Today, this glorious Easter Sunday, was the culmination of our Holy Week devotion as forty-three members of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida including their two Roman Catholic women Priests, Pastor Judy Lee and Pastor Judy Beaumont followed Jesus from his entry to Jerusalem, to the farewell meal with his friends and probably his family where he taught us how to serve, through the streets and through the courts on his way to Calvary and to the empty grave. Not everyone made it all four times but many did. The devotion was so remarkable with this people who identify completely with the suffering and the victory of Jesus, the Christ. It was such a joy to gather together today to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our new life. Today we remembered our own baptisms and also had the pleasure of baptizing Aleigha Skye Elizabeth Longstreth a twelve year old who requested baptism after many months of preparation with the approval of her family and her faith community.
Here is part our community as we gathered before our Easter Celebration:
From Palm Sunday to Easter the faithful gathered to walk with Jesus from Hosanna, to crucify him!, to Alleluia He is risen!
On Palm Sunday we met outside and blessed the palms then proceeded into the church where we enacted and lived the Passion.
In the interactive part of the homily we reflected on how many of our people have been abandoned by family and community when trouble hit and how Christ remained for them the Presence they could turn to and count on who was always there. they also reflected on how we are always there for each other as a church community, and how we also need to continue to reach out to those who remain homeless or on the streets or in trouble.
On Holy Thursday, we reflected on how hard it must have been for Jesus to have a farewell meal with his loved ones and how much he wanted to make sure they understood how to follow him in serving one another. We enacted the foot washing and reflected on how Jesus washed the feet of the disciples to show us how to serve one another. We reflected on the ways we do serve one another. Brenda has returned to our community after five years away and she was welcomed home warmly. Many community members helped her to move to a little apartment, not only once but twice as the first apartment flooded due to a slumlord and faulty water pipes and was declared unsafe by the fire Department.
This is our first team helping Brenda set up her apartment. Kathy Lauwagie from Minnesota who is part of our community for the winter months is drilling to hang pictures. Lili Randazzo and Linda Maybin and their teenage girls, Marcella, Jolinda, Keeondra and Jakeriya members of our Sunday school were part of the clean-up team. However, the next day the ceiling fell in and Linda Maybin quickly intervened in the crisis helping Brenda to mop up and sweep out the flood waters. When she moved in two days Quayschaun Crews , Joe Baker and Nathaniel Chester carried furniture up two flights of stairs. Carole Schauf and her friend George helped her to get reorganized and hang pictures again. They also did quite a bit of carrying and purchasing needed supplies. It truly took a community to help Brenda leave homelessness behind again and it was serving as Jesus taught us. This is Nathaniel and Gary with our Minnesota Kathy’s in a farewell picture as Kathy Overby and Kathy Lauwagie are leaving for Minnesota on Tuesday. This was also Nathaniel’s fifty-first Birthday and Brenda, who has been his friend for over ten years made him a beautiful card for everyone to sign. She appreciated the help that the women and girls and Kathy, Nathaniel, Joe and Quayschaun gave to make her move possible.
Quayschaun who helped Brenda move a large piece up two flights with Nate and Joe Baker was also chosen to be our Christ on Good Friday. This is Quay earlier this year at an affirmation of his baptism. His baptism was the year before as he was critically ill in the hospital. Everyone who saw Quay enact Christ’s suffering and passion remembered what he too had gone through and the resurrection he has indeed experienced. His brother Rashawn offered to carry the cross as Simon of Cyrene and he confided that he now understood what he needed to do in his life. Quay offered himself on Good Friday as he was so thankful for new life, and although he is not completely out of the woods, he truly believes he has risen and he too shall ultimately rise again. Aleigha who would be baptized on Easter sunday also said that being Veronica taught her how to help someone else.
On Good Friday we reflected that those who really do know the Good Fridays of life can best know what rising again on Easter means and how precious it is to rise again here and now.
Our simple altar and the baptismal font and a fragrant blooming lily was also a meditation on this Easter Sunday. The children and the adults were all dressed in their pretty dresses and sharp clothes and we reflected on how Jesus left his burial clothes behind and put on his glorious Easter clothes-inside and outside. Our smiles ,our words, our caring and our respect for the dignity of ourselves and others can reflect Easter. We pondered how we can witness the light as Easter people who live the promises of our baptism.
Aleigha’s Baptism focused all of us on the vows of our own baptism.
Aleigha and her Aunt Jody and one of her Godmother’s, Liliana Randazzo. Her other God-parents are Pearl Cudjoe and Hank Tessandori of our community and her relatives in Maryland, Cirene Nowicki Estepa and Luis Hernando Estepa. The laying on of hands.
The hallowed moment of Baptism.
Receiving Her White Garments
While Aleigha changes the congregation sings Amazing Grace. Then Aleigha is presented to the Community and receives the light of Christ which her Aunt Jody lit from the Easter candle. While the traditional baptismal candle is white this one was used as it has a green vine and branches embossed on it and we reflected on Jesus as the vine and Aleigha as the newest branch of our church who would yield good fruit .
The community applauded loudly to welcome Aleigha into the community of Christ. Aleigha also received her First Holy Communion at the time of the Eucharist. She shared her joy at receiving at the Table of Jesus and her intentions to come to the Table for strength to serve others and to grow in Christ.
After church we also celebrated the Birthdays of Joelle, 8, and Donnie, Timothy and Nathaniel. It was an altogether joyful celebration.
This is Donnie and her best friend Lauretta.
Thanks be to God for the love of Christ and the love of our community.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee
Rev. Judy Beaumont
Co-Pastors, the Good shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida