We have entered a brand new year and, lo and behold, the world did not end as predicted for Dec. 21, 2012, by the Mayan calendar. Christians around the world prepared for the coming birth of the Savior again through the glorious season of Advent 2012. And on Dec. 25 we welcomed Him anew in our hearts and minds, and in many beautiful services of worship. Our time of preparation during Advent was important as we came to new understandings about what that birth means for us individually, corporately as Christians, and even moreso for our world.
We welcomed the Prince of Peace into our world at a time when there appears to be little peace on earth. From the horrific tragedy of the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., to a mass mall shooting in Oregon, to continuing conflict in Afghanistan, we see acts of hatred and violence in our world. Here, there are many issues of great concern including the economy, unemployment and how that fiscal cliff will ultimately affect us as taxpayers. We have seen in general a disregard for human dignity and mutual care. Communication has become much less personal, based on social media and networking that often takes the “face” out of the equation. I have seen criticisms and insults posted on Facebook that likely would not be uttered face-to-face.
Here in the Shenango Valley we deal with depression, anxiety, fear about the unknown, and the need for increased services to a growing population that’s unemployed, underemployed or homeless.
One of the themes for Advent that I lifted up in my own congregation was that of hope. I truly believe as we work together in unity and struggle together with issues confronting society that we can achieve success on a number of fronts. As I participate with the Christian Associates of the Shenango Valley, I am strengthened by the camaraderie and support of my fellow clergy and lay leaders from many valley churches who are determined to work together for the betterment of all God’s children. Denominational names and artificial labels of faith are dropped when we come together to pray and seek new ways that we can partner and support each other’s ministries and the needs of our population. Christian Associates is the premier ecumenical organization in this valley, but is only effective when all of God’s churches come to work together in peace and harmony.
On Jan. 27 at 3:30 p.m., the ecumenical community will gather at St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown Sharon to celebrate Christian unity. Various ministers and choirs will celebrate our oneness, and we will be one church on that day. As president of Christian Associates, I am proud to say that this is my favorite worship service of the year. I hope and pray that you will make this unique opportunity a part of your January celebration and that we will see you gather with us to celebrate our valley and our need to be cooperative in spirit.
Then, on Feb. 24 at St. Paul’s United Church of Church in Hermitage, we will gather again for an annual event sponsored by Christian Associates. The “Sounds of Diversity Concert,” featuring some 15 choirs from the valley, will share their love of music and their message in an annual celebration that draws more than 300 people. I pray that you will be one of those applauding for the diversity of music and worship styles that make us unique as a Christian community.
I have always felt the strength and power of the Holy Spirit present in these services, and have heard comments from others that something very special happened in those worship opportunities.
Rather than be a part of the societal problems in 2013, I hope and pray you will identify in your own spiritual journey how you can advance God’s message by taking up the mantle of leadership (in some capacity) to make a difference. As we begin to accept responsibility for our own decisions and choices in life, hopefully we discern how we can also shoulder responsibility for our brothers and sisters.
With that I wish each of you a blessed 2013, that your year be filled with success, achievement, joy and love!
Rev. Dr. Jeffrey T. Moore is pastor of Central Christian Church, Hermitage.