Thirty years ago on a cold January night a devastating fire destroyed Church of The Resurrection in Elizabeth. In its wake it left a faith community homeless and dispirited. What was lost in the fire was more than the historic building of Christ Church (1859) but the hope and dreams of a community that had already lost its original ancestral home of St Augustine (1914) due to a merger that literally divided the church family. The remnants gathered all that was lost and sought a new home in the city. After much delay they rose out of the ashes with a new location and renewed spirit and claimed the name St Elizabeth’s.
When I first came to St Elizabeth’s ten years ago one of the most outstanding visual was a banner created to reflect Blessed Elizabeth. The St Elizabeth’s banner captivated me for her shroud is not the typical Jewish or European fashion but carries a strong African theme using Kinte cloth. This kinte shroud sought to reflect the fact that the congregation comprised mainly those who can trace their roots to St Augustine’s the black Episcopal Church while recognizing the streams from Christ Church and Trinity Church. Kinte is actually the result of weaving of many colors and art work into a single cloth and though it claims Ghanaian nationality its roots are North African.
Thirty years later we witness now to a different community as much has changed in our city. Maybe it’s time for a makeover! Can we imagine not only Elizabeth in weaved kinte cloth but in braids? Braiding weaves numerous strands of hair into creative designs that reflects both the skill of the woman who weaves and the aspirations of she who receives. Recently we hosted a Hair Show at St Elizabeth’s and I was pleasantly surprised by the growing number of black men who are practicing the art of braiding.
Intentional discipleship can be viewed as spiritual braiding where one weaves their daily life scenarios with their spiritualty producing an intricate design called faith living. Blessed Elizabeth understood the concept of intentional discipleship. She had lived her whole life in the shadows pining in a childless marriage with all its negative connotations. While her husband Zechariah could escape to the Temple her only solace was constant prayer. In her prayers one can imagine her braiding her hopes and dreams with her anguish and tears. Her biblical hero would be Hannah with a prayer braid that would include dedication to God any offspring much like Samuel. Her braided intentions weaved were all about proclaiming God’s promised salvation and her offspring John the Baptist would be central to that mission. Intentional discipleship is what Blessed Elizabeth is calling us at St Elizabeth to model. For her it was more than having a family but having a family to be part of the mission of restoring God’s world through the loving, healing and restorative power of Jesus Christ.
For summer we are striving for a St Elizabeth’s church make over that encompass new initiatives with Kean University, Music in the Gardens with Holy Eucharist, reformatted E.S.L and G.E.D classes and our 8th Annual International Food Festival.
Join us on Sunday June 3rd at 10:00am as we celebrate 30 years of resilience, creativity and spirituality all weaved in braids called St Elizabeth’s A House of prayer for all people.