Christmas With Good Shepherd ICC and Revs. Judy Lee and Marina Teresa Sanchez M, Roman Catholic Women Priests
What a joy it was to celebrate Christmas with the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida. This is a joyful and spirited worshipping community served by Roman Catholic Woman Priests and it has been active since 2007. It began as “Church in the Park” and developed into a community worshipping in a house in central Fort Myers bought to use as a church with living space for homeless individuals or families as well. That building was sold in 2017 as our founding co-Pastor, Judith Beaumont, RCWP was preparing to go home to our loving God and she became our guiding Angel on January 1, 2018. We then met in a condo in central Fort Myers but could not continue during the pandemic. At this time the two regular Pastors are Rev. Dr. Judith Lee ,RCWP and Rev. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia, RCWP. We also have guest Pastors to assist from time to time and wonderful church members. like Pearl Cudjoe, and Carol Schauf and Harry Gary and Kathy Roddy who assist in our gathering outside during this Covid pandemic. This Christmas gathering was held outside where several of our members live in East Fort Myers. And, on this day we also celebrated the December 19th 70th Birthday of our church elder, Mr. Harry Lee Peter Gary.
We began with “Oh Come Oh Ye Faithful” as this lively group of young and old, all shades, cultures and sizes and orientations and life statuses, has been faith-full over many years.
And of course we chanted our usual hymn This is the Day our God has made, and later, we claimed the ground and one another and ourselves as “Holy Ground”. The readings were the Christmas readings including Isaiah 9:1-6 from the Hebrew Scriptures read by our Jewish friend and visitor, Donna Girasi, (the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light…) and Psalm 96 lead by Mr. Gary and Titus 2:11-14. We added Luke 1:26-38 before the readings in order to include the call of Mary read by Carol Schauf and the Gospel of the day was Luke 2: 1-14- the journey of Joseph and Mary to the stable and the call of the shepherds to follow the star. We responded with SOON AND VERY SOON we are giong to see the king. And we ended with a rousing chorus of Go Tell It on the Mountain- that Jesus Christ is born!
Pastor Judy’s homily was “Do Not Be Afraid”. When Mary, and Joseph, and the Shepherds experienced the astonishing presence of God illuminating the birth of Christ they were troubled (Mary) and down right afraid, (Joseph and the Shepherds). Yet, each responded with a desire to do God’s will and to welcome the Christ-child, Jesus whose birth would be the entrance of God into our human existence in a new way. God would become one of us, and show us how to live our lives as God intended. And, to bring justice and peace into the world. Pastor Judy looked to the young women in our gathering and said that Mary was also a young girl, maybe in mid adolescence when she was called to be Jesus’ mother, the bearer of God. Each of them, and each one present,is also being asked to bear God, to be Theotokos, God Bearers, to bear Christ to the world….does that scare us? How will we each respond?
She looked at the young men, and all of the men, and asked how it would be to raise someone else’s child? To do what they hardly understand if God asked. And she asked all of us if we could just leave our work and get up and follow and then go and tell what they saw, as the shepherds did. The shepherds were likened to having a good but “lower level” not so easy job, like working at McDonald’s. One person added “they froze their butts at night”. And, we spoke of how God chose the ordinary people, working people, and the poor to share the word about the birth of the Christ-child. God chose to begin the miracle of living on this earth among God’s believing people, among those others call the “lowly”. But they were just the right ones to bear Christ to the world. And so are we. We looked at many things that make us afraid these days including illnesses and drive by shootings and financial stress. Those gathered spoke out, and we took a moment to name and to pray for the loved ones harmed or killed by shootings. And we looked at trusting our loving God when we are afraid. We ended by putting our fears aside, trusting God’s goodness and welcoming the Christ-child, welcoming Love who came down to us, and bearing that great LOVE to the world.
After the homily and singing Soon and Very Soon we prayed together. Our intercessions were guided by those gathered and also healing prayer was requested. We raised our hands over one another and the Pastors prayed at the side of each one.
All were invited and welcome to the Table of Jesus and we sang Silent Night and then Thank You God as holy communion/the Eucharist was received.
We concluded with Go Tell It on the Mountain and agreed to be Christ Bearers to the world around us.
Then we gathered afterward to celebrate Mr. Gary’s 70th Birthday and to receive Christmas gifts for each one gathered. Below Debbie Carey and her daughter Joelle gather with Mr. Gary and myself to lead in singing Happy Birthday.
We also remembered our dearly departed in our prayers and this dear family remembered their mother Linda Maybin and their Grandmother, Jolinda Harmon who are also our guiding Angels now.
Above Brenda Cummings and Ellen McNally and Stella Odie-Ali and Pearl Cudjoe sit with Pastors Judy and Marina Teresa on each end. All together our faithful provided a wonderful Christmas and Birthday celebration for us and we welcomed the Christ of Christmas into our lives and hearts, promising to “Go AND Tell” without fear or hesitation. It was a truly wonderful Christmas gathering.
MERRY CHRIST-MAS to all,
Love, and blessings,
Pastors Judy and Marina and the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP