Feel a little bit like you’re caught in the movie Groundhog Day? With the continuous stream of bad news abounding related to global warming, women’s reproductive rights, world hunger, warfare, mass shootings, racial injustice, insurrection and inflation – feel like just turning it all off? Here’s a book that I recently completed and recommend to you. I think it will help as it chronicles the on-going history of our collective American experiment: The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by John Meacham. Here’s the publisher’s description:
“We have been here before. In this timely and revealing book, the Pulitzer Prize-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author John Meacham helps us understand the present moment in America by looking back at critical times in our history when hope overcame division and fear.
With clarity and purpose, Meacham explores contentious periods and how presidents and citizens came together to defeat the forces of anger, intolerance, and extremism. He writes about the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the birth of the Lost Cause; the backlash against immigrants in World War I and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s; the fight for women’s rights; the isolationist work of America in the years before World War II; the anti- Communist witch hunts led by Senator Joseph McCarthy; and Lyndon Johnson’s crusade against Jim Crow. Each of these dramatic hours in our national life have been shaped by the contest to lead the country to look forward rather than back, to assert hope over fear, and to let what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature” win the day!” (A Random House Publication, 2018.)
Anybody out there willing to organize a Zoom book group?
In my day-to-day activities at Park, I often introduce myself as “the church lady.” And it’s been another busy July for the church lady:
If you missed any of the three Park Twain scholar lectures, go to Mark Twain Studies The Trouble Begins at Eight to find recordings.
At 5:10 AM on Monday, July 4th, I found myself in Eldridge Park reading out loud a full sheet of names of Vietnam War veterans as part of a three-day, 24 hour a day, recitation of the names of all 57,939 US soldiers killed from 1955 to 1975. I had volunteered to represent the church and be a reader at the Moving Wall traveling exhibit, but by the time I signed up, only a predawn slot was available. It brought back memories of seeing the Vietnam Monument in Washington DC in 1982 and of the nightly news broadcasts enumerating the daily war dead during my teen years. The 200 names I read were soldiers killed from February 20th to the 23rd, 1969. It is a July 4th memory that I will never forget.
On July 5th, I met Charlie Meyer, a craftsman engaged to “regulate” our Kimball baby grand piano in the Parlors. Carrie Hooper, who weekly gives many piano lessons there, brought his expertise to our attention. It’s an intricate set of adjustments that should be done every 10-20 years. Of course, our 109 year-old instrument had never been regulated, but he found it in very good shape, none-the-less. Since music is a big part of what Park is to so many of us, and because Carrie’s donations more than cover the cost, we felt it was the right thing to do to protect this instrument, donated to the Church by Janet Webb in 2016.
The amazing Donna Homuth is ready to restart Meaningful Movies (the post- Covid edition) in October. Doug Couchon and I joined her as a preliminary team to curate the series from suggested titles that Donna had collected. If you have a title of a social justice - themed film to suggest or would like to help us with this second Wednesday evening activity (October to May), please let Donna know.
The Muse of Fire cast of A Midsummer's Night’s Dream, who have been rehearsing in Beecher Hall for the past two months, are ready to perform for you. Two free shows – July 29th and 30th at 7:30 PM will be given “Shakespeare in the Park” style at Riverfront Park in Corning. BYO blanket or folding chair and enjoy!
Thursday Wisner Park Market clothing giveaways (11:30 – 1:30) continue, thanks to many volunteers who help. We’ll try to have them weekly while the Market is open. After one recent historic church tour, as I was locking up the sanctuary, I heard a knock on the Wisner Park door. Looking through the glass, I saw that it was the young man who had joined in the end of my tour. Since I was alone in the church I had a moment of hesitation whether or not I should open it, as he was a little on the scruffy side. But I did anyway. He pressed into my hand a folded dollar bill. I tried to explain to him that this was not necessary. I opened the bill as I thanked him and found that is was a $100 dollar bill! “This is too much,” I gushed, but he said, “Your church is doing great things, maybe this can help a little more.” Guess who caught herself in the middle of judging the content of someone’s character by the clothes he wore! Check, lesson learned!
On July 10th we welcomed at worship Horseheads High School graduate Andrew Bo and his parents. Andrew is our first Park Church Bob Lester Scholar who will be starting at Houghton College this fall. It was Aimee Lester’s idea to invest the modest Church pension she was receiving to establish an annual scholarship in memory of our beloved Pastor Emeritus Robert F. Lester. Thanks also to Dean Butts who did all the arrangements with the Community Foundation who administers the scholarship. At a wonderful church lunch that followed worship, we also recognized the one-year anniversary of the pastorate of Rev. Gary Brinn.
On Sunday, August 7th at 3 PM we will host our last official 175th anniversary event – Jack Waddell Presents Mark Twain’s America with Deborah Dutcher. Hope you’ll come and invite your family and friends for this lively reunion of singers and songs from Mark Twain the Musical and some other favorites from the American Musical and the Negro Spiritual songbooks. Find out more info about this free event. We are grateful for funding support from the Community Foundation and the ARTS of the Southern Finger Lakes.