Westmoreland thanks God for the rain
“We thank God for the sunshine, so we might as well thank God for the rain,” Pastor Fred Bailey told his congregation at Lowell Methodist Church.
I was in the pews and his words resonated with me. Just one day prior I was awakened by a call from CNN asking me for a comment on this third rash of KKK recruitment in our area. Before I even had my morning coffee I was saying the same things I’ve been saying since May when the hate group targeted Westmoreland.
This isn’t who we are. We’re not a hateful town. We will stand up to this.
By Saturday night my comments were on CNN (https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/04/us/ny-klan-candy/index.html.) I was proud to represent my town in the national media, but I was thinking about a friend who had declined to speak to the reporter because he feared for his family’s safety. I knew that there would be people, especially on social media, who would attack me and claim that I was making the situation worse by acknowledging the danger and speaking out against it.
“Life is like a vapor, you’re here then you’re gone,” Pastor Bailey said. “Make the best use of your time.”
Am I doing that? I wondered.
“Make me dwell in safety,” Wendy Grosjean, lay reader, read Psalm 4.8.
“Make me dwell in safety,” I repeated under my breath.
When the service was over I knew I had to ask for help in making sense of all this.
It is Vacation Bible School week at Lowell Methodist Church and Anne-Louise Bailey, the pastor’s wife, was getting the children ready by raising the subject of superheroes.
“Batman was voted by fans to be the best superhero of all time,” she told the kids in the first three rows, “He saw his parents killed. He wanted to bind the criminals with justice. He has people who make things like a special suit and a car, so he will be super. He built his body to be strong, but he can’t fly…”
“Yes, he can!,” 4-year-old Sheldon interjected, and the whole church laughed.
“Batman can’t fly. He doesn’t have superpowers of his own,” Anne-Louise continued smiling.
“Batman has superpowers!” At that point Sheldon nearly leapt from his seat. Everyone laughed harder.
“Batman’s superpower is that he has help,” Anne-Louise explained. “He has Robin. Robin is a big help. We have a helper too that no one can see. The Lord is our superpower.”
“I believe we have high energy level today,” Pastor Bailey laughed.
“This glorious hope revives our courage by the way. While each in expectation lives and waits to see the day,” Parishioner Wayne McGregor sang. “Bless be the tie that binds.”
I looked around and saw that there were more people there than the last time I attended services. Being with them made me feel stronger.
“Love is stronger than hate,” Pastor Bailey had said at the beginning of the service. He closed reminding us that, “a thankful heart will enable you to make the best use of your time on earth.”
On this day the church was thankful for three new members whom they officially welcomed to the congregation, Barbara Cook, and Ed and Barbara Hodierne.
The Hodeirnes were married in the church, left to worship at a Methodist church in Rome for several years and have officially returned.
Barbara Cook told me that she feels like she came one Sunday and has been coming ever since.
“I love all the people, they are so friendly,” she enthused. “You can really feel God here.”
Noah, David, Daniel, Eli, and Jesus will be among those discussed this week during Vacation Bible School from Wednesday, Aug. 8 through Friday, Aug. 10 at 6 p.m. While I watched Anne-Louise and the kids make slime out of Elmer’s glue and soap, some of the others were getting their costumes ready. I smiled at Sheldon as he put the slime on his head.
“The righteous shout for joy and are glad,” Wendy Grosjean read Proverbs 29:6 opening Bible study.
After the books were put away, the coffee cups rinsed out, and the slime cleaned up. I asked the Baileys to help me make sense of what was happening in the community and give me some guidance.
“There is evil in the world,” Anne-Louise said. “The people of Westmoreland should be alert and be careful.”
“Educate. Speak out. We are all children of God,” Pastor Bailey counseled. “Pray.”
On my way out to the parking lot, I stopped to look at the stones in the Angel Garden in front of the church. They have all been repainted in luminous colors by Barbara Cook. They seemed more vivid because it was a bright and beautiful day.
I was present in the moment and thought about how much I appreciated the colors in the bright sunshine, more so because it had been rainy the past few days. We needed the rain too. We needed that even more.
I thought about what Pastor Bailey had said about being thankful for both the sun and the rain. You appreciate light even more after it has been dark.
Hate groups recruiting in our area is a problem for us all. We all need to work together and stand together to solve it. We cannot give into this. We cannot become a community of violence and cross burnings.
I looked down at the first line I had written in my “reporter’s notebook.”
“It’s always too soon to give up.” That’s how Pastor Fred had begun the service, and that’s something I took with me.
Ron Klopfanstein is a seventh generation
Westmoreland native, president of the Westmoreland Historical Society, a member of the Westmoreland Town Pool committee, and a 1st degree Westmoreland Mason. He teaches English at Utica College and Mohawk Valley Community College. Like him at Facebook.com/BeMoreWestmo and follow him at Twitter.com/BeMoreWestmo.