“Walk about Zion, go around her,
number her towers, consider well her ramparts,
go through her citadels,
that you may tell the next generation that this is God,
our God forever and ever.
He will guide us forever.”
– Psalm 48:12-14
Summertime, filled with fireflies and picnics, is a great time for outdoor celebrations. Next month, on the weekend of July 23-24, Chippewa Township will be holding a commemoration of her 200th anniversary at Wright fields. The weekend will be filled with live music, food vendors, fireworks, games for all ages – and a worship service. The events on Sunday July 24 will be launched with a time of prayer and praise at 10:30 am, and everyone in the community is invited to attend.
Why include Christian worship in a public space to commemorate the settling of this part of our commonwealth? Why not keep worship behind closed doors, if it is to happen at all? Let me give three reasons.
First, public worship is a precious part of our past in Pennsylvania. Many of the first settlers in Pennsylvania, including this part of the state in the early 1800s were Hugenots, Puritans, Catholics, and Calvinists. Each of these groups had experienced significant, even deadly persecution in the countries they had come from in Europe. William Penn’s generous ‘charter of privileges’ crafted in 1701 guaranteed groups like this (and others, like the Quakers) a safe place to worship God in their own way.
These diverse groups were able to live together peacefully throughout the state at a time when this was unheard of in most parts of the known world.
Next, public worship is precious part of our present as followers of Jesus Christ. Here in Beaver County, we’re very happy to share our love of the local sports teams on our shirts, our cars, our tattoos. . . . they are a source (most of the time) of joy and pride.
For those of us who have experienced the love of God through Christ, and what he can do, it is only natural to look for ways to share this love with others. Philip was an early follower of Jesus who repeatedly used the phrase ‘Come and see’ to others who were skeptical or unaware of the carpenter from Nazareth (John 1:46). Not sure what the fuss is about with God? Come and see in the park July 24.
Finally, public worship can be a precious part of our future in a fearful and uncertain nation. It’s no secret that there is a great deal of anxiety in our nation politically, economically, emotionally. . . . the list could go on longer than my column space allows. The United States bill of rights allows for freedom of religion and public assembly. Opportunities to pray for our leaders and our community in public need to be treasured and used, or they will be lost.
Frankly, we need to look for ways to provide faith, hope, love, and service in public places to share with the current generation what provided the desire to settle in this wonderful place 200 years ago. The Bible verses above were used as the heading for a celebration of our local history back in 1904. While Chippewa isn’t exactly Zion, the God who provides hope in this community is one and the same with the Psalmists’. Let’s join together to celebrate!