I’m writing this letter to you on Ascension Day, which this year falls on Thursday, May 30th. It’s always observed on a Thursday, the 40th day after Easter. Ascension has been celebrated since ancient times as the day Jesus Christ ascended into heaven.
Ascension Day brings back memories of the time I spent as Interim Pastor at St. Peter’s UCC, Apple Creek, OH, which was located in beautiful Amish Country. The parsonage, where I lived, was next door to the church, situated on the main street which ran through the heart of the small village of Apple Creek. There were many Amish living on family farms in the rolling, green hills around the village. I could sit on the front porch and watch the Amish in their horse-drawn buggies pass by every day on their way to the post office, the bulk grocery store, or the Family Dollar. There were even hitching posts in front of the stores and post office to accommodate them. The sound of hoof beats could be heard regularly.
I knew a little about the Amish culture, but had no idea, until I was enlightened by parishioners, that Ascension is a very important holiday for the Amish. I was warned in advance that Amish stores and businesses are closed on Ascension Day. If I had gone to one of these establishments I might have found a sign on the door with the words telling me why, “Closed in Observance of the Ascension of Our Lord.”
Amish churches hold formal services in the morning, and the afternoon is reserved for reflection, relaxation, visiting, and large meals with extended family and friends. “Ascension Day is a holiday that most Amish are pretty staunch about,” Sharon Hershberger, a woman with Amish background writes.
In the UCC, we don’t usually make so much of Ascension Day, other than noting that Jesus, who has been appearing to his disciples here and there, for a little over a month after his resurrection, physically left the earth in a rather spectacular fashion. What we usually focus on is what his followers are to do now that we have, in a sense, been left behind. Jesus made that clear with his final words, calling his disciples to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth and letting them know that they would receive power from the Holy Spirit to do just that. The fact that the Christian Church exists in 2019 is living proof that the disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit, were able to do so.
In worship on Sunday, we’ll be doing more reflection on the Ascension and what it means for us today. I look forward to sharing that time with you.
God Bless You!
Pastor Candy Thomas
Christ Congregational United Church of Christ