Let Your Circle Be Wide Enough to Let Others In

#PastorsCorner for Sunday, February 21, the First Sunday in Lent ~ Liturgical Year B

This past Wednesday more than forty of us from across MDI gathered together for a virtual Ash Wednesday Service coordinated by my colleague, the Rev. Dr. Janet Adair Hansen, Interim Pastor of the Somesville Union Meeting House UCC. Janet has been a wonderful addition to the local UCC Pastorate and this Lent it will be a joy to work alongside her and my dear friend, the Rev. Rob Benson of the Bar Harbor Congregational Church UCC once again. While we don’t always agree—no three adults do—and our ministries have taken various paths, it is a remarkable blessing to be able pastor alongside each other with a healthy respect for one another. As with any profession, but perhaps especially ministry (like teaching and medicine which can also place similar 24-hour stress on the practitioner), having colleagues of integrity, honesty, and reliability is vital for both personal and professional health. We do well when we seek out mentors and friends who round-out our own experience, inspire us by their own commitment, and challenge us to be who we are called to be.

The Rev. Douglas C. Horner has been one such person for me since our days at Yale Divinity School. Doug and I share essential things in common—a solid Northeast Ohio childhood, loving families, devotion to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth & the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, a life-long love of canoeing, and the willingness to speak truth to power—but we also complement each other: he’s a gifted mechanic, I’d rather plant a tree; Doug’s a former Marine with a passion for veterans, while I spent my time after our years in New Haven volunteering among immigrants & refugees in Rome; he works selflessly amidst the materially poor & socially marginalized in this country while my life has been largely dedicated to ensuring human flourishing in the international sphere. One thing is for sure. I would have never considered ordained ministry in the UCC if it weren’t for Doug example as my longtime Pastor at Saint Paul’s Community Church in Cleveland and someone who consistently reminds me of what it means to live out one’s calling in the day-to-day.

The past year has been difficult for all of us. Many of us have mourned the enforced distance from loved ones and mourned, as well, the loss of like. Doug’s dear mom, Betty, passed away this past year. She was an inspiration to Doug, his family, me, and literally thousands of others across the country for her lifelong commitment and how she challenged the UCC to be the Open & Affirming Denomination we have come to be. Today, we have the gift of Doug’s presence and wisdom with us in Worship. When he learned about Alyne’s recent, major surgery, he asked how he could help, and I told him preparing a Sermon for a Sunday morning would be a great relief! I’m thrilled he is able to be with us this morning as he reflects upon our scripture from Genesis & Mark in a Sermon entitled “Life Moving Forward”.

Throughout his preaching we will be posting this poem, entitled Outwitted by Edwin Markham, that Doug asked us to share: He drew a circle that shut me out –heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win. We drew a circle and took him in. This Lenten Season, I pray that you will also find the comfort of shared commitment of dear friends. For each of us is called to love and to have circles wide enough to let others in!

Faithfully Yours, Joe

February 21, 2021

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