From Pastor Kenny's Desk

August 1, 2021

Hello BEAUTIFUL MCC Richmond family!

Thank you for the surprise and generosity in celebrating my 5th anniversary as pastor at MCC Richmond. Y’all totally surprised me and blew my mind. Your words of encouragement, gifts and love mean the world to me and are very appreciated. It is a joy to serve as your pastor and watch our spiritual community transform and thrive. God is blessings our ministries and we are a blessing to God!

Thank you also for your kind and beautiful messages and support to Kirk and his family in the passing of his father, Bob Blandford. We shared every step of Bob’s journey with you, you faithfully prayed for Bob, and you constantly asked about Bob and how he was doing. Your prayers were answered in that Bob was able to have meaningful conversation with Kirk, Rob, and Julie and his wife Dale, his grand-daughters Kiersten and Lauren, and the spouses of his children. The last week of his life, Bob was comfortable, pain free, at peace, and ready to meet his Creator. As your pastor, the generosity of your kindness to my spouse and our family touches me deeply, makes me proud, and grateful. Thank you!

This Sunday is the final Sunday of our sermon series Yes! God really DOES love ME … Just the Way I AM. Together, we’ll read the book The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates and her 11 year old daughter, Juniper Bates who thought of and developed this book during a rain storm they experienced. It is a story that is a timely and timeless metaphor using an umbrella to demonstrate how kindness, acceptance, hospitality, welcoming others, community-building, and inclusion work.

It is a story about bringing people together. It is a story about having shelter and providing a safe place that helps to protect others while enduring a rainstorm. It is a story that celebrates and affirms diversity of all kinds.

Wearing a yellow slicker and boots on a rainy day, a child carries an open, big, smiling, red umbrella down a city street. It is a big, friendly umbrella. It likes to help. During a rainy day, help is welcome so the umbrella … once opened … provides shelter to all who get under it.

First to its owner, and then to a ballerina, a dog, a skater, a monster … there is no limit to how many can fit under its open, wide arms. It likes to spread its arms wide.  It loves to give shelter. It loves to gather people in.

While the book is not intended to be political, it’s hard to read it without thinking of our current events and realities we are dealing with in the United States and the political climate we find ourselves experiencing. Some people worry that there won't be enough room under the big umbrella … but the amazing thing is … there is.

The book ends with the phrase: There is always room … and a beautiful picture of a park filled with culturally diverse, differently abled people: a black jogger; a white man in a wheelchair with a small dog on a leash; a brown woman wearing a hijab with a butterfly in her hands; two men and three children … in child seats … all of different skin colors, riding a tandem bike … all enjoying themselves and their surroundings and more … under The Big Umbrella.

This story reminds me to the gift of discovering the umbrella of God’s transforming presence, grace, and loving embrace for us all … especially during the storms of our lives. It is a good reminder that no matter who you are or what you go through, God’s out stretched arms are open to us, welcoming us, embracing us, reminding us we are loved no matter how intense or loud the clash of thunder or intensity of the raging storm we are experiencing … in God, there’s always enough and room for everyone.

Regardless if it’s a storm of self-acceptance or accepting others, learning to love ourselves or extending love to others, dealing with a disability or new reality, embracing the reminder of a painful experience with grace rather than frustration, swimming through the flood of emotion over a broken or ending relationship, or the painful sting of rejection, marginalization, racism, sexism, gender bias, religious bigotry or any other ism of life … God extends God’s loving presence like an umbrella to care for us, provide for us, nurture us, and walking with us keeping us safe during the storm.

God’s umbrella of love and grace brings new realities and freedoms allowing us to sail and thrive as our true selves … bringing us to the realization of God’s complete love for us, meeting us where we are, never leaving us shipwreck or abandoned, but lovingly partnering with us to calm the seas and torrents of life as our complete Source … referring to us as the Beloved of God, holy and complete … just the way we are … giving us the grace and desire to be kind, loving, accepting and welcoming of others … embracing, affirming, and caring for those who are different than ourselves.

As people of faith, we have the joy and pleasure of helping others through the storms of their life by sharing with them the transforming love of God … inviting them, encouraging them, and sharing with them the gift of God’s umbrella of grace, love, acceptance, and presence. It’s a gift that transforms lives … one person at a time … by dismantling and breaking the power of systemic racism, sexism, gender bias, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism, ageism. and more.   

How is God walking with you, loving you, embracing you, and transforming you through love as together you walk through the storms of life? How is God’s umbrella of love and grace touching your life and reminding you … you are loved? And how are you encouraging, inviting, and making a way for others to join you under God’s umbrella of love and grace?

Kindness, acceptance, hospitality, welcoming others, community-building, inclusion, grace, and love … gifts of God and good gifts to strive to live by!

I look forward to seeing and worshipping with you on Sunday

Many blessings and much love,

-Pastor Kenny Callaghan