By SEAN BARRON
Whether you are as virtuous as Mother Teresa or as reviled as the serial killer Ted Bundy, God shows no favoritism in his love for you, a local pastor contends.
“The reality is that we are all on this side of a sudden, eternal chasm. To God, we are all the same,” the Rev. Joy Chickonoski said during her keynote address for Friday morning’s annual Good Friday Breakfast Service at the YMCA of Youngstown, 17 N. Champion St., downtown.
Sponsoring the two-hour gathering was the YMCA’s 17-member Spiritual Emphasis Committee.
In her presentation, “What About Saturday?,” the Rev. Ms. Chickonoski, pastor of Real Living Ministries of Boardman, said many people need to exercise extra humility “to figure out what we’re doing with this planet he gave us,” and realize the importance of performing good and ordinary deeds for God.
Instead, too many people blame God for their poor decisions and intransigence, and allow pride to prevent them from seeing his love, she said.
Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death at Calvary, as well as the redemption of all people. It is observed during Holy Week on the Friday before Easter Sunday.
Many Christians, Catholics and Protestants believe Christ was crucified and entombed on Good Friday, then raised from the dead on the morning of Easter Sunday, heralding his victory over sin and death. In this context, Ms. Chickonoski used Saturday as a metaphor for the frustration and uncertainty some people experience as they pray and try to obey God, yet still lack clarity and results.
“That was Saturday for Jesus,” she said, adding that Christ willingly suffered, “yet God let Jesus lay in a dark tomb” that day.
Ms. Chickonoski also told her audience of hundreds of faith, business and community leaders and others that too often, organized religion is anathema to many younger people largely because of its dogmatic approaches and many rules. Consequently, many of them refuse to attend church, she continued.
Nevertheless, God’s will has been established, and that’s what has the transformative power to motivate people to bring about major changes to their communities, cities and the world, Ms. Chickonoski said.
It also has that same capability to allow Youngstown “to raise up from the ashes,” she continued.
“I hope you open your hearts to experience God in new ways,” Ms. Chickonoski added. “Follow God more closely, and we can change Youngstown.”
Michael Shaffer, the YMCA’s executive director, pointed to the 104-year-old facility’s commitment to remaining a part of the city’s renaissance by pointing to a $5 million renovation project that began about three years ago. Improvements included new weight, cardio and group-fitness rooms as well as added natural light.
“We didn’t want to bail on this community,” said Shaffer, who noted many YMCAs have chosen to move from cities to the suburbs.
The annual Good Friday gathering began more than 50 years ago and now sells out each year, added Shaffer, who’s also the Spiritual Emphasis Committee’s chairman.
In addition, the downtown YMCA offers after-school programs for Youngstown students in grades five through eight and is partnering with the city’s Park & Recreation Department, noted Thomas Gacse, president and chief executive officer.
“The Y is in the business of transforming lives. We take it very seriously,” Gacse said in his closing remarks.