The program theme for the month of December is “Presence” and the question that we ask is: “What does it mean to be a community of presence?” Hmm. It would seem to me that presence is a requirement for most communities. What would a “community of absence” be? A cemetery? A ghost town?
We may feel we have common interests with others and that we, by some definition or another, are a community, but unless we stand with them, especially in an hour of need, we are just kidding ourselves. That’s why our Reverend Chris left his pulpit today and is out on the Dakota prairie with the Standing Rock tribe of Sioux – to demonstrate by his presence that he is part of their community. And so are we.
Did you understand that about Chris Antal when we called him to be our minister? He considers himself to be “In Community” with all sorts of people besides us. He sees some people who deserve to win and aren’t – so he needs to go support them. Maybe it’s the Afghan man who was his wartime interpreter whose family the Taliban marked for death. So, Rev Chris found a way to support their effort to come to America. He showed up at the airport and drove a pickup truck loaded with household goods to Buffalo for them.
Or, he sees the people killed by drones our military sends to Pakistan and other places – not the terrorists that are the target, but the old woman in her yard next door that our military doesn’t care about. They think if she gets killed because bombs are sloppy, inefficient killers, well, that’s too bad – but it’s the price of fighting terror.
So, Rev. Chris sees a way he can support innocent people in harm’s way, or that band of native Americans on the banks of their pure and sacred river. In his time as an Army chaplain, Chris expressed his feelings courageously and made powerful people hear the truth. There’s a power that comes to men with integrity. Chris Antal has a sense of honor and he uses his power to benefit people who need and deserve support.
We can be proud of Rev. Chris – and many others in our Community. Jay Beaumont takes his presence down to a building site in Newburgh and with Habitat For Humanity he helps a family get a home. Laura Bair shows up on Friday night and helps the youth of our community grow and learn to make a difference. Verne Bell and Barbara Hultgren and Linda Mangelsdorf and Frances Cott and dozens of others over the years have made a huge contribution to the world. I thank them all and our minister. They have brought such honor to our community by their good works and their presence among us.
Mike Landrum – Acting President, Board of Trustees