How Can I Keep From Singing?

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation,
I hear the sweet, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing
It finds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?

The hymn “How Can I Keep From Singing?” was written by Baptist minister Robert Wadsworth Lowry in 1869, and published in the hymnal Bright Jewels for the Sunday School.  It took a while to catch on ~ so long that it wasn’t included in the United Methodist Hymnal until The Faith We Sing in 2000 (the black book).  Many credit Enya for the song’s newfound popularity, although the artist was sued for copyright infringement because she copied the newer words of the Pete Seeger version!

I’ve been thinking a lot about this song over the past week, and if you know it, you probably have as well.  The original Conference guidelines for reopening worship included the troubling phrase, “no congregational singing.”  It was only after internal discussion that our bishop shared that “soft singing” through masks would be allowable.

For those who may still be nervous, the earlier fears about singing were based on a pair of real-life cases in which long choir rehearsals led to the spread of COVID-19.  However, some important points failed to make the news.  In Washington State on March 10, the choir did not wear masks, sat only 6-10 inches apart, shared a snack buffet and stacked chairs at the end of a 2 1/2 hour session.  (Read the full report here).  While it’s true that singing is more dangerous than speaking without masks and social distancing, there is little to no risk with masks and social distancing.  In fact, Christianity Today rescinded its earlier suggestion not to sing and replaced their guidance with the words, “wear a face mask when singing or talking” (read the full article here).

Now that I know the facts, I can nudge another popular song off my playlist (“Killing Me Softly With His Song”).  Singing is an integral part of worship, graced by the Holy Spirit.  Maya Angelou refers to the power of song in her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, whose title seems eerily appropriate at the moment.  The famous hymn “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” contains the line, “I sing because my soul is happy; I sing because I’m free.”  “Sing to the LORD a new song,” writes King David; “sing to the LORD, all the earth” (Psalm 96:1, NIV).

There’s some amusement to be found in the directive promoting “soft singing,” as that’s what we usually get anyway, especially when people don’t know the songs.  Pastors and song leaders are accustomed to asking people to sing louder, but soon they’ll be quoting The Isley Brothers (“a little bit softer now”) instead!  And since we’ve been asked to take all of the hymnals out of the pews, and don’t have a video screen, we may have to rely on memory.  But we do know the first verses of a few songs (“Amazing Grace,” “Blest Be the tie that Binds,” umm … “Joy to the World”).  This should be an interesting test!

How can I keep from singing?  Thankfully, as of this week, we no longer need to ask the question.

Our Relationship With Things

I’ve been saving a lot of money during the crisis.  I didn’t realize it until I got my credit card bill, the lowest I can remember.  I started looking at the things I’d bought in the last two months as opposed to the things I didn’t buy.

Anyone who’s been to my house knows that I don’t have a lot of stuff; I have a lot of stuff in a few categories.  I have a lot of CDs and records, books and comic books, marbles and candles.  Since March, I’ve been enjoying what I have, and realizing that I’ve been accumulating new things too fast to appreciate my current belongings.

In the past couple months, I bought a few books online, a couple albums, a few singles, a few digital movies, a few Life Is Good t-shirts, and some face masks from the tailor up the street.  I didn’t buy any comic books (none were produced), impulse books and magazines (that I usually regret), other clothes (I have enough), or candles.  I didn’t waste any money on overpriced food, including coffee.  No $15 films at the theatre.  No travel (two expensive trips were cancelled), and I only filled up the car when I reached half a tank because Valero’s gas price fell to $1.55/gallon.  And very little else.

(As an aside, my pension and IRA savings went way down, but I’m not retiring anytime soon and I suspect they will eventually recover.)

In my free time, I’ve been enjoying old movies and books.  And I’ve been reducing the amount that I have.  Many of you have reported that you’ve been doing the same thing: a spring cleaning that started early this year.

Now that things are slowly getting back to normal, the ads have come back as well: ads for more stuff.  And the more indulgent they are, the more ridiculous they seem.  I no longer feel the need to shop for unnecessary items that never filled the void they promised to fill.  This leads to an intriguing paradox: if we don’t spend money on things we don’t need, the economy won’t recover, and if the economy doesn’t recover, we won’t be able to spend money on things we don’t need!  I’m going to try not to worry about that right now.

Instead, I plan to use the rest of my stay-at-home time to internalize what I already knew: that the best things in life are free.  For me, the highlights of the last two months have been the walks and the conversations.  I don’t miss Starbucks as much as I miss talking with the people at Starbucks.  I don’t miss the church as much as I do the people.  And while I love the beach, it’s more fun to go with friends or meet them there than to go alone.

So let the mega-rich live on their private islands and yachts until the crisis is over.  That’s their prerogative.  As for me, I just want to see the people I care about again.  While sheltering in place, things have been a consolation.  But they are not what I miss the most.  It’s wonderful to think of all the reunions that will take place as more and more restrictions are raised: parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, friends and church families.  We’re getting closer every day!

Pinwheels!

May is ALS Awareness Month, and to celebrate, we’ve decorated our front walk with 90 pinwheels!  The pinwheel ceremony is the culmination of the ALS Ride for Life, as a field of pinwheels at Stony Brook University honors those who have lost their lives to the disease.  Every 90 minutes, a person dies from ALS ~ but every day, we’re also edging closer to a cure.  We’ve planted these pinwheels as a reminder, but also as a symbol of hope.

In addition, the first batch of posters submitted by kids are now featured in the first of a series of Virtual Ride Videos: look closely, you’ll see someone you know!

Remember that helping can be as easy as making a poster, chalking a sidewalk or making a donation!  The positive spirit of the ALS Ride for Life Organization has been an inspiration to our community for years, and even if they are not riding this year, their work is still raising awareness and touching our hearts!

To all who struggle with ALS or who care for someone who is ~ may God bless you with grace, energy and the hope for a cure.  May we all stay positive, knowing that we are not there yet, but that we are making great strides by foot, wheelchair and car, physically and virtually.  We pray that our pinwheels will make you smile!

 

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

One of the most common side effects of the global quarantine is a disruption in our sense of time.  At any given point, many people don’t have any idea what time it is, have difficulty remembering what day it is and in some cases even get confused about the month (it’s August, isn’t it?).

The song “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is” comes from Chicago’s first album, which was released 51 years ago.  (It can’t be that long, can it?)  The version below may also be disorienting to those who know the song, because it starts with a minute and 15 seconds of solo jazz piano, which wasn’t on the single (young people, ask your parents to explain).

Wow, that was 51 years ago.  Sorry, got distracted for a moment.

We’re used to a little time distortion.  We feel it in jet lag and daylight savings time.  At the beginning of the year, we tend to write the previous year on our checks (if we still write checks).  Time flies when we’re having fun, slows down when we’re not (remember looking at the school clock that never seemed to hit 3:00?), speeds up as we age and is in incomprehensible to smaller children, to whom a minute can seem like forever.  (That’s why they’re always asking, “Are we there yet?” ~ unless it’s just to annoy us.)

We all experience time in different ways.  While we were filming this past weekend, I thought I’d spoken for two minutes more than I had, while George thought he had spoken for four minutes less!  But remove the normal markers, and things get weird.  For example, this past weekend was a holiday weekend, but we recorded for church on Saturday, were not in church on Sunday and didn’t have a parade on Monday, which made a three-day weekend smudge at the edges.  And while some people are still working normal hours, others are working from home at their own pace or not working at all.  School no longer has a set start and end time, restaurants and stores have different hours (if at all), we’re not planning vacations, there’s no sports calendar, and even weekends can seem like weekdays.  We may as well throw in the fact that it didn’t snow all winter, and that it’s still colder than usual in the Northeast, but that’s okay because it’s still March.  I think.

In place of normal time we’ve got one big blur that we might call “Corona time,” except that sounds like a beer commercial.  Or we’ve got B.C. (Before Corona) and now.  (No idea what A.D. will be.)  And we’re waiting for time as we knew it to begin again.  Ironically, many of time’s markers are human inventions, such as months, hours, minutes and seconds.  At certain points in history, entire civilizations have needed to “correct time” when it has fallen out of synch, most notably when the English government jumped forward 11 days in September of 1752.

This is all leading to a very different period in existence: the end of time.  After this world is gone, time will cease to exist.  We will enter into God’s time, which is very different from earthly time.  Some believe that in God’s time, past, present and future all seem to occur simultaneously, an idea also popularized in science fiction movies such as “Interstellar.”  We can only guess what this new type of existence will be like, although we’re getting an idea now.  Imagine the opposite of quarantine, in which we could do anything we wanted, go anywhere we wanted, see anyone we wanted, and experience an infinite amount of glorious and joyful pursuits.  Now add the thought of being surrounded by the love of the Holy Spirit, having left behind all sorrow, illness, sin, guilt, anxiety and fear.  Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

One day, time itself will cease to exist, which makes our time here all the more meaningful ~ so let’s use it wisely, no matter what day we think it is!

 

Everybody’s Talking About Church!

Wow, this has been a crazy week.  Turn on the TV, listen to the radio, and it’s impossible to escape this simple, astonishing fact: everybody’s talking about church!

It all started when churches were finally declared “essential” just before Memorial Day Weekend.  This was followed by some churches rushing to open, others taking precautions, our local bishop responding to the president within an hour with a public statement (never seen that before!), and a huge public discussion about the safety of public worship balanced against the desire for public worship.

Commentators from across the political spectrum let their normal reluctance to talk about their personal affiliations slip, saying such things as “people need to worship” and “I’m looking forward to getting back to church” and “Church is an integral part of American society.”  All of a sudden, we were the main topic!

Down South, church really is an integral part of American society, as Sunday mornings are still for the most part held sacred (no sports!) and people talk publicly at lunch about the services they just attended.  It’s one thing I love about the South, although the North still makes better bagels.  (The South also has us beat on sweet tea.)  Here in the North, especially in the Northeast, church attendance has been on the decline for decades, to the point of slipping out of the public discussion.  That’s why it’s so gratifying to see it pop back into the conversation.

Of course one of the ironies is that so many people are saying they miss church, but if one were to ask them, “When was the last time you went to church?”, they might answer, “Christmas.”  This only underlines the fact that people miss something more when it is taken away from him, as in the famous phrase, “don’t know what you got until it’s gone.”  We do know that the lockdown has produced an enormous amount of anxiety, fear, loneliness and depression, and that a great hunger for God has been building in isolation.

The biggest challenge to this buildup is that at a time when more people seem to want to go to church than ever before, safety requires us to restrict attendance!  But we can get around this by offering the number of services that are needed.  And of course it’s important to remember that the church exists even without the building.

For now, let’s just take a moment to bask in this amazement:  Oh my God, everybody’s talking about church!

A different kind of Memorial Day

Building on what George and Steve talked about in yesterday’s service, this will be a very different kind of Memorial Day; but it also has a chance to be a better one than usual.

If this were a normal year, I’d be waiting for the sound of the Sayville High School band rehearsing in a parking lot up the street to alert me to the fact that the parade was about to start.  (The drums do the trick!)  Then I’d walk to the corner, where I’d see other people from our church, such as Mary and the Croces.  We would cheer for all those marching, from Scouts to veterans, police officers to fire departments.  We would try to distract George as he marched by and we would always get him to smile. We’d try to figure out which of the band members (all wearing the same colors) went to our church.  We’d wave our flags and appreciate our community while remembering the sacrifices of those who had gone before us.  Then I’d get ready to go to the beach, being careful to separate the time before noon (remembrance) with the time after noon (celebration).

But I’d also be bombarded with TV and radio ads for Memorial Day sales, announcements that Memorial Day is “the unofficial start of summer,” and a barrage of blaring words and bright images that have little to do with Memorial Day at all.  Meanwhile, others would be laying wreaths on graves.

This year, we’ve lost part of our ability to celebrate, but none of our ability to remember.  Because we’re all sharing a loss right now ~ because we’re all cherishing our freedoms ~ we may be more tuned in to the ideal of sacrifice than any year since 2001.  We’re already solemn, because solemnity has been imposed on us; but this has resulted in a deeper empathy as well.  Now more than ever, because we are keenly aware of what we have, what we’ve put aside, and what we hope to have again, we’re able to say, with humble hearts and grateful minds, thank you.

In the earliest observances of Decoration Day, widows decorated the graves of those who died in the Civil War, even if the soldiers had fought for the other side.  This symbol of unity is just as important today.  May this day bring us together in a shared appreciation for those who lost their lives in the service of their country, no matter what their race, social standing or political affiliation ~ and may it spur us on to an appreciation of each other that surpasses such divisions as well.

God bless you, God bless our church, and God bless America!

Sunday Worship Service ~ May 24, 2020

ANNOUNCEMENTS

Good morning, everyone!
Welcome to our 11th online service.
We hope and pray that it is a blessing to you!

We will be worshipping online until at least June 21, but for those worshipping at home or out of state, we will continue to post Sunday services for a while even after we are back in the building.  Please keep in mind that church guidelines are set by our Bishop, not by national or state authorities.  All church events and activities are currently on hiatus and Mary and Joanna are working from home.  Tanae is updating our Facebook page, while Rebecca is in charge of our Instagram page and Jack has adopted our Twitter account.  Every day we add a new post right here on the website that automatically pops up on Facebook and Twitter as well.  If you missed any of this week’s posts, simply scroll down to see them!  This week Miss Tammy has posted Memorial Day activities on the Sunday School page, while Steve’s new Bible study on Memorial Day and remembrance can be found on the Bible Study page.  To see these, simply click the links above.  

OPENING PRAYER (J. Veltri, S.J.)

Gracious God, on this Memorial Day weekend,
we remember and give thanks
for those who have given their lives
in the service of our country.
When the need was greatest,
they stepped forward and did their duty
to defend the freedoms that we enjoy,
and to win the same for others.

O God, you yourself have taught us
that no love is greater than that
which gives itself for another.
These honored dead gave the most precious gift they had,
life itself,
for loved ones and neighbors,
for comrades and country – and for us.

Help us to honor their memory
by caring for the family members
they have left behind,
by ensuring that their wounded comrades
are properly cared for,
by being watchful caretakers of the freedoms
for which they gave their lives,
and by demanding that no other young men and women
follow them to a soldier’s grave
unless the reason is worthy and the cause is just.

Holy One, help us to remember that freedom is not free.
There are times when its cost is, indeed, dear.
Never let us forget those who paid so terrible a price
to ensure that freedom would be our legacy.

Though their names may fade with the passing of generations,
may we never forget what they have done.
Help us to be worthy of their sacrifice,
Amen.

WORDS OF ASSURANCE: 2 Corinthians 1:5, Good News Bible

Just as we have a share in Christ’s many sufferings, so also through Christ we share in God’s great help.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

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 trespasses,
As we forgive those
Who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil,
For thine is the kingdom,
And the power,
And the glory forever.
Amen.

OPENING HYMN:  “America the Beautiful”

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

CHILDREN’S MESSAGE

Hi kids!  Normally I’d be asking you questions like, “Do you know what Memorial Day is?” and “What are you going to do tomorrow when you have no school?”  But this year is different, because you haven’t had school in a long time.  You’re probably wondering when you can go outside and see your friends again, or how long you have to wear a mask.  We’re all making sacrifices right now, and some of them are really tough!

People who fight in wars also had it really tough.  Sometimes they are in planes, sometimes they are on boats, sometimes they are on the ground, but all of them are away from their friends and families and miss them very much.  They make sacrifices because they want people back home to be safe and free.

Normally on Memorial Day we have parades and people get together to remember those who are no longer with us.  But we won’t be able to do that this year.  Would you like to do something to remember them?  It’s easy!  If you have an American flag (even a little one!) put it out on your lawn tomorrow, and if you don’t have one, draw a picture of one and put it in your front window with the words, “Thank you.”  (If you’re still learning how to make letters, ask an older person for help.)  That way, anyone who walks by will remember that it’s Memorial Day!

For more Memorial Day activities, see the Sunday School page,
which is loaded with ideas from Miss Tammy!

Let’s have a prayer together.

Jesus, thank you for those gave their lives
So that our own lives could be safe and happy.
Bless their families as they remember them today.
Bless us all, bless our country and bless our church.  Amen!

Now let’s sing “Jesus Loves Me!”

CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER
(Note: Add your own prayers at the beginning or end)

Lord Jesus, we are anxious to reopen
And we are anxious about gathering in groups.
We are trying to sort through messages of encouragement
And of discouragement, often on the same day.

We are hearing different things
From our bishop, our governor, our president and the CDC.
We’re not sure what to believe or who to trust;
We’re racing through different moods,
And sometimes don’t even know
What day it is.

Help us to tune out
All these battling voices
Within our own heads and without,
And to concentrate on you.

This is the day that you have made.
This is the life that you have provided.
Yours is the truth to which we can cling;
Yours are the promises on which we can stand.

Bless June with wisdom and comfort as she continues to deal with the diagnosis of leukemia.  We continue to pray for improved respiration for Elaine in her time of crisis.  Thank you for your divine intervention in nursing Dawn back to health from COVID-19; we pray for stabilization, improvement and peace.  We thank you that Lily is home from the hospital and pray that her fever will never return.

We pray for those in our church family who are going through times of need:  for Amy, Pat, Jim, Janet, Sue, Joan, Lois, Dannie, Kathleen & Marilyn, Ken, Bunny & Marty, Harriet, Diane, Laurie & Steve, Paul, and Ruth; for all members of our extended family who are suffering; for this nation and for the world.

We thank you for being our God, and we come to you now in silent prayer …

Lord, as you know what is written in our hearts,
Attend now to our spirits, we pray in your name, Amen.

A MEMORIAL DAY MEDITATION from Steve Stica

This Memorial Day I am reminded of something that happened a few years ago to my granddaughter Allison. She is a Girl Scout and each Memorial Day they go to the national cemeteries and place flags on each of the graves to honor the memories of those who have served. 

What started out as something she was looking forward to doing with her troop soon became an overwhelming experience. As God would have it, she placed a flag on my father’s grave, looking up from that grave site she looked around. Now seeing how many graves there were she realized that these were not just grave sites. It became real to her that these graves represented real people who lived, served and died.    

This overwhelming emotional experience brought a new and deeper meaning to this holiday. This made me give thought to what this holiday is all about.

Memorial Day is a time to honor those who are serving and have served in the military. It is also a day to remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom in giving their lives. When we celebrate Memorial Day, it doesn’t mean we are agreeing with our government’s decisions and wars, but that we are taking time to recognize those who are willing to protect us.

Unfortunately it has for some become more about the start of summer then what it was meant to be. There is a real cost for our freedom and for standing up for what is right.  This memorial celebration is to remind us of who we are and what we stand for.  Perhaps with this year’s celebrations being limited and almost completely changed, maybe we can focus on the importance of this day.

Note:  this message continues with an excellent study that can be found on our Bible Study page.  After the service, we invite you to delve into the Word with our brother Steve!

MEMORIAL DAY MESSAGE from George Munkenbeck

OFFERING

Please use this time to make out a check to the church.
Thank you to all who have been contributing during this time, and helping the church to pay its bills!
As you write, please enjoy Tanae playing “Onward, Christian Soldiers”

HYMN:  “Onward Christian Soldiers”

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!

Refrain:
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.

Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never ’gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.

Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud, and honor unto Christ the King,
This through countless ages men and angels sing.

OFFERTORY PRAYER

Lord Jesus, we thank you
For your example of giving and sacrifice.
Help us to honor your life and your death
With all we do and all we give.
We dedicate this offering
In your name.
Amen.

BENEDICTION

And now, on this Memorial Day Weekend,
May we remember that our sacrifices of social distancing
and sheltering at home are nothing when compared
with the sacrifices of those who came before us
and the supreme sacrifice of our Lord.
May we honor the fallen
And stay the course.
Amen.

Blest Be the Tie That Binds

Thank you to Tanae, Anthony, Jack, Tammy, George and Steve for helping with today’s service!
And thank you for worshipping with us!  We wish you God’s healing and hope!

Welcome to the Sayville United Methodist Church!

IMG_3614The Sayville United Methodist Church is a community of faith that celebrates the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our church welcomes people of all ages and stages of faith.  We offer many Bible studies as well as programs for youth, senior citizens and everyone in between. We are located at 164 Greene Avenue in Sayville, NY, at the intersection of Greene Avenue and Montauk Highway, across from Dunkin Donuts.  Parking is available in the lot across the street on the Greene Avenue side.  The church also has a small lot reserved for our seniors and others who may need assistance.

Main Street entrance.To the left is our annual Clamfest, part of Sayville’s Summerfest. On this day, we get together to raise funds for local and global outreach. To the right is the Main Street view.

You are invited to join us Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m. (9:30 from July 1 through Labor Day Weekend).   Our average attendance is 100.  Be sure to pick up a visitor’s packet while you’re here!  Feel free to call us at (631) 589-0624 or email us at umcsayville@optonline.net with any further questions!  May God bless you this day!