Hurrah for the culmination of our first 175 years! Our August 7th program: Jack Waddell Presents Mark Twain’s America with Deborah Dutcher was a rousing (albeit hot!) success enjoyed by 175 in our sanctuary. For those not able to attend, I offer two items from the day as my message this month. They speak to our history and also to our momentum going forward:
As printed in the program:
Land Acknowledgment: We gather this afternoon on stolen Seneca land and on one route of the Underground Railroad that carried so many to freedom from the slave-labor farms in America’s South. We acknowledge that racism and genocide are still a reality for far too many in our nation and in our world.
As a progressive Christian worshiping community, we are proudly womanist, anti-racist, and Open and Affirming. We remember that The Park Church was founded by abolitionists -- makers of good trouble in 1846 -- and we are considering what good trouble God might be calling us to today, where we might be most effective as advocates and activists for justice, equality, and opportunity, as agents in God's work of restoration, reconciliation, and healing.
We are always looking for new partners.
My Welcoming remarks:
Welcome to The Park Church and the capstone to our celebration of 175 years of good trouble in Elmira. Some people know us as The Beecher Church, or Mark Twain’s Elmira Church, but a better description might be the Langdon Church. For two of the most active citizens within the 41 founders of this congregation -- a group of men and women who broke with their former congregation in 1846 over the issue of slavery -- were Jervis and Olivia Langdon, the parents of Livy, who would become the beloved wife of Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain.
In 1870, Clemens and his bride were married by the Reverend Thomas K. Beecher, not here in this building –- for it was not yet constructed -- but across the street in the Langdon Mansion. After Jervis Langdon’s untimely death later that same year, construction and financing plans began for what would become The Park Church. Five years later, in 1875 the first baby baptized in this sanctuary was Jervis Langdon, the grandson of the original. By then Quarry Farm was the summer home of Olivia’s sister, Susan Langdon Crane, and became the home away from Hartford for the Clemens family for those twenty glorious summers.
So when Kathy Gill, an alumna of “Mark Twain – The Musical!”, came to us two years ago with the idea of presenting a type of a revival of the Drama for our anniversary that could bring Jack Waddell back to Elmira, we jumped at the chance! Some of you remember the full production at the Elmira College Domes where Quarry Farm was the set and the stories about the Clemens’ and Langdon families were told – along with a full cast of the characters from the famous novels that Twain penned here in Elmira.
It was nine years of summer magic –- and for each of the 682 performances –- and what I remember most fondly -- was the voice of Jack Waddell and that raft gliding in on the mist. And now, after twenty- seven years, Jack is back and he’s brought with him the Elmira born, young understudy he’s coached over the years since they sang together in the Musical -- the all grown up Deborah Dutcher!
So I invite you to relax into your memories, or create new ones this afternoon as we explore Elmira history, Mark Twain style.....
It was a concert where most of the audience relived their MTTM memories and we heard gorgeous voices accompanied by our own Charlotte Cook at the grand piano. The last song was sung by the entire audience with Charlotte on the organ – Amazing Grace – and wow, did that many voices sound magnificent! Thanks to everyone who helped us present our anniversary finale – through its postponement due to the pandemic and a super hot weekend.
Welcome to our next era and our 21st century vision:
The Park Church works for social justice with a progressive pulpit and a caring congregation in a landmark structure. We are an active and hopeful partner in Elmira’s renaissance.
See you next Sunday......Jenny