As I mentioned at the top of the service, today, we in the United Church of Christ are celebrating Open and Affirming Sunday, in which we celebrate our denomination's rich history of Inclusive Welcome to the LGBTQ community. And we are so proud that our little church here, Douglas UCC, was one of the very first Open and Affirming churches in the entire United States. That was more than 30 years ago.
Well, many of you know that during the pandemic, I led several weekly online centering prayer sessions for all of you, in which I joined you, virtually from the meditation room in my home. And if you joined us online for one or more of those sessions, you probably noticed that I have this beautiful painting hanging above my meditation altar at home. I brought it in for you today to show it to all of you. This beautiful painting is called "Walking on Water," by the artist Julius von klever. As you can see, it depicts the story of Jesus walking on the water. And I have this on such prominent display in the room where I pray, because it is a reminder for me that when I'm going through storms in my life, that the presence of the Christ walks with me.
I really loved our Words of Integration and Guidance this morning by Reverend Nadia Bolz-Weber, which Chris read so beautifully for us. How many of you have heard of Reverend Nadia before? Okay, quite a few of you! She's become very popular in the past few years. And if you haven't read any of her books, or watched any of her videos online, I highly encourage you to do so. This is probably her most famous book, it's called "Pastrix: the Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint." You can see her there on the cover.
When I was a little boy growing up in New York, I would often hear stories from my parents and grandparents about hardships that they lived through in their lives. They would tell me about challenging periods in their lives -- living through the Great Depression, and World War II. I remember as a boy listening to their stories, and thinking, “How in the world did they live through such scary and uncertain times, times of great worry, and fear, and suffering, and death?”