Welcome (with audio)

The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 20B, September 20, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Proverbs 31:10-31 Give her a share in the fruit of her hands and let her works praise her in the city gates.James 3:13-4:3, 7-8 Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.

Mark 9:30-37 Welcomes…welcomes…welcomes…welcomes.

O God of radical welcome, grant us the strength, the wisdom and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth, come when it may, and cost what it will.

Hello! I’m so glad you’re here! Happy New Year! Part of the fun of living in an interfaith family like the family Emmanuel Church makes with Central Reform Temple is that we double our holidays! This sanctuary is still humming with the celebrations of the Jewish New Year that began last Sunday evening. So we enter this place today in the midst of the prayers of the Days of Awe – the high holy days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The themes of the Days of Awe are hope, reconciliation and repair – in individual lives and in the world – the Days of Awe are days of reflection, renewed commitment, and action. Continue reading

Racism is wrong. We must do better.

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 18B, September 6, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23 Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor.

James 2:1-10 (11-13) 14-17 Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Mark 7:24-37 They were astounded beyond measure.

O God of mercy, grant us the strength, the wisdom and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth, come when it may, and cost what it will.

The lessons we just heard from Proverbs and James make it abundantly clear that the blessing of God is upon those who are generous, who share their bread with people who do not have enough. The evidence of blessing is not simply prosperity. I often hear people who are experiencing abundance expressing gratitude, giving thanks to God and saying, “I am so blessed.” But according to Proverbs, it’s not the fact of abundance that is a blessing from God; it’s the distribution of abundance so that everyone gets enough. The evidence of blessing of God is in the sharing. And James says that mercy triumphs over judgment – mercy trumps judgment — every time in the realm of God. Whenever there’s a conflict of biblical values or teachings, ask yourself, which approach is more merciful and go with that. Continue reading

Getting Our Own Paragraph Right

The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 10B, July 12, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 Michal…despised him in her heart.
Ephesians 1:3-14This is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of [God’s] glory.
Mark 6:14-29 What should I ask for?

O God of our future, the wisdom and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth, come when it may, and cost what it will.

This is one of those Sundays when “Praise to you, Lord Christ,” just doesn’t seem like the right response after a Gospel reading. Actually, all three of our readings this morning get my dander up. In 2nd Samuel, what gets me is almost a throw-away line about David’s wife Michal, the party-pooper of the story, who saw him leaping and dancing and despised him in her heart. What’s Michal’s problem, you might wonder (if you noticed her at all). Well, Michal has been used and abused by her father King Saul and his successor King David, but according to tradition, she loved David and did not think he should be recklessly prancing around, scantily clad, before the throne of the Holy One. (I’m with her.) Continue reading

And that’s not all.

The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8B, June 28, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27 Greatly beloved were you to me. Your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.
2 Corinthians 8:7-15 In order that there may be a fair balance…’the one who had much did not have too much and the one who had little did not have too little.
Mark 5:21-43 Do not fear, only believe.

O God of healing and restoration, grant us the strength, the wisdom and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth, come when it may, and cost what it will.

What a week. What a week of so many tears. Tears of sorrow, of anger and despair, tears of amazement, tears of joy and relief, and tears of hope and brave determination. The people of Charleston, South Carolina are still burying the nine faith-filled people massacred in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church a week ago last Wednesday while they were praying together and studying the Bible. The families of the martyrs have declared forgiveness for the shooter. They are continuing to testify and demonstrate that love is stronger than hate, and more powerful than death. Wednesday Bible Study went on as scheduled this past week with about 100 people jammed into the room where so much blood had been spilled the week before. Pastor Pinckney’s lesson the week before had been about the parable of the sower. Pastor Goff’s lesson the week after was about the power of love – full of parables from both Hebrew and Christian Testaments that reportedly had the people in that gathering laughing and crying at the same time. What powerful seeds of love are being sown by Mother Emanuel. And that’s not all. Continue reading

New Beginnings

The First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B, January 11, 2015; The Rev. Pamela L. Werntz

Genesis 1:1-5 Beginning…
Acts 19:1-7 We have not even heard that there is a holy spirit.
Mark 1:4-11 He will baptize you with the[sic] holy spirit.

O God of beginning again, may we have the wisdom, the strength, and the courage to seek always and everywhere after truth – come when it may and cost what it will.

Today is a special day in the Church – a Feast Day called, “The Baptism of our Lord.” It’s a perfect day to celebrate Patrick Cheng’s ordination to priesthood in the Episcopal Church. (However, I will tell you that, any day would be a perfect day to celebrate Patrick Cheng’s ordination to priesthood in the Episcopal Church, which took place yesterday. Congratulations Patrick!) As most of you know, Patrick lives in New York City now and is working for the Church Pension Fund. He’s been commuting to Boston to serve Emmanuel for the last four months. It’s a long way to come to volunteer to help out at a church! On behalf of all of us, thank you for that, Patrick, and thank you for choosing Emmanuel, Boston as the place for your first Eucharist as Episcopal priest! This is nearly, but not quite goodbye, because Patrick will be back in two weeks to preach and preside while I am away at the end of the month. Patrick, we hope you’ll be back with us whenever your schedule permits. Continue reading


April 4.  The New York Times reported  that Pauli Murray’s family home in Raleigh NC had been named a national treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

As part of the Pauli Murray Project a memorial mural painted on the brick wall of a former tobacco warehouse in Durham NC shows her flanked by panels that read:

 As an Episcopal priest, Pauli Murray used the pulpit to find the “spirit of love and reconciliation” as expressed in her ministry as the “goal of human wholeness”. — Karla Holloway

It may be that when historians look back on 20th century America, all roads will lead to Pauli Murray.  Civil rights, feminism, religion, literature, law, sexuality — no matter what the subject, there is Pauli. — Historian Susan Ware

Pauli Murray taught us that our lives are not defined by our race or our gender but by our striving to make the world a better place than when we found it.  — Elnora J. Shields, Southwest Central Durham Quality of Life Project

Murray mural

Pauli Murray mural (detail) on tobacco warehouse in Durham NC

See also Timeline entries:  1973, 19771985 , 1989 & 2012.


January 8.    Pauli Murray was ordained a priest at the Washington National Cathedral by the Rt. Rev. William F. Creighton, bishop of the (Episcopal) Diocese of Washington. She was the first African American woman, and one of the first women, to be ordained a priest in the Episcopal Church.

February 13.  At the invitation of the rector of The Chapel of the Cross, Chapel Hill NC, the Rev. James Peter Lee, the Rev. Dr. Murray celebrated her first Eucharist.   She read from her grandmother Cornelia Smith’s Bible, from a lectern that had been given in memory of the woman who had owned Cornelia (Mary Ruffin Smith). This was the first time a woman celebrated the Eucharist at an Episcopal church in North Carolina.  In her autobiography (1989), p. 435) Pauli described her thoughts about the service, which our Parish Historian Mary Chitty attended:

Whatever future ministry I might have as a priest, it was given to me that day to be a symbol of healing. All the strands of my life had come together. Descendant of slave and of slave owner, I had already been called poet, lawyer, teacher, and friend. Now I was empowered to minister the sacrament of One in whom there is no north or south, no black or white, no male or female – only the spirit of love and reconciliation drawing us all toward the goal of human wholeness.

See also Timeline entries:  1973, 1985 , 1989, 2012 & 2015.


Pauli Murray entered the General Theological Seminary.  She considered Emmanuel to be her sponsoring parish, which “sent me forth as a member of your congregation with your blessings and prayers to begin my training for the Sacred Ministry”.*  The Rev. Alvin L. Kershaw had helped her discern a call to ordination.

Once I admitted the call of total commitment to service in the church, it seemed that I had been pointed in this direction all my life and that my experiences were merely preparation for this calling.  In spite of my own intellectual doubts and the opposition to women’s ordination which was widespread within the Episcopal Church at the time, I took the fateful step of applying to the Right Reverend John M. Burgess, bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts, for admission to holy orders. (Autobiography, 1989, p. 427)

*From her sermon preached at Emmanuel on March 3, 1974.

See also: