Dear Grace United Church,
I do not know what is going on in your life right at this moment, or what is waiting for each of us this summer season. However, the Spirit is leading me to share what I have been learning still today about God’s Blessings and life’s circumstances.
Most of you know that I attended the Festival of Homiletics in Denver, Colo., which took place the week of May 16. This was the event’s first in-person gathering since 2019, which also offered virtual participation. At first, I was going to participate virtually, until my eldest sister Silva passed away in Los Angeles on Feb. 25.
I do not know how to explain it, but maybe this question will help. Have you ever had something amazing take place in your life, but there were so many unwelcome circumstances around you that felt like you were living through a nightmare? There is no other way to describe the unwelcome events that took place, from missing my departure flight, not because I was late, but because Air Canada has new protocols in place to make things smoother, however I think they made matters worse. Therefore, I missed my flight out, even though I was at the airport five hours prior to my flight. After my return in Canada, I waited more than four hours for my luggage to arrive on the baggage carousel, and moreover, the next morning, I saw that my van door was damaged by another car, where I had parked for the week while I was away. Things seemed to be falling apart, and I am still sparing many other details of frustrations that I refuse to repeat.
Why am I telling you all these things in this reflection? Maybe just to show that even ministers have hardships of life; and by no means is this a whining session, but it is about that little voice of the Spirit in me keeps on reminding me to not let those unwelcomed, unplanned, circumstances take away the joy, the nourishment and the delight of the conference that I enjoyed at the Festival of Homiletics in Denver
This year, the Festival of Homiletics celebrated its 30th Anniversary. Rev. David Howell had a vision 30 years ago to offer a week of rejuvenation, nourishment and networking for ministers and lay leaders of the church. Before the pandemic, the festival would have about 1,800 in-person participants. This year, there were 3,910 participants: 797 in person and 3,113 online. So because of the pandemic, and the addition of virtual attendance, the festival expanded its participation, just like we have extended our Sunday morning worship celebrations as well – there is always some silver lining even in the darkest moments of life.
Beloved, I cannot help but think back upon the date that God clearly called me to serve Grace United Church – Saturday, June 27, 2020. In the midst of COVID. I never thought, I would ever leave the pastoral charge that I was serving. There are many other dates that I can share with you when God has blessed me with so much, amid difficult and dark times. And look at us now, we have been in ministry together since Nov. 1, 2020, even though we are just officially covenanted, June 12, 2022, on Trinity Sunday, because of COVID gathering restrictions. A Covenant is an act of promise between different participants – another description is a marriage of sort, where the parties promise one another to love, respect and work together to make this world a better place.
So today, as we enjoy these beautiful sunny and rainy days, I urge you not to let your circumstances take away the Joy of God’s Blessings that are present in and around you. Airlines will make wrong decisions to help streamline the flow and make you miss your flight, luggage will arrive late, the hotel will run out of hot water, the car door might be marked with another car’s bumper, but all these things are circumstances out of our control, and the only control we have is our own reaction.
As this summer dawns around us, would you make an extra effort to be grateful for the joys that God has provided you?
You are Loved more than you know by the Creator, and by your minister… Have a happy and a blessed summer of 2022!
I remain humbly within God’s Grace – Your Servant-Leader,
Rev. Takouhi Demirdjian-Petro
B.A., B.Th., M.Div.