1776, 1833, 1865 and Slavery

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 28

July 12, 2021

1776, 1833, 1865 and Slavery

This week I finished the last of my July 4 rituals. There are three that I have. Of course, I have a party. That is the most important one. It was family only a year ago because of the Covid Plague. The other two are to watch “Gettysburg.” Many people don’t know that this was fought from July 1-3 and the following day, July 4th, came the fall of Vicksburg to the forces of General Grant. With these losses, the defeat of the confederacy was all but certain.

My third ritual is to watch the movie “1776” which chronicles the writing of the Declaration of Independence. I was raised to honor the men who had the courage to break away from England and form our republic. This movie portraits the flaws of these men and their desire to be free while some owned slaves and others tolerated the owning of slaves. In order to have unity in this revolution, slavery was tolerated. Thomas Jefferson’s words, “All men are created equal” really meant “All White Men are created equal.” I wonder if I would enjoy watching this movie if I was a descendent of those slaves and I wonder how many black people I know could watch this movie without becoming upset and angry.

It is a sad irony that had we not had our revolution the slaves that Americans held would have been freed far earlier than they were. Our slaves waited ninety years to be free. It took the deaths of 750,000 Americans, 2.5% of the population to win freedom for slaves in 1865. Had we remained part of England these slaves would have been freed in 1833. That is the year that the British Parliament outlawed slavery.

Yes, I still honor our founding fathers. They indeed had a vision of democracy over monarchy. Perhaps the best was we can honor their vision is to bring it to full flower. Even today, in some places in our nation, all people are not treated equally. Not every voice is given the same attention. In some places there is not justice for all. Maybe establishing justice for all, in every part of our nation is the job of our generation. We, inspired by our fore-bearers, can bring this bud of a dream into full flower.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                   

#BergenfieldNJ

#IndependenceDay                                                

#Slavery

#AmericanCivilWar                                                 

#1776

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

America’s Birthday Party: Make A Wish!

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 27

July 5, 2021

America’s Birthday Party: Make A Wish!

“Make a wish and blow out the candles.” How many times have we heard that sentence? It depends on how many years we have lived. The wishes on my birthday have changed over the years. I remember when I was a kid wishing for toys, when I was older wishing for money. Now I guess I wish for more time with the kids and grandchildren. Now that we have celebrated our nation’s birthday I wonder what our nation would wish for.

My hunch is that she would wish for unity; putting our divisions aside and find common ground to work toward goals that all would be blessed by. I imagine that our nation is crying because of our current divisions. In my lifetime I can remember few times when we have been so divided.

I was shocked in this past year when I heard of a ministerial colleague who was pressured into resigning because he did not verbally support a president from the pulpit.

I was horrified when hundreds of my fellow citizens disrespected my capital by storming it. I was even more disturbed when several friends of mine were watching this on television and cheering on the crowds as if they were spectators at a baseball game.

It makes me sick when political parties play “parliamentary games” rather than have honest discussions and reach solutions to common goals.

I heard the story recently that a Bible study was disrupted. Two participants decided to debate politics instead of studying the Bible. It was sad that God’s word took second place to politics.

I wish for unity. I wish for finding common ground. I wish for politicians and supporters to act like grown-ups, not children arguing in a sandbox.

I have a hunch that The United States of America is making these same birthday wishes. Maybe we can all work toward these goals and give our nation the gifts that she wants.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                   

#BergenfieldNJ

#IndependenceDay                                                

#BirthdayParty

#BirthdayWishes                                                     

#BirthdayPresents

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Driving Out Demons

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 26

June 28, 2021

Driving Out Demons

On the Monday that this is posted I will be conducting a burial service for a man who grew up in our congregation. He died, troubled and alone in an SRO (single room occupancy) in a city a few miles away from our town which was his childhood home. In recent years I administered a special needs trust for the man set up for him by his late mother. This funeral and burial have been some of the most difficult that I have done in the last thirty-seven years of ministry.

This gentleman grew up in the church. He succeeded at everything he tried. He was a gifted musician and graduated at the top of his graduating class in high school. Later he graduated from an engineering college and taught there for a while. He received his master’s degree and was one dissertation short of his PHD.

I didn’t know him in those days. I only knew a different person. The person that I knew suffered from two different mental health disorders and refused to take medication. The person I knew self-medicated with alcohol and chained smoked tobacco. At times, I believe, he smoked other things as well. His sister told me that he was fine until college but then something “snaped” in him and he was never the same after that.

His mother, a Godly woman, prayed for him until the day she died. She was very patient with him by allowing him to live with her. I suspect that at times he was abusive to her but she would never discuss this. I prayed for the man and tried to engage with him but he would never engage. He claimed to be an atheist and told me to start reading Nietzsche.

Jesus gave power to his disciples to drive out demons. I have never demonstrated such power. I was never able to reach him or help him improve his quality of life. He died alone in his litter-strewn room, surrounded by his piles of hoarded collections.

When I received word of his death I struggled with guilt. What more might I have done for him? How could I have reached him? Since then, while helping his sister prepare for the wake and the funeral I keep asking myself what to say. How does one do a funeral for such a bright star that crashed so fast and far?

The answer came to me as I sorted through some of his old papers. I found his baptismal certificate among his papers. It was near the top of the pile in a folder of important papers. I assume, because of its placement, that he valued it despite calling himself an atheist. For all his demons and troubles, he belongs to Christ. I could not drive his demons out, but Christ has. His troubles and tears are over and that is something to celebrate. May the bells of heaven ring. He has been restored to what he was created to be.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                   

#BergenfieldNJ

#Demons                                                                  

#MentalIllness

#SubstanceAbuse                                                  

#Atheism

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Juneteenth: An American Thing

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 25

June 21, 2021

Juneteenth: An American Thing

A few years ago, I mentioned Juneteenth during a worship service. I was surprised that most folks had never heard of it. I wanted to make a bigger deal of it but most of the consistory did not feel the need or desire to do so. What surprised me most was a black woman with Caribbean origins told me that she had never heard of it before. Now it is a federal holiday as of this past Thursday when Joe Biden signed a bill into law. What a difference several years make in the knowledge of this holiday.

For those unfamiliar with this holiday, it has roots in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. Of course, the Civil War ended in the spring of that year. Despite the ending of the war, many slaves still were held in captivity. Some slaveholders held onto slaves as long as they could through not telling the slaves of liberation and the lack of Union Troops to enforce the end of slavery. It took a bit of time for these soldiers to reach every pocket where slaves were held.

The last group of these slaves to be liberated was in Galveston, Texas. Union troops reached them on June 19. The result was a very large, impromptu beach party to celebrate freedom. Thus, began the tradition of Juneteenth.

I certainly believe that it is something to celebrate. Slavery is a major stain on our Nation’s history and I believe that we all ought to celebrate the ending of slavery. It disappoints me that I have seen Facebook posts claiming that Juneteenth is simply part of the “liberal agenda.” I’m certainly no liberal, nor do I have an agenda. As I celebrate American freedom each July 4th, so I celebrate the freedom of black citizens after they were treated so horribly for so many generations.

I celebrate the congress for passing this law and Joe Biden for signing it. Is it a “Left Wing thing?” Only if Thomas Jefferson’s writing that “all men are created equal” is a “Left Wing thing.” I simply thought that it was an “American Thing.”

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                   

#BergenfieldNJ

#Juneteenth                                                             

#Slavery

#Bondage                                                                 

#CivilRights

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

What Are We Made Of?

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 24

June 14, 2021

What Are We Made Of?

Recently, for reasons known only to God, my attention was drawn toward a rock that I keep on the desk of my home office. This rock has no specific significance other than I like it and am fascinated when I look at it. I picked it up on the beach in Florida while on a visit to my wife’s uncle and aunt.

Now, generally I am not very interested in rocks. I took one geology class in my life and was intrigued by volcanos and earthquakes but rocks did not particularly interest me. This rock, however, is different. It is a coquina rock. These rocks are rocks that are made up almost entirely of the shells of shellfish, or material that is left behind such creatures. Overtime, these various objects cement together to form a rock which looks like no other type of rock.

When I look at this rock, I am not seeing a homogenous rock in which one end is similar to another. No, every part of this rock is quite unique to the other parts. Looking carefully, you can see some of the former objects that came together to form the rock, but in themselves would never have looked so interesting. Yes, all the objects had their own identity and they formed a mosaic.

This rock reminds me of my neighborhood growing up. All of the older people were German. The younger ones were Irish and Eastern European. The real newcomers were the Italians. Yet, we all lived together, professed a Christian faith and were proud to live on Beach street, a block that we thought was the best place in the world.

Beach Street then was really a microcosm of our Nation now. We are a mosaic of different cultures, each maintaining individual identity, and yet glued together by forces of nature to become something new. Do we resist this or celebrate this? My Coquina rock would not be as beautiful as it is without so many species donating of themselves to form it. Our nation, also, would not be as strong and beautiful without the contributions of so many people from so many places.

Let’s celebrate the Coquina rock that we have formed.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                   

#BergenfieldNJ

#CoquinaRocks                                                        #BeachStreetJerseyCity

#Mosaics                                                                  

#Ethnicities

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

A Parable For Today

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 23

June 7, 2021

A Parable For Today

A family had lived in their home all their lives. Before them, their forebearers had lived in the same home on the same land. The family, their ancestors and members of their tribe had inhabited this space for more than a thousand years. They had prospered and lived in, at least relative harmony, with other people and other tribes that lived in the same region.

The family, and their tribe lived differently than their neighbors. Their language was different. Many of the tribe learned two languages to relate to those outside of the group. Likewise, their customs and religion were different from those around them. In past generations no one seemed to notice, or at least did not care. They were different but there was a reciprocal respect, or at least, tolerance.

A new political will and reality had swept the world outside their tribe. Others, with whom they had lived peacefully, were now hostile. The tribe, and the individuals in it, were now  blamed for the hardships that had happened to those outside the tribe. In short, they were scapegoated and now military authorities with dangerous weapons, and armed with official, and legal papers, stood outside the family’s door demanding that they leave. Indeed, the entire tribe was now forced to abandon the home and land of their ancestors and coerced into living in a new place; one that was selected for them and all of their tribe. There was no legal help to be had. A democratically elected government had issued the orders and allowed the armed men to force out the tribe members.

Those removed cried as they left homes, land, possessions and memories. They were in dis-belief that elected politicians would allow this to happen. Many tribe members died on the trip to the new home. The conditions in the new home was harsh and many died there as well.

This forced removal is a stain on the civilized world. Who were these people who evicted and who were evicted?

Were these people the Cherokees who were forced by the United States into the Trail of Tears and onto reservations?

Were these people Jews living in Easter Europe who were forced out of their homes and into death camps by the Nazis?

Were these Japanese Americans who were forced into internment camps during World War II?

Were these people Palestinians who are being evicted from East Jerusalem and the West Bank by the Israeli government?

Does this parable apply to all of these scenarios listed above? In my mind, it does. It saddens me that the “good guys” acted the same way as the “bad guys” in each of these circumstances. I hope we take some time to contemplate this.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                   

#BergenfieldNJ

#TrailofTears                                                           

#WestBank

#JapaneseInternment                                            

#NaziGermany

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Happy Memorial Day?

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 22

May 31, 2021

Happy Memorial Day?

“Happy Memorial Day,” I was told recently. The person I was speaking with continued. “Are you going to have a big party? I’m ready to party down!”

“Isn’t Memorial Day supposed to be a day of remembering the dead?” I asked.

“No, it means summer is starting. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.” The person I was speaking with left me and walked down the street.

I like a good outdoor party as much as anyone. I am planning to attend a family gathering in the afternoon. Unlike other folks that I know, I do not participate in the retail sales for the holiday. On Memorial Day I first go to the town hall to be part of the wreath laying ceremony. Only then to I attend family gatherings. I wonder if we have really forgotten what Memorial Day means. Have people who say, “Happy Memorial Day” realize that this is to be a memorial and such events are not meant to make one “happy.”

Our nation has on many occasions, called upon warriors. There were times that these calls came to defend our nation. At other times, it might be argued that our warriors were the aggressors. Nevertheless, these call-ups have led to the deaths of many of our young warriors and given pain to their families and loved ones. These deaths ought to be mourned and remembered.

Please don’t say, “Happy Memorial Day.” It seems inappropriate on this day.

Please take time to remember our deceased heroes and live to deserve their sacrifice.

Please take time to be supportive of the loved ones who are left behind.

Please take time to support the families of our active military. The families live in fear that their loves ones might be Memorialized some day in the future.

Memorial Day is a time to remember. Let us remember well.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                   

#BergenfieldNJ

#MemorialDay                                                         

#Heroes

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Abraham’s Tears

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 21

May 24, 2021

Abraham’s Tears

There is now a cease fire between Hamas in Gaza and forces of the Israeli Military. Thank God this recent violence between these two has ended. I don’t believe that it ended quickly enough. I read a report that in Gaza there are 248 dead including 66 children and 1,900 people wounded. In Israel 1 soldier and 12 civilians are dead including 2 children. Hundreds are wounded. It breaks my heart when the children of Abraham act violently to one another.

I know Jews, including some who spent time living in Israel who can explain how Israel is the righteous party in Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. Likewise I know Christians who have lived in the region, as well as a few Christians who have spent time in Palestine, who can list the ways that Palestine is the righteous party and Israel is the oppressor.

I was always taught that whenever there is a conflict there is “your side,” the “other side” and next to these sides lies the “truth.” Neither side can tell us the objective “truth.” Each side wants to believe in its own righteousness and its own claim to the land at the expense of the other.

Jews claim that this land is a gift to them from God. It was promised to them, and given to them, by God through the covenant with Abraham. The scripture that I read tells me that Abraham had two sons; Isaac and Ishmael. The Arabs, descendants of Ishmael, have a claim on this land as do the descendants of Isaac. I read that the land was given to all of Abraham’s offspring, not just one side of the family tree.

I pray that Israel and Palestine will come to accept one another as brothers, each entitled to live in the land. I pray that each side of the family will acknowledge that the other has the right to live lives that are free of violence. I pray that these brothers and sisters will stop trying to grab land from the other and grant each other full legal and civil rights.

Until that day comes, more innocent lives will be lost through violence between brothers and sisters and the more tears Abraham will shed. How horrible it must be for him to look down from heaven as his offspring kill each other. I can’t imagine that God is pleased either. Children of Abraham, I pray that you will learn to live together, respect each other, as well as cherish and love each other. Stop you father Abraham from crying.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#Israel                                                                        #Palestine

#Isaac                                                                        #Ishmael

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Endings and Beginnings

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 20

May 17, 2021

Endings and Beginnings

A house in Bergenfield was sold and closed on this past week. I realize that this is not a unique event. Since the Covid-19 pandemic has struck housing prices in Bergenfield have gone up enormously. Many people living in New York City are clamoring to come here. In our suburban communities there is less of a population density. People in New York City who have lived in higher density and have seen the high rate of Covid-19 transmissions, in part due to that density, are looking to move to our suburbs for what they believe is a healthier place to live.

What makes this house sale unique is that it was sold by an elder of our church. It was her mother’s house and she and her sister lived there with her mother. The mother and sister are now in God’s nearer presence and the house became too much for this elder to manage. After decades of residing there she made the decision to sell it and move into an apartment. It was hard for her to make this decision and make her move. But it was one that she needed to make. Her health precludes her from managing house upkeep and daily chores of life.

After the move she needed to go back and see the empty house. She needed to walk through it one more time. She needed to explore each empty room and tell me what had been in it. She also shared memories of the rooms with me. It was her “farewell” to the house that had sheltered she, her sister and their mother. I felt that I was on sacred ground as she told me these stories and felt the sadness that she expressed. She was taking a necessary move but the necessity did not take away the sadness.

After her final walk through the house, we paused at the door as she prepared herself to close it for the final time. The two of us stopped and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for all that the house had been for her and her family. We prayed for the blessing of the new people who would be moving in. She then closed the door and we drove to her apartment.

This move to me is a microcosm of life. There are doors closing as well as doors opening. Likewise, there is sadness as well as happiness with each transition. Do we go through these transitions prayerfully and trust that God is amid these changes or do we curse, fear, and resist these changes?

The most successful people in life view changes and ask, “how can I make the most of this?” Less successful people resist change and try to keep it from happening. Do we trust God? If we do, why would we resist the changes that come upon us. God is sovereign. Let us trust God, pray over each change we face, and walk boldly into the future arm and arm with God.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                   

#BergenfieldNJ

#RealEstate                                                             

#Transitions

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Clutch-Walking

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 19

May 10, 2021

Clutch-Walking

I love driving with a manual transmission. I realize that driving a clutch is rare. Fewer and fewer people know how to drive a clutch. Indeed, ten years ago when my car, who calls herself “Irma,” came to live with me I had a long search to find one made with a clutch. They are rare. This week, Irma’s clutch died close to a busy intersection. My clutch locked up the transmission and I had to be towed in. Now I am re-learning the joy of walking.

Walking is something I enjoy but always seem to avoid because I always seem to be in a hurry. Walking is still slower, but probably better for me. This weekend, an elder of my congregation hurt his leg. He is in a cast and has difficulty walking. I bet that he would love to be able to do the pain-free walking that I have been doing.

Half dozen years ago I had surgery and walking hurt. A rather loving but stern nurse who is a congregational elder came to visit me at the parsonage. The first thing that she told me was, “get up. You are going to take a walk.” The walk hurt but she was gracious and at the end of the walk she had me stop at the local Dunkin Donuts. The walk was worth the jelly donuts that she treated me too. She took me on several walks during my convalescence. These walks hurt but they were good therapy.

Now, until my clutch is replaced, I’m doing a lot of walking. It is quite a blessing. I’m observing gardens that I had never noticed before. I am admiring houses that I had driven by many times but never really appreciated. I guess that the breakdown of my 91,000-mile clutch has been a real blessing. Will I learn from this? Probably not. When my car is fixed I’ll probably be back driving and missing the wonderful sights I have seen during my walks. Or perhaps I’ll smarten up and take regular walks and once more enjoy the beautiful sights all around me.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                   

#BergenfieldNJ

#StandardTransmission                                         

#Walking

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/