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Unsung Heroes

Tony Bennet died last week…

Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto on August 3, 1926, in Astoria, New York, Tony began his career as a singing waiter in Queens. From those humble beginnings, he developed a career that spanned six decades, earning 41 Grammy nominations, and winning 19 Grammy Awards. He will forever be known for: “Rags to Riches”, “Stranger in Paradise”, “Fly Me to the Moon”, “Put on a Happy Face”, and his signature tune “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” In his later years, he reinvented his career winning the hearts of the next generations by recording duets with the next generation of singers- Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, John Legend, and Carrie Underwood. In his final years, Tony partnered with Lady Gaga to record the 2014 album “Cheek to Cheek” and his final album “Love for Sale.” The exclamation point on his amazing career was two sold-out concerts at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in 2022. Tony Bennet should also be remembered as a champion for civil rights, marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, Alabama in 1965, and being recognized by the United Nations as a “Citizen of the World” for his support of humanitarian causes.

When Tony Bennet died, the news of his passing hit the front page of newspapers across the country. The evening news featured story after story of his iconic six-decade career. News agencies in countries around the world paid tribute to his storied musical career. Last week, it seemed like the whole world was mourning the loss of the man Frank Sinatra called the “best singer in the world.” That same week, Mark David Atkinson died after a short but valiantly fought battle against pancreatic cancer. His forty-year career as a pastor was celebrated on his daughter Rebecca’s Facebook page. She remembered his faith and his faithful shepherding of flocks in New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. She told of how he loved pastoring international churches in Poland, Peru, and Turkey… but even more, how he loved his family and what joy he found in his grandchildren. On August 5th, the life of the Rev. Dr. Mark David Atkinson will be celebrated in a simple service in a tiny Baptist Church in New Bern, NC. Mark was one of God’s faithful servants… but in worldly terms, he was one of the unsung heroes.

In the Bible, Hebrews chapter 11 celebrates the heroes of the faith… Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Joseph, and Moses. Later in the chapter the writer of Hebrews celebrates with lesser detail such heroes as Gideon and Samson, David, and Samuel. And then at the end of the chapter we find heroes who are never named. We are told of their bravery in the face of persecution, their strength in battle and the deprivation that they endured. “These were all commended for their faith” (Hebrews 11:39) the writer of Hebrews tells us, yet they are never named. As we read the pages of the Bible, we are blessed with the witness of big-name heroes whose stories are told in great detail to inspire and challenge us to live faithfully. Yet, behind those stories are mothers who raised those heroes to be faithful, and servants who worked in the fields to cultivate the food those heroes ate, and scribes who diligently captured those heroic stories on the page so that we would have them thousands of years later. Were it not for those unsung heroes, we would not have the faith witness that has moved and shaped ours.

Like ancient Israel, Lenape Valley is blessed by many unsung heroes! Their faithful work behind the scenes makes the life and mission of our faith community possible. For just a minute I would like to do a little ‘singing’ to celebrate some of the gems in our ministry. I celebrate our VBS staff from this past week, with a special shout out to Laura and Amie who led the team to create a “Stellar” week of faith and fun for our kids. I celebrate our Property crew who patiently deal with the quirks of an aging building, with a special thanks to Bob who will be leaving us soon to move near to his family in Lancaster. I celebrate our Deacons, who love our people through the joys and challenges of life. I celebrate our musicians who create beautiful worship every week. They make it look so easy, but in truth, that beauty comes at a cost. I celebrate our Finance team and Elders who navigated our ministry through the perils of a pandemic. I celebrate our Mission and Fellowship teams who create the opportunities for us to live and serve together. I celebrate all those who love our kids into the presence of Jesus. I could keep on singing, but I am running out of space on the page. Today, I invite you to join me in thanking God for all the unsung heroes of LVC!

With you singing a joyful song,
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