Saturday, July 23, 2016

Harrisburg Convocation Immersion Excursion: Day One

Here’s one thing that became very evident to me today as I began my tour of the Harrisburg Convocation:  This is a Convocation with a lot of social and cultural “texture.”

The Harrisburg Convocation extends from Hershey to Chambersburg, Newport to Harrisburg with Carlisle, Shippensburg, Camp Hill and Mechanicsburg in-between.  There are cities, farms, cornfields, apartment sky rises and barns.  There are extremely wealthy people and extremely poor people.  The Convocation includes three major hospitals, the State Capitol, an amusement park, several colleges and universities and the Farm Show arena.  There is no way to lump all of these townships/cities together with any kind of unifying factor except, maybe, to say that they are in the “Capitol Region.”  Even that characteristic fails when we go “over the mountain” to Newport... or drive more than an hour to the far edges of the Cumberland Valley to reach Chambersburg

Today’s activities were varied, showing me some of the high points of some of our region:

We started with a lovely lunch at a Hershey restaurant set in the old Hershey Press Building, and then  we wandered across the way to the Hershey Chocolate Museum.  We learned  the amazing Milton Hershey story which included, really, the shaping of an entire industrial town.  In 1894, Hershey moved his caramel factory from Lancaster, built a chocolate factory and called it "Hershey.” This enterprise included a whole industrial village, a park, a company store, churches (Hershey granted $20,000 to each of the 5 churches in town), and... a school.  The school, which still operates today and has 1, 800 students, began as a boarding school for orphan boys. Hershey dedicated his fortune to the success of the school when he died in 1945.  Today, the school is co-ed, provides a top notch education and is... tuition free.    We learned a lot in our tour of the museum about the town, about how to make chocolate, the marvels of packaging and marketing, and the generosity of the Hershey family.

One of our hosts for the day was The Rev. Susan Claytor who is just back in town  after an extensive medical leave.  It was so good to see her - and she was full of energy and joy.  We praise God for her recovery and were glad, too, to see her husband Parr looking so well.  Here’s our group in front of the museum mural that shows Milton Hershey sitting on the steps in front of his school with some of his students through the years.
Hershey Chocolate Museum mural-  and our group

This machine rolls over the chocolate again and again and again to make it creamy and smooth

We had a quick stop at the luxurious Hershey hotel.
Here are some of us in the “fountain lobby.”
What a beautiful place!

The Fountain Lobby

Somehow we managed to get  out of Hershey without ever tasting even one chocolate kiss.  (How did that happen?)

My tour guide, The Rev. Rebecca Myers, drove us to Harrisburg and we stopped at the YWCA (a.k.a. “The YW”)  to learn about all of the different programs there and how this organization serves the community.  The YW actually extends their work into Dauphin, Perry and Cumberland Counties and their healing reach is felt all over our region. The YW has a new Director and CEO Mary Quinn who manages this multivalent organization.  The Harrisburg YW serves more than 33,000 clients each year through a variety of programs that include offering shelter, child care, rape and crisis counseling, veteran’s services, job readiness, and legal services.  There is a clothing closet that offers gently used clothes to the residents and a food pantry, too.  The residents are responsible for preparing their own meals in the common area of the residential floors.  The housing part of the building looks like a nice, clean college dorm with individual rooms, shared baths and common areas with kitchen facilities.  The YW is housed in an old mansion (the Sylvan Heights Mansion) in South Allison Hill on Market Street.  The sprawling building was once a bishop’s mansion (Roman Catholic), a convent,  a seminary, an orphanage and now, home to the YW.  

With a 6 million dollar operation budget, the YW has a full time staff of 90 employees, 100 children in their daycare program, and can serve 109 in-house residents.

As we toured the building, I was impressed with how clean and quiet it was and how there was a true sense of sanctuary and healing there.

The Rev. Fred Miller arranged our tour for us.  Fred has been an active volunteer at the YW for more than a year, working in the Veterans Services department.  I was really glad to see, first hand, the wonderful resources and programs that the YW has to offer in our region.

the impressive facade of the Harrisburg YWCA, once the Sylvan Heights Mansion

One of the few empty rooms in the SRO (Single Room Occupancy) portion of the YW

The Rev. Fred Miller in the Food Pantry of the YW

The Very Rev. Churchill Pinder checks out the daycare center at the YW

The final stop of our day was back on the river in Harrisburg for a “pop-up Eucharist” and potluck dinner sponsored by St. Stephen’s cathedral and the Sycamore House Episcopal Service Corps.

Months ago, I had mused via text with the corps members at Sycamore House about what fun it would be to just show up somewhere with a service of Holy Eucharist and invite people to worship with us.  This musing turned into a real life pop-up Eucharist last night on the shores of the river, on Front St. in Harrisburg.  We had about 50 folks gathered to sing, pray and share communion.  There was a warm breeze coming off of the river.  The Revs. Kate Harrigan, Churchill Pinder and Loretta Collins, Deacon, prepared the order of service for us which focused on praying for peace and God’s justice to reign.  Instead of a sermon, we were encouraged to stand in silence and listen to the sounds of the city around us... and to listen for God in the midst of it all.  I heard boats and cars and a noisy car radio, people chatting as they walked by on the river walk, dogs barking, an impatient driver leaning on his or her horn, and the sound of the wind blowing through the trees.  The Susquehanna Pride riverboat blew a loud “Amen” to our mediation with her long, horn-like whistle, announcing that she was setting sail down the river.   Our service included some beautiful Taize music as led by Bea Troxel on guitar, and we sang- of course-  “I went down to the river to pray...”    It was good to be outside, worshipping in the middle of the city.  It was good to see and be seen.  A couple of interested folks slowed down to see what we were on about.  We received the gift of one guest who stayed for the service and joined us for dinner.

Churchill closed our service with a post-commnion prayer called a “Shouting Prayer.”  In a call and response fashion, we shouted (literally) these prayers at the top of our lungs for all of Harrisburg to hear: "God loves you.  I love you.  I love me.  I love God.  I love the World.  The world loves me.  Love God. “  (that’s not verbatim, but you get the idea.)  It was wildly freeing, a little crazy, and filled with joy.  And what a prophetic statement.  Thank you, Churchill.

gathered at the river to pray

sharing God’s Peace

The Great Thanksgiving

Gathered in Prayer

photo by Loretta Collins

After a potluck in the (air-conditioned) Uppercroft- (chicken, salad, fruit, pizza, pie!) and some good fellowship, we headed home.  Tomorrow will be another day of exploring the Harrisburg Convocation.  There’s Gleaning, a tour of Newport and the War College on tap.
lovely Cumberland Valley sunset on the way home

1 comment:

  1. Wow. You really know how to pack in a lot of activities in a short space in time. The people of our Diocese are so diverse and active. Thank you for taking the time to learn about each area, how our congregations live and move move in their communities, and celebrating the good works and Good News. In our weary world, we need constant reminding that it's okay 'to live and move and have our being.'