imagine you made the universe, and the planets, and our earth and seas and sky.  You created life, and us.

By your will they were created and have their being.

And you gave us free will, trusting that we would make mistakes and learn, trusting that we would do amazing things for you in the realm of the aesthetic and for others in the realm of compassion.

Glory to you for ever and ever.

And so with praise and gratitude in our hearts and on our lips, we join our voices in the song of the angels and saints – 

Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of Jesus, Mary and her sister Martha, and the other Mary[9], and all of the other Marys and biblical women. 

Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Ávila, Thérèse of Lisieux, and all of the women who unofficially part of the teaching body of the church.  

Clarissa Danforth, Antoinette Brown Blackwell, Anna Howard Shaw, Louisa Woosley, Margaret Towner, Addie Davis, Rachel Henderlite, Elizabeth Alvina Platz, Barbara Andrews, Janith Otte, Katie Cannon, and all the women called to ordained ministry.[10]  

Sue Morris, Marilyn Gilmore, Mary Brown, Peg Carpenter, Caroline Sutton, Rachel Bobo, Lee LaValley, Jean Maxwell, Ann Bowes, Nancy Pohmer, Fran Evers and all of the PW moderators and recipients of the lifetime award.

…among many – who forever sing to you, as we say these words:

Holy, Holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,

Heaven and earth are full of your glory. 

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.

Sanctus

You are blessed, O God, and Jesus is blessed, and the Holy Spirit is blessed.  We ask now that you send us your Spirit, that by your power, this ordinary table will become a sacred banquet, and this bread and cup will become holy things that we can share.

As we break bread together, as we drink from the cup, unite us as a people who are grateful for all we have and share in that abundance  Let us not be afraid of the future, but instead be aware of the divine indwelling, inviting us to be at ease about what is to come as we joyfully step into the unknown.

Risen Christ, be known to us in the breaking of the Bread.

On the night Jesus was betrayed he took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to his friends, and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you.  Do this for the remembrance of me.”

After supper, he took the cup of wine, gave thanks, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.  Whenever you drink it, do this for the remembrance of me.”

Remembering now his work of redemption, and offering to you this sacrifice of thanksgiving, we are bold to pray[11]:

O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos

Focus your light within us – make it useful:

Create your reign of unity now – 

Your one desire then acts with ours,

as in all light, so in all forms.

Grant what we need each day in bread and insight.

Loose the cords of mistakes binding us, 

as we release the strands we hold

of others’ guilt.

Don’t let surface things delude us,

But free us from what holds us back.

From you is born all ruling will, 

the power and the life to do,

the song that beautifies all,

from age to age it renews.

Truly – power to these statements – 

may they be the ground from which all

my actions grow:

Amen

These are the Gifts of God for the people of God.  Thanks be to God.

We will eat the bread as it is served, reminding us that Christ died for each of us.  We will hold the cup and wait to drink it together remember that we are united in Christ.  We also know that it is not the elements that hold the grace of God but our prayers with and through the work of the Holy Spirit that united us to each other and to God.

Prayer After Communion:

Mother of God, you are the safe haven,

the secret room where the lovers of the Divine

gather to remember him, 

the oasis where the seekers find each other 

in the heart of the desert 

and exchange stories of longing and discovery. 

The fire of the Holy Spirit 

comes pouring into the open chamber of your mother-heart,

In your midst, all are welcome.

Through your voice, everything is understood.

Blessed Mother, 

may all faiths find sanctuary in you.  

May all paths flow like mountain streams 

into the river-valley of your love 

and praise the Holy One 

with a thousand voices.

Amen.

Communion unites us with God and with each other.  Communion with the divine inspires us to build community in our congregation and with our local and global communities.  Building community is a piece of the PW mission statement.  Louise will say more about that. 

Louise: Building Community

As disciples of Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, Presbyterian Women are committed to finding, nurturing and building community in our circles and cities and, truly, throughout the world!

Often, Presbyterian Women’s community building is rooted in mission or justice and peace work. Volunteering for Literacy Pittsburgh or assisting at The East End Cooperative Ministry to serve meals connects us with members of our community we may not otherwise have met. These loving, mutually beneficial interactions grow God’s Beloved Community, reminding us that regardless of how we are labeled or perceived, we are all, foremost, children of God.

At the national level, Presbyterian Women offers programming that intentionally builds community with sisters around the world. These programs offer the opportunity for mutual sharing, consideration and building up of one another!

At Third Church we are working to fuel a warm community by unconditionally welcoming everyone.  We understand that hospitality always includes welcoming the stranger.  Although for us, it is also about developing quality relationships with one another.  There is still work to be done, and probably always will be, but we know that we can count on our Presbyterian Women (and men) to build a loving community.

PW usually tells me who is reading this, probably Sherie or whomever wrote it this year: Honoring the PW lifetime member

Lois: Developing leaders 

Presbyterian Women provides an atmosphere that promotes personal growth and develops women’s gifts of responsible and visionary leadership. Empowered to serve PW, many women also go on to lead in their churches, communities and the denomination.

For some of us, the title “leader” seems like a perfect fit; for others, it seems like an overly bold proclamation of skills. Yet, in reality, each of us is a leader in some way—perhaps by delegating chores to family members, organizing the church rummage sale, monitoring a PW group’s finances or meeting attendance, or coordinating a mission project.

Presbyterian Women Churchwide offers a number of resources and programs to help leaders.

Third Church is and has always been a great place to raise a daughter, because we are on the leading edge of empowering women for leadership within the church.  We are also a great community to raise sons too.  Recently, we have encouraged our younger members to take on leadership roles in the church and in PW.  Change is hard, especially in leadership, because these changes mean that the way our church functions will change.  Some of these changes will be welcomed and others not so much, but our willingness to experiment with new thoughts and ideas and leaders will help us adapt to the changing world around us.  Who knows?  Maybe this will all work out for good and for the glory of God.  

Hymn 

Benediction 

Philippians 4:8, adapted[12]

Now, as friends:
May all that is true,
all that is noble,
all that is just and right,
all that is lovable and gracious, whatever is excellent and admirable, fill our thoughts and our hearts.


[1] Office of Theology and Worship, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Book of Common Worship, Daily Prayer (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2018), 71.

[2] From https://www.presbyterianmission.org/wp-content/uploads/2021-Celebrate-Resource-FA.pdf?fbclid=IwAR13gtFikfRa9lAaGmMBA0LBFBHkP3JoaPlM-5xdN8Vu0NUbOWrj7XKuoEs

[3] From https://www.presbyterianmission.org/wp-content/uploads/2021-Celebrate-Resource-FA.pdf?fbclid=IwAR13gtFikfRa9lAaGmMBA0LBFBHkP3JoaPlM-5xdN8Vu0NUbOWrj7XKuoEs

[4] From https://www.presbyterianmission.org/wp-content/uploads/2021-Celebrate-Resource-FA.pdf?fbclid=IwAR13gtFikfRa9lAaGmMBA0LBFBHkP3JoaPlM-5xdN8Vu0NUbOWrj7XKuoEs

[5] From https://www.presbyterianmission.org/wp-content/uploads/2021-Celebrate-Resource-FA.pdf?fbclid=IwAR13gtFikfRa9lAaGmMBA0LBFBHkP3JoaPlM-5xdN8Vu0NUbOWrj7XKuoEs

[6] If you like this blog post, Tabitha the disciple who loved to sew, you should also check out Quality Control as love for neighbor.  I also used “The Women’s Bible Commentary” edited by Carol A. Newsom, Sharon H. Ringe, and Jacqueline E. Lapsley to write this post.

[7] From the Shift Network: Discover the Transformative and Liberating Powers of the Black Madonna

[8] Mirabai Starr’s prayer to Shekinah from her book “Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics” I substituted “Holy Spirit” for “Shekinah” to avoid having to over explain to the Presbyterian congregation (that I love) already being pushed out of their comfort zone.  

[9] Matthew 27: 61 “Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.”  Matthew 28:1 “After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.”

[10] I got these names from a Wikipedia timeline of women’s ordination

[11] From an interpretation of The Lord’s prayer in Aramaic, “Prayers of the Cosmos” by Neil Douglas-Koltz

[12] From PW Celebration of Gifts of Women resource 

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