Category Archives: Church News

Upcoming Service Notes July 23, 2017

This Sunday, July 23rd we welcome to our pulpit the Rev. Neil Wilson* whose  focal point for the service will be based on Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43.  Rev. Wilson said of this weedy parable:

pigweedWhen I was a child we had to “weed” the garden before we could go swimming in the afternoon.  I remember one hot day in my exuberance and dreaming of floating on the old innertube in the cool water, I weeded a whole row of pigweed.

Except it wasn’t pigweed but a row of young radishes!  (I don’t think I went swimming at all that week!)

In the parable of the Weeds in the Wheat Jesus portrays the Kingdom of Heaven, of which today’s church is a sign and symbol, as a mixed-bag reality.  And like that young fellow, so intent on his own interests, we cannot often tell the weeds from the wheat.  In our desire to make things neat and tidy we may not recognize the potential young plants in our midst. Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes July 23, 2017

Upcoming Service Notes July 16, 2017

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

This week we will again welcome Cass Poulos into our pulpit.  She writes, “When we read about heart in the Bible, we miss the broad understanding that Jesus and the disciples had of heart. For us heart is the center of our ‘total. personality … intuition, feeling, and emotion’ ( In Jesus’ time, heart also encompassed mind and will. To have an open heart, all components would need to be centered and equally developed.”

We are very pleased as well to welcome two fine flutists, Danelle Sims and Lisa Barfield who will play several lovely works of J.S. Bach

Want to find out how this all fits together? Come to church on Sunday!

Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes July 16, 2017

Sermon July 9, 2017

“Take His Yoke Upon You” 
Cass Poulos

The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
July 9, 2017
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

(Ms. Poulos preaches from notes rather than a written sermon … these are the notes from which she preached July 9th. You’ll better understand why Jesus said to take on his yoke and to learn from him.)

Heavy bags are burdens. I considered doing this but NO! I decided this whole exercise places too much importance on our burdens, when we are often informed by images of underlying beliefs.

I. YOKES … the first time I saw an actual yoke was in New Hampshire at a Founder’s Day. I was watching an Ox Pull, where two yoked oxen had to move a heavy load. Each time more weight was added as the yoke began to push taut against their chests. These oxen took short steps together, straining against the weight and the whip. Eventually the weight was too much and they stopped. In order to get them unhitched from the weight they had to be backed up.

1) These oxen are special, willing to work together, to trust each other. They work towards a common goal, a common good.

2)There were yokes in Roman times, too. They were used on enslaved people to enforce subservience, those without a homeland or rights, at the mercy of someone else. There was shame associated with being yoked.

3)In the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, the yoke is a sign of obedience and submission. It also represents wisdom and justice!

4)Chosen obedience/submission leads to wisdom and justice? A positive image!

II. IMAGES … images inform the way that we think and act, whether our behavior is shameful or honorable. Images can be helpful or debilitating, a burden that weighs us down until we can’t move forward.

A) Images of God: boss, fixer, power, active

B) Rugged individualism: grown, venerated, implying success. We think of leaders of industry. They don’t need anyone’s help! Unless in dire need, they have no yoking for themselves and sometimes not even then.

C) Acts of submission: asking for help, acknowledging we do not have all the answers! Church, education, government, military, Grange, clubs. Going to speak with a counselor, a minister, a friend or relative, asking for help in some way. Welfare. Work for the common good.

III. (there was a) YOUNG WOMAN … she believed that she was too bad for God. She thought God deserted her and wanted nothing to do with her. At best, God was missing and was the same as everyone else in her life.

A. STORY: Lowest point, in substance abuse treatment, she decided to be “profoundly honest” with someone else. Told counselor how bad she was. Beyond hope. Believed she was nothing more than a pile of manure. She spent her whole life building this self-image.

B. COUNSELOR SAID: Have you ever considered what that is? And, do you know what that looks like? He didn’t say anything else and didn’t wait for a reply. He left the room and she was alone with this image she created and nurtured her whole life.

C. SELF-IMAGE: she was the survivor of childhood sexual and physical abuse. Her image became a hard-outer shell that once offered her protection from pain. It developed into her prison, a burden that she neither saw or could break through. She realized she lived life on the outside, removed from love and warmth. She realized she was full of fear. She rejected herself, God, and everyone else.

D. THE COUNSELOR’S WORDS: they cracked the shell, her self-image and allowed light to creep in.

IV. HOW WE RELATE TO GOD INFORMS HOW WE LIVE! All of us have some image of God. They usually reflect who we are, do not challenge us to grow, to be more than we are because the God we serve is really a reflection of who we are. Jesus said God sent two to us and both were rejected.

A. JOHN THE BAPTIST: fierce, scruffy guy out in the desert eating locust and honey and proclaims judgment. He cries out for Baptism by water, for us to decide, place God first, and follow. He forecasts the One to come who will Baptize with fire. Most of us would dismiss him as a nut.

B. JESUS: eats, drinks, parties, and even turns water into wine, so abundantly it is too much for the wedding party. He hangs out with outcasts and challenges the religious and political status quo. He preaches about God who forgives and desires humanity to know and follow God, to serve God, to even love God with all our heart, mind and soul, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

V. OUR IMAGES, especially the hardened, impermeable ones are NOT of God.

Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

VI. YOKES. Woman in story: her hard-outer crust began to crack because she asked for help. Another person saw what she could not and asked a question which led to her recognition that she was much more than a pile of manure.

A. None of us grow alone. Can read all the self-help books, Bible verses, etc. Without the aid of others our burdens do not shift!

B. We must be willing to be yoked to Jesus/God/other people

C. 12-Step Programs: to keep it must give it away! Cannot hoard. Jesus sends the disciples out in twos. They are yoked together and yoked to Jesus. Chosen obedience/submission leads to wisdom and creates justice. They can only share what they have, experience with the Grace of God. We are called to be disciples. Challenge unhelpful, negative images which burden others, create a just world.

We can do this because we submit to Jesus’ yoke.

We are never alone.

Upcoming Service Notes, July 9, 2017

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

Last Sunday was a very special day for our Beloved Community, a day when we gathered with tears of joy to celebrate the three years that Rev. Kinder has been our Interim Minister, and to wish him a fond Godspeed on his new journey ahead. We sang, we laughed, we worshiped, we joined together in a Litany of Leave-taking, and most precious of all we came forward one by one to be served communion by Rev. Kinder. After this deeply moving experience for us all we gathered downstairs for a delicious farewell luncheon, preceded by a heartwarming circle of thanks. Presented from the congregation were many cards and a special gift in recognition of Rev. Kinder’s love of nature and hiking. In all ways we wished him a beloved Aloha*. Here is a link to read Rev. Kinder’s July 2nd farewell sermon, “I Am with You Always, to the End of Time”

This Sunday we warmly welcome Cass Poulos to our pulpit. She will have us continue with lessons in discipleship: what does it mean to be a disciple and how do we go about that, anyway?
Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, July 9, 2017

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.


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!


Caleb and Bruce Freeberg

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

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.