When you see the Kapok Tree in front of the Museum of Fine Art in St. Petersburg, Florida, you might think you’ve died and gone to heaven. Then catch a glimpse of the poinciana trees, and you could make the mistake of thinking there’s nowhere else on earth as beautiful. For the three years I served in St. Pete, Florida, I certainly thought so. The hydrangeas that grow all over New York and Long Island hold a special place in my heart, but the beauty and color of Florida is breath-taking. For the years that Pass-A-Grille Community Church UCC was my home, I enjoyed one of the loveliest office views any pastor could ever wish for.
But then I got to Maryland, and there’s pink. And more pink. And then some more. Flowering trees– Southern and Japanese magnolias, pear blossoms, weeping willows, and of course, cherry blossoms– abound in this area of Maryland. No need to fight the crowds at DC’s Cherry Blossom festival, St. John’s UCC has nine Cherry Blossom trees that circle the property and flood us with billowing pink blossoms every spring.
I served St. John’s for six years. During those years, we worked hard to practice God’s radical hospitality. It’s not easy– we learned that, too– that’s why it’s called “practice!”
The congregation and I journeyed together to build a model of doing ministry in community, and it’s one of our most proud achievements. The local Christian athletes use the back field for kiddie soccer. Several Girl Scout troops meet in the building, and many of the church’s young women are active scouts. Just as I left St. John’s, a young man working on his Eagle Scout project was working to turn the Meditation Garden into an outdoor worship space. The Central Atlantic Conference has its home on church property, as does a local catering company called Whitehouse Caterers at Overhills Mansion.