I've never been to the First Presbyterian Church in Rensselaerville, NY, but their all are welcome page makes me love them already. I'll be worshipping with them next Sunday, August 5, because I've been invited to preach.
How does it come to pass that a rabbi will be preaching from their lectern? It turns out I'm far from the first to do so. Every summer they they welcome clergy and religious folks of different faiths to bring spiritual sustenance to their community. They've been doing that for more than 100 years:
For a short period in the second half of the 19th century, the village of Rensselaerville was a lively industrial town as the first site of the Huyck Woolen Mills. When mill founder and Presbyterian Church member F. C. Huyck Sr. moved his mill to Albany, he did not sever ties with the village or the church. But as jobs left with the mill so did many of the village residents, leaving the church without enough members to maintain a year-round pastor. The church continued because the Huyck family returned to Rensselaerville each summer to vacation and provided for a pastor during their stay.
F.C. Huyck Sr.’s granddaughter Katharine Huyck Elmore expanded the vision of the summer services, in the mid-20th century, to encompass various faith traditions and invited ministers, rabbis, priests, nuns and other preachers to bring their messages of compassion, social justice and stewardship of the world and community to our pulpit.
Their theme for this summer is "And still we rise" (after "And still I rise" by Maya Angelou), and everyone who's preaching there during the summer season is offering a reflection on that theme.
They asked me a few months ago to give them the title for my sermon. While I often struggle to come up with sermon titles (usually I write the sermon first and then figure out whatto call it), in this case I knew right away that I would call my remarks "Descent for the Sake of Ascent." I will draw on Torah, Hasidic tradition, and the unfolding of the Jewish sacred calendar to offer hope, strength, and consolation appropriate for listeners of any faith.
Worship begins at 11am. If you're in or near Rensselaerville next Sunday, I hope you'll join us.