Faith Lift: In Unity
Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold how good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.”
Last weekend I was privileged to live in unity with brothers and sisters as a part of the Holocaust March of Remembrance here in Baytown. For those of you who were not able to be a part of this year’s March I’d like to share about what I experienced.
Before the service began we heard music from the Praise Band from Baker Road Baptist and Karen Aarons from Congregation Knesseth Israel. The Band from Trinity Episcopal led the music for our service.
City Councilman Terry Sain began by reading a proclamation from the Mayor of Baytown. Leah Linares from Congregation Israel Knesseth called us to worship with the sounding of the Shofar (a ram’s horn). Rev. Andrew Payne from St. Mark’s United Methodist read from Isaiah in German and then in English. Then we sang in El Shaddai in Hebrew and English.
Pastor Tommy Meekins from the Church on the Rock led us in prayer followed by Tammy and Andreas Tolas from the Ad Deum Dance Company who performed beautifully. Then Ruth and Larry Steinfeld both gave moving testimonies of their experiences of what they lost and how they survived the Holocaust.
When it was my turn to speak I asked for people to share what congregation they were a part of. In addition to the ones participating in the service, there were several other congregations represented. I was so blessed to hear people calling out their home church’s name. I heard people call out the names of at least 4 Baptist, 3 Catholic, I Episcopalian, 1 Jewish, I Lutheran, 3 Methodist, 1 Presbyterian and 1 Church on the Rock.
After the Steinfeld’s testimonies I was slated to give a Christian Response. It’s not often that this preacher is at a loss for words. After what must have been the shortest delivery I’ve ever made behind a pulpit I went with the Steinfelds to the central table in the sanctuary. I lit a candle from one altar candle and the Steinfelds lit a candle from the other altar candle and then together we lit a central candle on the table. As I stood there with them I felt the weight of the pain and suffering that the Holocaust inflicted in my own spirit. I was overcome by a sense of “standing in” for those who perpetrated those atrocities. All I could say was, “Please forgive us.” Larry said, “We forgive you.”
Karen Aarons from Temple Israel Knesseth led us in the traditional Mourner’s Prayer (Kaddish) in Hebrew. Then each person in the room who had been given a sheet of paper with the names of victims of the Holocaust were asked to read the names out loud all at once. The cacophony of names being read only added to my sense of a need for repentance. I could barely speak the names on my list.
Following the recitation of the names we were led in a prayer of confession by the Rev. Beverly Woodard from St. John’s United Methodist Church. In response to all we had heard we took an offering and sang a prayer, “God Make Us Your Family.”
Pastor Marvin Rose from Baker Road Baptist closed the service with a prayer of Thanksgiving. Pastor Beccy Smith from Trinity Episcopal pronounced a Blessing and we sang a hymn and went out to March down Cedar Bayou Lynchburg Road.
As I reflect on the March I am glad that I had a chance to experience first-hand how “good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.” On Saturday, we were kindred. We may live in different houses and on other days we may worship in different houses of worship, but we live in Baytown. On Saturday we lived in unity.
Won’t you join your brothers and sisters in prayer for our Nation this Thursday at the San Jacinto Methodist Hospital atrium at high noon? Come and behold how good and pleasant it is when Baytown’s kindred live together….in unity.
The Rev. Dr. Jim Gill is the Interim Pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church at 3900 N. Main in Baytown Texas.