Message of the Day from Rev. Tim

Sunday June 9, 2024
3rd Sunday after Pentecost
Worship In Person


Join us in person, or watch on YouTube or Facebook! If you are a subscriber to our YouTube Channel, you should receive a notification, otherwise, CLICK HERE for the link to the YouTube live stream. We will turn it on TEN minutes early (10:20 am) and a count-down clock will appear to let you know that the link is active. If you experience any problems, you can always check back later and the video will be archived automatically. The video will be available to re-watch immediately after the service concludes.

165 years ago, on June 9, 1859 ten women and two men met to formally organize the congregation that is known today as the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ of Muskegon. I think their names are worth remembering: Philip and Lucy Atkinson, Eleanor Boyd, Emily D. Cantine, Sarah A. Merrill, Emily O’Harrow, Sarah Rose, Maria Ryerson, Ambrosia Peck Sanford, Elizabeth Treherne and Wesley and Sarah Wood. (I wonder if Lucy and Sarah dragged Philip and Wesley into it, or if they came willingly!) And it is interesting to see how many street names in Muskegon are represented in that small group – even more if you count Ambrosia’s son Ransom.

For a number of years a small group had been holding religious gatherings, occasionally luring a visiting preacher to travel through the tree stumps to come and lead them for a service or two. In the letters of Mrs. Sanford, you can find her saying, “This week we were Methodists again.” And in fact, one of those regular Methodist preachers was an African-American Deacon named Abner Bennett, who walked down the lake shore with his wife Mary from their home in White Lake. A Methodist congregation, which today lives on as Central United Methodist, was organized in 1856. And the Congregationalists worshiped with them until they could charter their own congregation, steeped in the traditions of New England and upper New York which they had brought with them. An important issue for both groups was a concern about the exploitation of the vulnerable by the owners of the bars and brothels that were proliferating in what was then a rough frontier town. But even here, there were the rumblings of the national division over the issues of slavery. It was the eve of the Civil War. No one yet knew what was coming, but they sensed it would be painful and costly, and a defining moment for the entire nation. And both groups were filled with Abolitionist zeal. It was not by accident that the first settled minister called by this fledgling congregation was Alanson St. Clair, a long-time and outspoken campaigner for the abolition of slavery.

I find it interesting in this time of turmoil over the theme of racial injustice and disparity, that those are OUR roots. Have we always lived up to that zeal for social justice? Certainly not, but we do have many moments to be proud of. The pressing question is, where do we go from here?

Grace and peace to you all!

Rev. Tim Vander Haar

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