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Dear Central Family,
I was brought up in the Catholic Church. I learned from the religious sisters who taught me that Jesus died on the cross for me. Their kindness and love of Christ had a profound influence. When I was 17, I joined their religious order. Our training consisted of a life of prayer, work, love of one another, and an emphatic exhortation not to read the Bible, as its misinterpretations could be dangerous for ourselves. For many years, I had been taught to believe that the Church was the final authority of my faith, and that I had no right to question its teaching. But eventually, I did have questions. Something was missing—something that felt very necessary. I left the order looking to fill that void.
Several years ago, while engaged in conversation with a friend, she told me she knew a place where I would hear a meaningful Bible message. “You will love the gospel!” she said. I loved my friend, but I knew she was a Protestant. I couldn't go to a Protestant church! I was Catholic. “Just come on,” she said. I protested. She persisted, and I gave in. My giving in was to become the best concession I have ever made. My friend brought me to Central, and I heard the gospel for the first time. I was in a Protestant church, hearing things like, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8) I kept listening to Pastor Jason. Grace is not something we earn. Grace is a gift from God to us, to you. I marveled to myself. Grace. A gift of God to me. I was being enveloped in the love of God. The God of the universe was speaking to me through this church, this gospel, this ministry. A deep peace and joy settled over me and it has never left. I love this church. I have found the gospel breathtaking and powerfully transforming. It has changed my life. I need nothing else. I found this something missing—the message of the Bible, the Word of God.
It has been many years since that admonition. Now the Bible has become for me joyful—a joyful life of knowing and loving God and of experiencing his love in return. I celebrate with you in the opening words of this praise-filled hymn: “Oh, Lord, you're beautiful. Your face is all I seek. For when your eyes are on this child. Your grace abounds to me.” (O Lord, You’re Beautiful by Keith Gordon Green)
Central is a community of people who love God and love each other. Several years ago, I came out of a two-month stint in rehab. I didn't know how I was going to live my life being somewhat disabled. But the church cared for me and organized a schedule of ongoing visitors. I have made so many new friends since then. People come to visit, not out of obligation, but out of love. If I didn’t have my Central community, I think life would be very empty. But instead, life is beautifully full.
I draw this comparison. I have walked the Great Wall of China, stood amidst the ethereal beauty of the Sahara Desert, touched the pyramids at Giza and surveyed the majesty of the Alps from atop the Jungfrau. All moving, memorable moments in my life. Yet no moment, however magnificent, matches the sense of wonder that is mine when hearing the message of the gospel being preached at Central. And no other moment for me matches the majesty of engaging in the glorious hymns and prayer of Sunday worship in this church with this fervently prayerful community of faith. I love this church. Now my church. How blessed am I to be in this place where God by his grace has revealed his word to me.
From the heart,
Mary grew up in Boston and went on to receive her undergraduate degree in education at Mount St Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
She came to New York City in the 70’s and attended Columbia University where she received her Master’s degree in education and completed her doctoral studies. She taught kindergarten through 5th grade for 13 years, several years more at the United Nations, and 49 years at the Dalton School.
She used her experience in teaching and her love for God to develop a program for Central’s two year olds on learning to pray and an introduction to the Bible—all from the heart.