By Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane
It was quite chilly in Wilbraham, but that didn’t stop 600 people from attending Super Saturday at the Minnechaug Regional High School. And it didn’t matter that the event fell on St. Patrick’s Day; in fact Conference staff sported green outfits, hats, socks, necklaces, and even dyed hair to celebrate the day.
(See related story: Conference Leaders Raise $3700 Through Wearing Of The Green, March 20, 2018)
A large Celtic cross was a focus on the stage, and worship music was provided by three members of Banish Misfortune, who played emotion evoking, traditional Irish music.
Each spring and fall, the Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut Conferences collaborate to hold a Super Saturday event -- a full-day of skill building, networking and discussing best practices. Each event offers numerous workshops, a keynote address, worship, a marketplace of vendors and ideas and an opportunity for church leaders, both clergy and lay, to network with one another.
The event, including the green bling theme, seemed to be a hit with the crowd. Debra Moore, Minister of Faith Formation at Edwards Church of Northampton, commented on Facebook, “Another great Super Saturday...morning worship was truly inspirational with Banish Misfortune.” The keynote speaker this spring was Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, the senior minister at Middle Collegiate Church (a 1000-member multiracial, welcoming, and inclusive congregation in New York City). She is an activist, preacher, and fierce advocate for racial equality, economic justice, and LGBTQ equality. Her sermon focused on bringing each line of the “Our Father” to consciousness, and discussing what kind of community the prayer calls us all to be.
“I want to talk about what heaven means,” she said. “What does Heaven mean, what does it mean to bring heaven on earth… and what kind of community it calls us to be.”
Lewis discussed the Our Father prayer, line by line, and what it means, and when she got to the phrase ‘on earth as it is in Heaven’” she asked the crowd to call out one word that reflects what heaven means to them. There was a flurry of adjectives yelled out, some of which were: peaceful, warm, just, fun, equitable, beautiful, inclusive, safe, fulfilling, music, nurturing, joyful, compassionate, healthy, forgiving, place of rest, and compassionate. But two descriptors seemed to delight Lewis more than the others: “delicious” and “it smells really good.”
“You know the vision. You are the resident theologians of your life, and in your congregation,” she said. Lewis then added her own vision of heaven on earth. “The vision of Zechariah 8 of a restored city… where the old people and the kids are safe in the city streets -- I think heaven’s like that. I love that picture of heaven and the one in Revelation 7, where’s there’s a multitude too large to count who are all praising God’s name in one voice. I love the picture of heaven in Acts 2 where the miracle of fire and speaking in tongues -- actually it’s the miracle of communication – where they heard … God’s deeds of power in their own language,” she explained. “Heaven for me is knowing we are so different, that we don’t have to squint our eyes and pretend that we are alike. We just get to celebrate the diversity. I am not like you, and you are not like me, and God loves us all. I love that.”
She then revved up the crowd as she challenged them:
"I’m inviting you to find your voice… your voice that prays this radical prayer... What will you tell this nation about the kingdom of God, about the reign of God, so that we can all finally shout ‘the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of God … and he shall reign forever.’ When that day comes and we are shouting it out on the city streets because we have made it so, partnering with our God, we have made it so everybody has enough, we have made it so that Black lives matter, and all lives matter, and we have made it so that no matter who you love, no matter how you look, you know God made you awesomely and wonderfully and we can celebrate every life. We’ve made it so there was no more gun violence … We’ve made it so that no matter where a girl child is in the world, her body is valued, her life is valued, her voice matters, and she’ll make equal pay. We’ve made it so that racism is a past time. We’ve made it so. We’ve made it so the prayer is a vision that has become realized. I want you to find your voice, your tweeting voice, your preaching voice, your facebooking voice, your snapchat voice, your blogging voice, your voice that declares that this is the vision of a healed and whole world. God’s reign, right here, right now, on earth.”
At the end of her sermon, the attendees rose in unison in a standing ovation. The morning worship space included a bare tree, which was then brought out into the hallway. Throughout the day, people tied ribbons to the tree, so that it appeared to have flowered for spring when it was returned to the stage for the closing worship. The event also included a children’s program that featured magic tricks that tied to Bible teachings.
Following the event, The Reverend Gretchen Lys Elmendorf of East Weymouth Congregational Church wrote on the Massachusetts Conference Facebook page: “Absolutely love being church with you all! Thank you 3 Conference staff for holding a spiritually enriching Irish spirit filled Super Saturday.”
The next Super Saturday will be held Saturday, October 20, 2018, at Keefe Regional Technical High School in Framingham, MA. You can add it to your calendar via this page. Submit a workshop proposal or sign up for the marketplace here.