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
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
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.
Help Kids India and Extravagant Hospitality
Catherine Kidder and the Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
May 14, 2017
Fifth Sunday of Easter, Help Kids India Sunday
Psalm 31; John 14:1-14
Top: Hilda Isaac, Executive Director, and Angel, a crèche child. Below: Beulah, Jasminepriya, and Benjamin.
Part I, by Catherine Kidder, Vice President, Help Kids India, Inc.
We know what the crèches do for the children but there are mother stories, too. I’d like to tell you two of them in honor of Mother’s Day. One story belongs to Hilda Isaac, the woman whose vision, dedication and boundless love drives the whole crèche project. The other is about a crèche cook, Beulah, who credits Hilda and her job at the crèche with transforming her life.
Hilda is the executive director of the Betsy Elizabeth Trust, which Help Kids India and your church support. She manages five crèches, two sewing centers for poor women, and a community health center. She oversees thirty staff members, two rickety jeeps, seven properties, and the education, health, and care of 270 children.
Hilda grew up poor in a small coastal village, Porayar, where two of the crèches are now located. Her parents were Dalit, or untouchables, but could read and write. Continue reading Sermon, May 14, 2017, Help Kids India
We will celebrate our congregation’s support of Help Kids India this Sunday. You can learn about the organization at http://www.helpkidsindia.org/. We will be blessed to have Catherine and Tom Kidder to talk about their first hand observation of the work Help Kids India helps make possible. (Catherine is a Board Member as is Lora Chatfield, formerly a leader of our Board of Mission and Social Action and a member of our congregation.) It is a deeply moving story of life-changing work done for impoverished and at risk children and mothers and families. Catherine will deliver a Mission Moment during the service and she and Tom will narrate a slide show in the vestry afterward.
We will read responsively from Psalm 31 that could have been written by one of the people we are helping. It says, “Take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O faithful God. Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.” We will also hear with new ears Jesus’ beautiful reassurance from John 14:1-14 that begins: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” We will consider all this as a form of the “extravagant hospitality” that the United Church of Christ and our Open and Affirming covenant advocate.
We will sing three hymns beloved to many of our mothers and mothers’ mothers, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy,” and “I Would Be True” and “Christian, Rise and Act Thy Creed.” The choir will sing versions of both Psalm 121 and Psalm 23 (Brother James’ Air). Organist John Atwood will play pieces that remind him of his mother and mothering (and he is bringing in four of his spectacular orchids as well) by J.S. Bach, E. Satie and G.F. Handel–quite the lineup!
Here are piano versions of the Satie and Bach pieces for your contemplation and pleasure.
Shepherding the Beloved Community
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
May 7, 2017
Fourth Sunday of Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday
Psalm 23; I Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-11
Our Communication Guidelines say, “We are precious to one another and seek to build a beloved community in which our faith can grow.” Our Open and Affirming covenant says, “We pledge to work to end oppression and discrimination whenever we encounter them, and, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, to help create the beloved community of God’s realm.”
God’s realm, or the kingdom of God, is the ideal of beloved community as Jesus described it. It is a place where all rules and laws can be summed up by two: love God with all your being, and love your neighbor as your self.
Beloved community is an unconditionally welcoming, affirming and loving society that treats everyone with equal compassion and respect, no matter who they are or how different they are.
More than that, beloved community is a place where people lay down their lives for one another, even for their enemies. Jesus was asked who our neighbor is and he told the story in which a Good Samaritan risks and gives of himself to save and care for a Jew whose people despised, reviled and treated Samaritans as enemies.
Beloved community happens when we love one another not because of any quality that the other person possesses but because love is simply what we do. So when we are at refreshments after worship we do not ask ourselves if we like this person, or if this person is like us. We do not hold against them that they voted differently or said something we disagreed with in the past, we forgive that and let it go and greet them with an open heart. We invite them to share what is going on in their life and we share our own truth in turn. Continue reading Sermon, May 7, 2017