All posts by Bridget Peters

Sermon, July 2, 2017

“I Am with You Always, to the End of Time” 
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
July 2, 2017
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Transition Sunday
Psalm 121; John 14-17

Dr. Ira Byock directed palliative care at Dartmouth Hitchcock.  His books tell us to be sure to say four things when we come to a final goodbye: please forgive me; I forgive you; thank you and I love you.

The end of every stage of life marks the transition to the next.  To be present in such a moment is to have one foot in the past and one already stepping toward something new.  It is important to make a careful ending so that we do not stumble as we make our first step toward the new life.

So it is important today that I ask your forgiveness, and that I assure you that I forgive you, and that we thank one another, and that we express our love for one another.

This is a sanctuary, meaning a safe place to feel and live our truth and know we will be accepted and affirmed as we are.  You may be in one of the stages of grief, or you may feel excited for the next stage of the journey, or you may feel all mixed up.  It is fine.  We love you.  Let your feelings be what they are.  They have something important to tell you, and then they will pass and you will feel something else.

I could not possibly speak to where every person is today, but I will speak to a place where we all go sometimes, the place of needing comfort for loss and grief. The church and Jesus Christ can help us there.
Continue reading Sermon, July 2, 2017

A Last Epistle

Dear Church Family,

This is my last letter to you. That makes me sad. I have loved serving here—loved the people, the sanctuary and building, and loved the Spirit as it has moved through you in this amazing time of healing, renewal and change. I wish I could spend many more years with you, but that has never been a possibility since I signed the pledge in my initial covenant promising that I would not seek to be your settled pastor. I have stayed almost three years, which is a year longer than I thought I would, and I am so grateful for that extra time! I came to do the job of an interim, and part of that job is to leave before our hearts would have me leave.

Another part of the job is to send you off into the future along the path that we have discerned together, the path that leads to what God is calling you to be and do. I think of the scene in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit when Gandalf has led Bilbo and the Dwarves to the edge of the dark forest of Mirkwood. They are standing where the path enters that unknown future of opportunity and danger, the path they know they need to take to fulfill their purpose in life. They are distressed that Gandalf is not traveling it with them. They hear him call his final wisdom as he rides off: “Don’t leave the path!”

My most important message to you is, “Don’t leave the path!” Continue reading A Last Epistle

Upcoming Service Notes, July 2, 2017, Tom’s Last Sunday

This Sunday will be the Rev. Tom Kinder’s last as our Interim Pastor.  Worship will be followed by a potluck farewell lunch to which all are invited.   We will read the King James Version of the 121st Psalm. We will sing a hymn with words written by Tom and a new tune by our organist, John Atwood, based on excerpts we will read from the farewell words of Jesus in Matthew and John, “I Am with You Forever More.” We will also sing “Be Thou My Vision,”  “In the Bulb There is a Flower,” and a verse of “We Are One in the Spirit.”   The choir will sing two verses of “Still, Still With Thee,” with words by Harriet Beecher Stowe and a tune from Felix Mendelssohn.

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Upcoming Service Notes, June 25, 2017

This coming Sunday, June 25th our Conference’s  Associate Minister, the Rev. Pam Lucas, will be filling our pulpit. She will be preaching on our tendency to exclude while God’s heart yearns for inclusion. Her sermon, “Hagar’s Story” will turn our focus to the scripture reading of Genesis 21: 8-21 and to the hymn “I Love My God, Who Heard My Cry.” Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, June 25, 2017

Upcoming Service Notes, June 18, 2017, the Freebergs

This Sunday we welcome back Bruce and Caleb Freeberg who will provide music with their guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin and vocals.  They will play Celtic fiddle tunes for the Prelude and an Irish reel for the Postlude.  Their Introit will be “People Get Ready,” their Anthem “Kneel at the Cross” and their Offertory, “When I Go Away.”  They will lead us in the following hymns:  “Get on Board;” “When the Saints Go Marching In;” “Amazing Grace;” “Just a Closer Walk with Thee;” “Oh Glory, How Happy I Am;” “The Welcome Table;” “I Saw the Light;” and “I’ll Fly Away.”

As you can see, the service will have a much higher music to word ratio this week.  It will also be a service for all generations–the sermon will be an extended children’s time, including the telling of Jesus’ parable of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32).  We will celebrate all the congregation has done in the spirit of that parable, including living up to the Identity and Aspiration Statement goal of being an “increasingly welcoming, loving, helpful congregation.”  We will read responsively the joyous Psalm 126.

Here are three of the hymns we will be singing.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait!  See you there!

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Caleb and Bruce Freeberg

Sermon, June 11, 2017

How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
June 11, 2017
First Sunday after Pentecost, Trinity Sunday
Psalm 84; Philippians 2:1-11; Luke 10:25-37

How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young, at your altars.
Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise.
Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of desolation
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength.
For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
Happy is everyone who trusts in you, O Lord hosts!
            compiled from Psalm 84

Psalm 84 can evoke a strong emotional reaction if we open our heart to it.  We long to feel as much at home as the writer did in that lovely dwelling place of God.  If we have ever felt unconditional welcome, refuge and love we remember how our heart sang for joy to be there—maybe our childhood home, or a grandparent’s, or a friend’s, or the home we made with our spouse.  Happy are those who experience such a dwelling place.

We long for churches to be lovely like that, but today many congregations struggle with conflict as they face the effects of a rapidly changing social context, including diminishing attendance and respect.  Outside the church society is increasingly divided by politics and race and a widening gap between rich and poor.  Earth itself feels like a less welcoming home as we come back from walks through Vermont’s beautiful woods and fields covered in ticks, and the weather grows stranger and more extreme.

All this increases our longing for God’s lovely dwelling place, and decreases our hope that we will find it.

But the Psalm was written by a people who had suffered exile for generations and learned how to find hope where there appeared to be no hope.  The Psalm speaks to those of us who are far from having a lovely dwelling place, who are strangers in a strange land, who feel the world is nothing like God’s realm and is hostile to it.  The Psalm holds out comfort and hope to the hopeless when it says, “Happy are those whose strength is in God, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.”
Continue reading Sermon, June 11, 2017

Upcoming Service Notes, June 11, 2017

This Sunday we will read one of the most beautiful and comforting of the Psalms, number 84 that begins “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts. My soul longs, indeed it faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.”  Last Sunday someone shared that they forgot we were worshipping in West Newbury on May 28th and came to find the doors closed and nobody here on that Sunday morning.  He saw the sign and then remembered, but for a minute he experienced the pang of what it would be like if the church did not exist.  The lovelier we make this dwelling of God, the more our soul longs to be here.

This Sunday we will celebrate all we have done and do to fulfill the goals of our Identity and Aspiration Statement that are about being “a loving church family where everyone feels welcome and at home, appreciated and supported…. where we feel joy, peace and a steady deepening of Christ-like love and faithfulness among us.”   Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, June 11, 2017

Sermon, June 4, 2017

Renewing the Face of the Ground
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder

The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
June 4, 2017   Day of Pentecost
Psalm 104; Genesis 1:1-5, 2:7; Acts 2:1-17

The 104th Psalm says to God,

The earth is full of your creatures.
They all look to you to give them their food
in due season….
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit,
they are created;
and you renew the face of the ground.

Sometimes I walk on a woods road that goes past ten acres of steep land that was clear-cut.  The skidders scarred the bare earth which eroded into gullies.  Gradually green has returned in the form of dense blackberries and a few pioneer trees.  They are stopping the erosion and beginning to rebuild the soil.

Whoever or whatever we envision God to be, surely this is the Holy Spirit at work renewing the face of the ground.  Jesus calls us to be instruments of this Holy Spirit and let its force of love and life and light work through us.

Continue reading Sermon, June 4, 2017

Upcoming Service Notes, June 4, 2017, Pentecost

Pentecost marks the birthday of the first church, when the Holy Spirit burst into the room with a blast of wind and fire and launched 120 of Christ’s disciples into the world on a trajectory that our church is still following.  We will hear the beginning of the Pentecost story in Acts 2 (verses 1-17), as well as excerpts from Genesis 1 and 2 where the Spirit blows like a wind over the waters and brings the earth into being, and then God breathes the Spirit into dust to create humans (Genesis 1:1-5, 2:7).  We will read responsively a section of Psalm 104, the great celebration of God’s creative power.

The children will learn how all the energy and goodness of Pentecost came at a time when Jesus had just left the disciples and they were waiting, unsure what was coming next, going through the various stages of grief at his departure–exactly the kind of place where the Holy Spirit comes with its power of resurrection and transformation.

We will sing “I Sing the Mighty Power of God,” and “Breathe on Me, Breath of God,” and “When Christ Left Earth,” a contemporary set of words set to the tune Finlandia (the tune of “Be Still My Soul”).  The choir will sing verses of the hymn “Let Every Christian Pray” as the Introit and “Lo, a Voice,” by the Ukrainian-Russian composer, D. S. Bortniansky as the Anthem.  Organist John Atwood will play a Prelude and Fugue attributed to J. S. Bach, a Prelude by Pachelbel and an Adagio by Vivaldi.

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