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.
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
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!
Caleb and Bruce Freeberg
How Lovely Is Your Dwelling Place
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
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
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
Renewing the Face of the Ground
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
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.
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.
We have the joy of repaying a visit this Sunday that a congregation paid to us last June. We will worship in West Newbury at 10:45 AM with uplifting, inspiring Gaelic, gospel, blues and folk worship music provided by Bruce and Caleb Freeberg on their banjo, guitar and fiddle. The warm and wise Rev. Cindy Batten will preach and Rev. Tom Kinder and Deacon Marcia Tomlinson from our congregation will help lead the service. It is a joy to get these two neighboring congregations together to know one another better and share their common loves. Bring friends!
Please note that there will be no worship in our Bradford sanctuary this Sunday.
To reach the West Newbury church, stay straight on Fairground Road until you enter the village. The church will be on your left.
Hearty celebratory finger-food refreshments will follow worship.
The sanctuary and bathroom are accessible to all by a ramp.
Children’s Sunday is always a cheerful and uplifting service with lots of energy and laughter, and this year was no exception! It was a joy to see all our church’s children, ranging from age 2 to 12, participating in the service in so many ways.
Use the arrows to scroll through the photo album below.
We have so much to celebrate! We have seventeen children who have been participating in our Sunday School. Ask around the Upper Valley and you will find that we are extraordinarily blessed!
Recently I heard from a woman who has moved to a distant city. On Easter she went to try out a UCC church. She said she sat down in the pew, took one look at the bulletin and started to cry because she felt so at home. She said that even though the service was different, she knew the basics–she called it a kind of church literacy.
We are giving these seventeen children a gift for the rest of their lives. Anytime they are far away, anytime they feel lost or are having a hard time, they can walk into any church like ours around the world and feel at home and know the basics of how to pray and sing and connect with that community.
And in the meantime, as we teach them what we know about church and the spiritual and moral realms, they are filling us with their energy and joy and all the wisdom that they teach us. They are deepening our love. They are giving us hope.
We will celebrate with a special litany of scriptures and song with the children as readers and the Diverse Musical Traditions Team leading the congregation in singing the refrain of “Every Time I Feel the Spirit.” We will also reflect on a passage from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:5-13) about one of the children’s favorite subjects. We will sing “In the Bulb There Is a Flower” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” John Atwood has planned some special child-friendly organ pieces: “The Swan” by Camille Saint-Saëns; three pieces for the musical clock by Joseph Haydn (1. Allegro moderato, 2. Menuett “The Call of the Quail,” and 3. Vivace “Eight o-clock”), and March from The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky.