Where Two or Three Are Gathered: A Theology of Connection and Friendship
“I want to ask a favor. I want to ask you to walk together,and take care of one another”. Pope Francis
From the beginning we were not meant to travel this world alone. Animals and a mate and other people are important in the accounts of creation. They were important to Creator/Birther God, who is not a distant unconcerned figure but a creator who pronounces creation “Very Good”(Gen 1:31). We do not have to take these Genesis 1 and 2 accounts literally to understand and appreciate the broad motions of God in bringing the world, the cosmos, and all of the world’s beings into life. We see a God who cares for all of creation, setting aside only vegetables for initial consumption(Gen 1:29-30), a God who has Adam name the animals (not to dominate but to live in relationship with). We see a God who created men and women,female and male, in God’s own image (Gen 1: 27). We see a God who is concerned that Adam should not be alone (Gen 2: 18). With the help of Adam and God (Gen 4:1) Eve gives birth to Cain and the human family began. We may be born as individuals, but we are not born alone we are born to a mother and into a family, a community and a world. From the start, human connection is not only desirable but it is necessary. It has been the concern and passion of my life and ministry to gather people together in love. Like Jesus I hope to lose no one and to facilitate reconciliation and forgiveness so the struggles and insults of human life do not tear people apart and leave them standing alone. Although I was born an only child, I was born into an extended family and a loving church and neighborhood community. There I have always found God’s love. And there I am never alone. I want that rich human connection for myself always and for everyone. Although some people like to see themselves as islands, it is true as poet John Donne said, that no one is an island. There comes a time when we need one another. There is a time in each of our lives to put aside and forgive anything that would keep us apart. In the spirit of my Grandmother, Ella, family matriarch, each year,usually in August, I travel home to New York to gather with family and friends. They also come and gather with me in Florida.
Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures God is in relationship to God’s people who are in relationship to one another. God makes covenants that God will keep about God’s faithfulness to God’s people no matter what. And, we see also that human love and friendship is a paradigm of God’s own love. We see how Miriam and Aaron support the prophet Moses,speak for him and literally hold up his arms when he is weary. We learn of the loving relationship between Jonathan and David. In the book of Ruth we witness the beautiful and faithful love of a daughter-in-law for her mother-in-law in troubled times, Ruth says: “Don’t urge me to leave you. Where you go I will go. Where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God, my God”(Ruth 1: 16). In recent years I was completely amazed, moved and thankful when difficult choices of group identification needed to be made and one of my priest sisters, Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia, said to me as I encouraged her to make her own choice: “I want to stay with you”, quoting this very verse from Ruth. We are so blessed to remain one community.
And this is Alexandra Dyer and Eda Lorello our New York sister priests who are a part of Roman Catholic women Priests- RCWP-USA-EAST.
This is my Aunt Way Kam Lee from my marriage to John Lee. She is 93,still growing a gigantic Chinese vegetable garden and and going strong. We have been laughing together for over fifty years. Along with JudyB’s uncle Jimmy who is 95 and still working we are privileged to know the most wonderful and able elders. This month, Judy and I were also blessed to have my childhood friend Daphne Dyce and her little companion Frankie visit us here in Fort Myers.
Below are our beloved New York and New Jersey friends. Danielle, and Laura, at a birthday celebration for Laura. And, Natalie P. Johnson, my terrific young cousin on my father’s side of the(Beach) family.
Below is our reunion with special friends- Dr. Danielle Nisivoccia Kavesh and my childhood friend Dr. Barbara Ballard Grimes who grew up on St. Marks Ave. in Brooklyn with me. I am eternally grateful for forever friends.
Jesus called his followers friends (John 15: 12-15). He commanded them and us to love one another. This level of love included self-giving and selfless giving. It included a commitment to justice, inclusion and equality. Jesus broke many of the conventions of the time to welcome women and the outcast and the stranger in his midst, and in God’s service. Friends were important to him. At one point he asked his disciples: will you leave me too? He promises God’s love and his love to those who remain with him (John 14:15-27). Jesus, the Christ, cooked breakfast by the seashore for his friends. Jesus made sure that his mother would have a son and his disciple would have a mother, even from the Cross (John 19:27). He was wonderful at creating families of choice when biological families would fail (John 12:48-50). He also knew well how lost they would feel without his physical presence and said he would not leave his disciples orphans. He was sending his Holy spirit to be with them (John 14: 18-21). We are not alone and we need one another to live the fullness of our faith. Faith is not lived alone but in community. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them”. (Matt 18: 20). Of course, we can pray alone. But there is something powerful in coming together to pray with others-to be in community with others. In a new way we discover God is in our midst. The beloved communion of saints, present and gone before, flawed and imperfect as we are, is the nexus of community growth and faith. In the picture on the left is Rev. Dr. Adele Decker Jones, who went home to God this year but remains with us in the community of saints. There is much loss that we all must face. Yet we can count on that great cloud of witnesses being with us forever.
The pictures below are taken at my “Cousin’s Reunion” in Long Island, New York, in early August as well as pictures from our church community and other beloved communities in my life. We move from the eldest to the youngest and we are so thankful for each one. I am especially thankful to my cousin Kathy Robinson Knoppert for helping to pull the family reunion together.
This is my oldest cousin Dorothy Shotwell Stewart, an artist and Great Grandma soon to be 93, and Cousin Patricia Sullivan-King. Dorothy is my Grandmother Ella’s brother Henry’s daughter and Patricia is my Grandmother’s sister Augusta’s granddaughter. With their two branches represented, three branches and four generations of the Shotwell family are at this reunion most of them in Ella Adelaide Shotwell Robinson Weinmann’s branch. Ella was my grandmother and in many ways the founder and inspiration of my faith.
The group of 26 gathered (many still were not able to attend or far away). Seated with Dorothy and Pat is Cousin Bobby Robinson, the eldest cousin in our branch, and our best genealogist. His grand daughter Cassidy,16, is beside him and I am behind him. His wife Barbara is standing behind Dorothy. Below: The McGarry branch of Ella’s family. Richie, Alice and Mildred(Cookie). Below that is Timothy (Robinson) Whitlatch with his family, Cecelia and Marika and Kathy and Ken Robinson with Lori (Robinson) Whitlatch Post and Juliette Post.
My young cousin Zachary Robinson, his baby Mackenzie and her mother,Paige. My cousin Ken Robinson with Zachary and Paige’s older daughter, Savannah. Ken’s wife Lisa, his granddaughter Mackenzie, and his daughter Cassidy. The newest members of my extended family are,Savannah and .Mackenzie and also Efren Johannes Knoppert with his Grandfather, George Knoppert, husband of Kathy Robinson. His parents are Viviana Arcos Knoppert (of Colombia) and Jordan Knoppert. We are so blessed to have an international and intercultural family now. From the eldest to the youngest we want to encourage ties to be kept and maintained and the love of family and friends and community be nourished forever. Jesus, the Christ reminds us ever; Where two or three are gathered, there I am in the midst….
with love and blessings, Rev. Dr. Judy A.B.Lee,RCWP