I met Rev. Jim Konicki in 2016 at the “Cross Walk” in the Mont Pleasant area of Schenectady, NY. I helped organize this event that involved over a dozen churches coming together to sing praises and preach the Word as we all walked the streets of this crime infested neighborhood. I recognized immediately upon meeting him that Rev. Jim shared my passion to break down the walls between churches. That day I told him God was leading me to visit his church. Over a year later that prophecy unfolded as I walked through the doors of Holy Name of Jesus. What a warm reception I received! They even announced my coming visit in their monthly newsletter.
As they began their earliest of two services at 9:30 am, the liturgical style service had me fumbling a bit to find my spot. Thankfully, the keyboardist who played at the rear of the church guided me through with a knowing smile. I sensed God’s gentle presence as I watched the congregation follow reverently. There were several scripture readings, many hymns sung and prayers for love and UNITY offered. As I listened to the scripture readings, I thought about God’s great love and how He wants to demonstrate that love through us, especially to our enemies. Matthew 5:38-41 “You have heard that it was said, an eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” We must learn to love our enemies within the community of Saints (the Churches) before we can even attempt to love a world that is an enemy of our God. This is what will bring UNITY. Romans 5:11″ For if while we were ENEMIES, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
Rev. Jim then came out from behind the pulpit and made his way down into the center aisle to share a message on our “Competitive Natures”. Football games, Grammy awards and talent shows are just a few examples of how the world competes. But in God’s family, there should be no competition. We do not have to compete for any of God’s promises. We OWN His promises and nobody can take them from us. We can trust that God has placed us where He wants us, where we can make the most difference. We must rely on His grace, His Heavenly enablement. Such a message is exactly what the Church needs to hear. It is God’s solution to our predicament.
So what do we do with our competitive nature? A competitive nature is human energy misdirected. We can redirect it and do the things God has called us to do, using it for God’s glory. Rev. Jim said that my Church Journeys were a great example of this by taking Paul’s words to heart, focusing on ending the competition that separates the Body of Christ into the factions of “Paul or Appollos or Cephas”, creating a shared journey that builds up and glorifies what God is doing right here and right now in our community. He went on to say, “We need to UNIFY and not separate, build up and not break down, heal and not spread disease”. Separation, breaking down and spreading disease are the fruits of a competitive nature.
As God’s love permeated the sanctuary you could feel the sun’s warmth as it beamed brightly through the stained glass windows. Tears filled my eyes as I heard the next song, “Here I am to Worship”. This is always my closing song at the Albany Rescue Mission each month when I minister there, and had just sang it the previous evening. I noticed that several parishioners didn’t know the song well. The man across from me had the sheet music to follow. Such an unexpected song to hear at this place and time; it took on an even deeper meaning. “HERE I WAS TO WORSHIP” at Holy Name of Jesus Church. With my eyes closed I sang it with all of my heart as the tears continued to fall. God was there, speaking to me in ways only He could have authored. He was soundly affirming that it was He who ordained that Donna Munafo was to be here this particular morning.
One of my favorite parts of this Holy convocation was the coffee hour afterwards. I had some wonderful fellowship with my new brothers and sisters in Christ. Many members openly expressed their love and appreciation for their church. I learned about many special programs offered. One that impressed me greatly was the Music Scholarship Program that is funded through the generous donors of the Polish National Catholic Church. This offers parishioners a variety of scholarships to pursue a music education. To date the church has provided 1,075 scholarships totaling over $305,000. Another benefit of being a part of this church is the Bishop Hodur Retreat and Recreation Center, a camp that is open year round for youth & adult retreats, clergy conferences, get-togethers and summer youth programs.
The Church is the people…the body of Christ. That’s exactly what you will find at Holy Name of Jesus – a people who love and appreciate where God has placed them to serve. They are a perfect example of Christ’s love and warmly welcome anyone who wants to join them. Come join them and compete together for God’s glory! It’s not just a Catholic thing … it’s Christ in action.
Church Website – www.holynamencc.org
By Donna Hansen Munafo
(Contributing writer Michael Frati)