All My Favorite People

The theme at You Are Here Stories for December is Hope & Place, and I could think of no more hopeful place for me than Friendship Community Presbyterian Church.

***

“Good morning, Friendship!”

“Good morning, Darryl!”

And so begins the weekly ritual of Friendship Community Church congregation members sharing praises and prayer requests, joys and concerns.

It is November 1995, and I have been attending this quirky inner-city, inter-racial Presbyterian church for a little more than a year. Tucked between the university community and Pittsburgh’s Hill District—made famous in the 1980s crime drama Hill Street Blues— it is a modest cinderblock building that more closely resembles a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall than the hundreds of Gothic, steepled church buildings that populate this post-industrial city.

The wooden pews are five deep along three of the four walls of the sanctuary; we are a congregation “in the round.” I glance at the faces of these men and women—young and old, black and white, rich and poor—who are becoming more familiar to me, week by week. This is very much not like the homogeneous all-white, suburban, formal, upper-middle-class Presbyterian congregations I grew up attending.

The prayer requests begin.

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O come, Desire of Nations: Reflections on 2016

xmas-angel-cardO come, Desire of Nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be Yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

When we sang this verse in church this past Sunday, I heard it with fresh ears. If nothing else can be said about 2016, “sad divisions” seems like an understated description of the current state of our nation and our world.

But as I sit in my office, breathing in the scents of my Christmas wreath-scented Yankee candle, I recognize the signs of hope, peace, joy, and love that emerged this year as well. Here are a few highlights of my 2016:

  • I wrote 12 autobiographical pieces for You Are Here Stories, an online writing project that I was invited to participate in as a fellow. My last offering of 2016 will be published on December 20. If you’re interested, you can find them all archived here.
  • In February, my cousin Mary made the trip from St. Louis to experience the CCO’s Jubilee conference with me. It was such a joy to share this important piece of my life with her, and I’m happy to report that she’s returning for Jubilee 2017!
  • Throughout the year, I continued to write stories of hope and transformation happening in students’ lives on college campuses. It’s humbling and rewarding to continue to participate in this ministry—for over half of my life. Which leads me to the biggest milestone of my year:
  • In September, I turned 50! (How is it possible that I have now entered my sixth decade?!)

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” —Isaiah 52:7 

May we recognize God’s reign more and more in 2017, and may we all be peacemakers and bringers of good news. Thank you for your love and friendship and support, this and every year.

amy-macGod bless you,

 

Amy Maczuzak
December 2016

To give to my ministry: ccojubilee.org/donate or send a check to CCO, 5912 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

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In Memoriam

November’s theme at You Are Here Stories is “History & Place.” I wrote about a visit to a cemetery and my history with Pigeon Creek Presbyterian Church.

***

It’s my fiftieth birthday and I’m wandering around a graveyard.

It’s not that I am feeling morbid, or even that I am attempting to come to terms with my mortality. (Although it’s hard to deny that there is something about turning 50 that pulls the whole mortality thing into sharper focus.)

My younger brother is visiting from New York City, which doesn’t happen very often, and we have decided to take a drive into the country to visit our parents’ burial plot.

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From generation to generation

I attended my first ACO meeting during the first week of my freshman year at Allegheny College, before I even knew what “ACO” stood for.

Karen, my student orientation advisor, invited me, and that was good enough for me. My next-door neighbor/ new best friend/ future roommate Michelle and I checked out this Allegheny Christian Outreach thing together, and by our senior year, we were both serving as student leaders—and being photographed singing together with our friends!

aco-sarah-michelle-amy

A couple of weeks ago, Michelle and I got together with some of our college friends in Pittsburgh to attend a piano recital at Carnegie Mellon University featuring our friend and recently retired Allegheny music professor, Alec Chien. (Alec’s wife, Brenda, is in the center back row of this vintage ACO photo, to the left of Michelle. And unlike me, she looks exactly the same 30 years later!)

After Alec’s concert, we enjoyed a late-night snack at the Squirrel Hill Eat’n Park and reminisced about similar outings we’d enjoyed together during college. And Michelle told us about her daughter Nicole’s first few weeks as an Allegheny College student.

That very evening, Nicole was attending the CCO’s Leadership Together conference at Slippery Rock University with her new friends from ACO.

Fall is here! As you can imagine, the autumn months are busy here at the CCO. It’s exciting to hear stories from campus and to imagine what God might do in the lives of these students throughout their college years, not to mention in the years that follow. Given the current state of our country and world, the CCO’s mission of transforming college students to transform the world has never been more urgent.

Thank you for investing in me and my work with the CCO over the last 28 years. Thank you for making a way for a new generation of college students — like Nicole and her friends — to be equipped to live out their Christian faith today and throughout the rest of their lives. You are making a difference for the Kingdom!

me-glen-2014God bless you,

Amy Maczuzak
October 2016

 

 

To give to my ministry: ccojubilee.org/donate or send a check to CCO, 5912 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

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Dear Diary

This month’s theme at You Are Here Stories is “Secret Places.” So of course, I wrote about my life-long(ish) diary-keeping habit.

***

I am 14 years old, sitting cross-legged on my yellow bedspread behind the locked door of my bedroom. A college-ruled three-subject notebook is open in my lap, and I scribble away, thoughts coming to me faster than I can get them down on paper.

Excitement about the cute boy on the bus who actually said hello to me today. Anxiety about the oral report I’m expected to give in social studies class tomorrow morning. Heartache about being ignored in the cafeteria by a girl I used to consider my best friend.

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Happy birthday, Mom!

To my beautiful mother, who would have turned 75 years old today:

Happy birthday, Mom! I miss you and I love you.

Janet Fulton Hamilton Maczuzak
October 24, 1941 – October 17, 2006

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The Lake House

Here is my latest You Are Here Stories post, on the theme of Time & Place. I think of it as my love letter to Lake Chautauqua and the dear friends who have shared it with me over the last 30+ years.

***

I stand on the white planks of the dock, listening to the gentle sloshing of water against the grassy shore. The sun is setting behind me on this mid-August evening, earlier than it did last night, and the windows of the cottages on the eastern shore of Lake Chautauqua reflect its rosy glow.

Behind me, I hear the faint clink of wine glasses being refilled. The murmur of after-dinner conversation is punctuated with wild giggles from five-year-old Isaiah as his dad tickles him, doing his best to rile him up before bedtime.

As I walk back to join my friends on the shady side porch, I hear the teenagers laughing together from the kitchen. They have finished clearing the picnic table of ravaged corncobs and remnants of hamburger fixings, used paper plates and empty tortilla chip bags.

Once upon a time, I would have been the one standing at that sink, stowing leftovers, choosing dish duty as an introvert’s temporary retreat from the stimulation of too many people. But on this evening, I am content to lower myself into a cushioned deck chair and join the twilight conversation circle with my friends.

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